Colin Carfield Memorial Road Race - Sunday 24th July
Course - Hilly with 4 main climbs including a hill finish.
I don't go to many races where i feel nervous due to the nature of the course but this race was different and there are very few like it in the UK. The Colin Carfield is known to one of the hardest and most savage road race on the UK calendar, it puts the fear of god in to a lot of riders and most who have ridden the event one year will not enter again the next as they know just how tough it is. When i found all of this information out i was a little worried about how hard this race might actually be but i was also very excited at the prospect of going in to a race which suits my climbing ability. However, as i have been feeling pretty exhausted due to life's issues recently, i was more worried than excited!
I traveled to the race with Tony Kiss form stratford which was great as he rode the event for last year and was able to supply me with some good inside information. When we got the event we drove the last 2 climbs just to check out what we would be up against and the answer was some very long and very steep climbs. races like these play out completely different to your typical UK road races which generally don't have much in the way of challenges. This means that the winner can usually spend the whole race sitting at the back of the bunch, letting others drag the breaks back and then sprint with fresh legs at the end. I have nothing against this and agree that this is a very intelligent way to race but it does mean that not always does that rider deserve the win or in others words, that rider has nor really earned there win. With the Colin Carfield race things are different. The winner is the rider that is the strongest, simple. Breaks are not made in this race they occur through natural selection each time the race goes up a hill. Only the strongest can stay at the front and everybody else gets shelled out the back. If you want to win this race then you have to grab it by the horns and want it cuz there's no such thing as a free ride in this race.
The race rolled out of the HQ at the gentlemanly time of 10.30 and on to the course, the course its self is very well thought out. Essentially its 4 ever decreasing laps which take in a new climb over the same ridge, so although you ride some parts of the course 4 times, each hill is new and other bits you only ride once. This makes a great change to the usual repeated laps of many courses. As we headed of in the direction of the first killer climb i concluded that i felt OK, not great but just OK. Having not ridden the course i had no idea where the first climb was so each time we hit a little slope i began to shit myself thinking this was it. The reason for this nervousness is because i was told that the winning group of leaders is always decided on this first climb and if you ain't in it then you can kiss your race goodbye. When we did hit the first climb i was pretty far back in the group and i could see the strongest riders if the race hit the front to lift the pace, these included ex nation hill climb champions Danny Axford and James Dobbin. The pace was intense i had made it harder as i had to accelerate through the bunch just to get up to the pace. The sound of laboured breathing and physical plain was crazy and already the race had split apart. I managed to grit my teeth and hang of the back of the 15 leaders as we crested the top, it was painful to say the least but i was there and it felt good.
On the ridge we began to ride a good steady through and off and at this point i thought that we had seen the last of any other riders. However, as we got to with in 5 miles of the second climb everyone just stopped working and would not take a pull. The problem lied in the fact that everyone was thinking so much about the climb that they wanted to save there legs. With this drop in pace came the expected catch of another few groups so our bunch was now a good 30 strong. again i had no idea where the next climb started and i had already slipped myself to the back of the group when low and behold we took a left hander and the road kicked up to 14%. Enter climb number 2. Apart from the fact i was still in the big ring i was well down inn the bunch again as the strongest hit the front and ramped it up. Once again i had to fumble around slowing riders and sprint up to the back of the leaders which now only contained about 10. I was just off the back as crested the top yet the pace continued so i had to keep my head down and ride myself back on to the wheels, one of which was Tony's who, it was fair to say was riding extremely strong.
Over the top the same scenario as last time took place, we powered along in organized through and off and then sat up with a few miles to go before the climb. It was really annoying as riders kept bridging up to us but i can understand the reason for it happening and I'm almost glad it did as it gave me chance to rest a bit. One problem i was having today which i suffer with sometimes is nasty stomach cramps, not something i wanted in todays race and every time i got out the saddle i just wanted to sit down again. This was not an option as we hit the 3rd climb and finally i found myself in a good position as we began the ascent. The oace rocketed up as the favorites began to throw in some acceleration in order to expell the weakest riders. I was gripping on with my finger nails, punching the pedals round as hard as i could, trying to overcome the pain of the climb aswell as my gut! Once again i ahd survived the climb and was over the top, this time the pace was so high that only 10 survived and no one was coming back to us this time round.
As the loop was getting smaller with each lap there was not long before we hit the final climb. There was a bit of an incident with some horses which split up our break a bit and caused us to loose some time. Thankfully no one was hurt and we all regrouped and continued. Not long after that one of the riders in the break turned to me and said "how far away is the final climb", "No idea mate" i replyed. just as i turned my attention back to the road we rounded a left hand corner and there we was, starting the final climb. Is shouted to the rider "I think i no where the final climb is........its under you wheels my freind".
This was it, 3 hills down and 1 to go, last big effort to make it all worth while. The climb kicked up at the half way point where Dobbin and Axford dug in and put the hammer down, only one other went with them as they gained tim over the rest of us. Tony couldent go and setled in to his pace with another rider on his wheel. A bit further back was 3 more including me, there were agps between our whels as we all ground towards the top. Behind me were the rest of the break which were dropping of the pace. Dobbin scored the win with a final sprint effort with Axford in second and the Qoroz rider in 3rd. Tony out sprinted his companion to secure 4th and i managed to drag myself up another position by catching one of the riders ahead to finish in a very pleasing 7th.
Crossing the finish line i high fived Tony for an awsome ride and felt quite compelled with the race that had just taken place. It felt Epic, like a proper race, more reminisant of what you would expect to feel if you had just ridden a stage of the tour through the alps or pyrenees. It felt like i had earned my place, it might only have been 7th but given the caliblre of the field, my stomach problems and general tirdness i was more than satisfied. I had hung on, clung on, dug so deep that i felt strain in part of my body i never new had nerves.
Will i be back for next yeart, dam right and this next time i will know where the climbs are, where i need to be and what to expect. Nect year this race will be mine for the taking.
|Tony Kiss (Right) and his brother and ex pro Mike|
enjoying a well deserved peice of cake!