Derby Mercury Road Race
Hosted by Derby Mercury CC
Any that's a rap folks, well almost. Today was my last pre-entered BCF race of the 2011 season, I have a TLI stage race that I'm doing in October and a few cross races but apart from that I'm all done. I feel that on reflection I have a pretty good season considering that I came into last winter having suffered a broken collar bone and then broke it again in March after my first race! Plus one of two other things during the season that have been hard for me so overall I'm contempt and I know that if I pull my finger out next year, get a good winter behind me and do some mid-week circuit races I should have no problem obtaining my first cat license.
Anyway, right now I have to think about this race and I have to say it's one of the more unusual road races I have done. The course is just over 5 miles and apart from few little undulations its pan flat; this means that we would be doing 12 laps of the circuit. It sounded more like a circuit race or a Belgium Kermese than a road race but hey, I'm open minded and always up for a challenge. Arriving at the HQ which was extremely plush for a HQ, the sun was shining although the morning was cold and a base layer would be required without a doubt. Winter was defiantly on its way but it looked as though there would be no threat of rain during today's race which was always a good thing, plus the wind was down to a gentle blow which would make the speed of the race pretty high.
Although I have been saying for the last few weeks that I have been looking forward to getting my last few races out of the way so as I can reset my focus towards winter training and begin laying down my base, I was really looking forward to today's race and even more so after seeing the start sheet. Most of my racing buddies were down to race, many of which I have shared long breakaways with, attacked alongside, chased down, out sprinted and been out sprinted by during what has been an eventful 2011. There were also a few guys I have never raced and one guy I never even knew did road racing! That chap was Matt Botrell of Team I-Ride, 3rd placed finisher in the 2010 British Time Trial Champs and One of the best Testers in the country. He would be one to watch for sure.
After a chilly briefing which was held in the car park in the shade, we set about getting the race underway. In the same style as the course, the race went off like a Kermese as well with a super-fast opening few miles. This pace set the tone for the rest of the race which was generally ridden at a very high average speed and with little in the way of actual breaking during the lap there wasn't a fat lot to slow us down. With it being the last race of the season I kind of had my September head on and spent the first lap dangling at the back just chilling out, I had convinced myself that given the nature of the course a break would not get away and it would end in a bunch sprint. Low and behold, as I said that a break began to go clear which was about 10 strong and I was stuck at the back unable to get up towards the front due to the narrow roads and high speeds. It was my own fault for not paying attention and neither did I realise that the break contained Botrell and a few other race favourites.
After a couple of laps it was clear that something had to be done or we would not be seeing those riders again, the break was at about 30 seconds so I knew that we could bring it back. I eventually made it to the front and began working hard to bring the riders back, I felt good and I put in some really hard, long, fast pulls on the front with other riders helping up the speed of the bunch. At one point, about half way through, I was on the front doing a hard effort when the Motorbike out rider told me that the break was at 25 seconds. This didn't seem right as I could see the group of 10 only a few seconds up the road, after a bit of thought I realised that that could only mean one thing; Botrell. After a quick calculation; Botrell + Solo Break + Flat Course + No Wind + Peak form after British TT champs = A good chance of the race being over!!!!
Nonetheless, there was still prize money up for grabs and now we had caught the break of 10 we could still race for minor places and possibly even bring Botrell back although this was a tall order. Just as we swept up the break, a counter attack began to make its move with Michel Thelwell of Qoroz being the main instigator. Unfortunately in true Mike style, he managed to pull his foot out of the pedal and careered across the road taking some riders with him and going down hard. I was a few riders back and managed to miss the chaos but the poor chap looked in a bad way as I passed him. Thankfully I later spoke with him in the HQ and other than a few cuts and bruises he was alright. Back to the race and with the laps ticking down, nothing else had gone clear, a few little moves went away but were brought back pretty quick and I was beginning to think it would be impossible to get away due to the constant high speeds.
With about 2 laps to go and Botrell now about 90 seconds up the road, the pace on the front was high coming in to one of the harder section which contained a little hill. The stronger riders were at the front and it was slightly splintered as we crested the top of the rise, Flavio Zappi (Ex Italian Pro) had a gap with few others including Connor Ryan who, a guy who I have accumulated a lot of time with in breakaways this year. To my right I saw Paul Dring, ex Echelon team mate and good friend, drift up to the riders a head so I decided to latch on, we had a gap and we managed to quickly organize in to through an off and began hitting it really hard. We worked like a dream machine, every rider pulling through and contributing well to the pace setting. If a rider missed his turn due to being tired then someone else would jump in to take over, allowing them a quick breather before they jumped back in to start working again. We knew we didn't have long left and we knew the bunch would be riding fast so we didn't mess around; we just got our heads down and rode hard. It was poetry.
With a lap to go we had reduced Botrell's lead but not enough to bring him back and he crossed the line the clear winner and well deserved it was too. The 6 of us who had broken away were now far enough in the lead to know that we would finish ahead of the bunch. As we hit the last little rise before the last mile or so, a rider went for an early move which briefly split the 6 of us in to equal goups of 3 but this was soon nutrilized. Connor was second wheel coming up to the finish, I thought I had made a perfect choice as Connor is a plucky rider and a handy sprinter, so when he opened up his sprint about 100 meter from the line I thought I was being gifted to a perfect lead out but then, to my right I saw Paul attacking down the other side of the road passing both me and Connor. I had gone from the perfect position to the worst with about 50 meters to go and the whole road blocked by the other rider who had had to swing to the left after Paul blew his Trumpet. I tried my hardest to come back around but it was no good and I came across the line in 6th just behind Connor and Paul just behind me. The bunch came in not long after with a good old sprint.
1 Matt Bottrill (I Ride RT) 2:30:00
2 Andy Eagers (Derby Mercury RC) @ 1:30
3 Flavio Zappi (Team Zappis)
4 Paul Bell (Peak RC)
5 Conor Ryan (VC Montpellier)
6 Daniel Bill (Cult Racing)
7 Paul Dring (Team Echelon)
8 Neil Edwards (unattached) all @ same time
9 Tim Allen (Cyclesport) @ 2:00
10 Paul Bennett (Cycling Bargains) @ same time
Results Courtesy of British Cycling
6th it was then, not bad considering the course exploited all of my weaknesses and I was convinced I would not be able to get away. I fact, do you know what? I was mega happy, I had had a cracking race, found it to be one of the most enjoyable races I have done all year, got in a well drilled break with some good friends and walked away with £30. Job done. Job done on two fronts in fact as I can now say that my official race season is over and I feel I ended it on a high. Although I felt quite sad as I drove out of the once busy and bustling HQ, I felt sad because I knew it would be a good 5 or 6 cold, long, hard months before I would see many of my good race buddies again. Thankfully I have some very exciting things taking place at the moment which could make this winter the best ever and make 2012 twice as good as 2011. But for now I will take my £30 and buy myself an ice-cream which might also be the last one of this season as well.