I wanted to be brief but failed, sorry. There’s lots more non-racing bits that I have left out but needless to say we have had a cracking three day holiday.
I guess we all love cycling and the thought of three days cycling in a new part of the country is going to be a thrill. If you layer 4 stages of tough racing over the top of that then you have pretty much the perfect bank holiday imaginable, if you happen to be in the Black Country, and a cyclist. This is exactly what I have just been through along with Andrew Sedgewick (Langsett Cycles RT) and Rob Fowler (Rutland CC).
Stage 1 is a 5k prologue which starts straight up a pretty tough hill. A prologue of this length is a bit like a hill climb and you have to attack all of it from the beginning. Andy was the first Rutlander to go assuring us that he hates prologues. Admitting that he free-wheeled on some of the descents gave us a clue why a normally awesome rider finished mid table with Rob and me not too far behind. The winner of stage 1 was Kris Zentek from Team Chronomaster with a stunning time of 6:44.
Once the results were in and we’d had some food it was straight into stage 2. This was 66k of rolling countryside with some tough digs, rain and hail. Andy punctured early on and was then given a defective replacement wheel which he then had to swap. This meant he was too far back to get back on the group. Terrible bit of bad luck for Andy but he remained positive. A break got away which the yellow jersey holder, Rob and I failed to get in and they stayed away to the end. Rob finished the best of us in 10th with me a couple of places behind and losing a second to him. Stage 2 winner was Craig Battersby from Team Chronomaster.
Day 2 presented us with stage 3 and the longest 88km stage with 1,300 metres of climbing. Both Rob and I were active in attacks and spending time at the sharp end of the field. Andy was climbing well and picked up 9 points in the KOM competition which led him to make a long break with Martin Smith for the final but he was still feeling the after-effects of a recent illness and couldn’t quite get there. Once again, Rob showed his strength and pulled up the final climb and took yet more seconds off me. Stage 3 meant another change in the yellow jersey and this time it went to local club rider Mark Corbett from Worcester St John who had soloed away and had a 2 second margin over Craig.
When the third and final day started the field had shrunk from 39 to 31 with a whole bunch of riders packing in. Rutland never pack and we all left the hotel bright eyed and bushy trailed and eager to start. Well, not really – we were all exhausted but we were ready to race. Andy’s exuberance to score in the KOM competition caught the eyes of some of his competitors and he had been reported for crossing a double white line on stage 3. This seemed most un-sporting and those of you who know Andy will vouch for his riding ability and race craft. Anyway, undaunted we pulled up to the start and once out of the neutralised zone everything got up to race pace with Worcester St John looking in trouble. Andy got away on the first big loop and with Martin Smith and was then joined by Rob. They sped away from the bunch and got on to the first climb. This put Andy into some difficulty and nobody was more surprised than me when I saw him ahead being caught by the bunch. Rob stayed away and must have been pushing the pedals hard because it wasn’t until the 3rd climb before he was caught by the yellow jersey holder whereas I had been spat out the back, as predicted by my team mates earlier in the race. The overall winner was Craig Battersby who, with his team, managed to get back in charge and took a well-deserved win. Rob picked up 5 KOM points and finished 15 in stage 4 and 14th overall.
It felt a privilege to race and ride with this great bunch of vets and Rutland CC riders. Rutland CC has had winners in this race before with Simon Keeton and Darren Otter and I am sure Rutland riders will be collecting a trophies again in Great Whitley.