Rich is an incredibly fast rider. He's partial to the occasional hill climb and loves to get out and about on his beloved Argon 18. Recently, he did the Giles Rees Memorial Stage Race. Consisting of four stages over three days he said it was just like the Tour de France... but in Kent... and a lot shorter... and not as quick
Joining fellow riders from the Surrey League, Southdowns bikes and two other guys from the area made a strong team. Horrible weather conditions made for an eventful race and one which required a dig into the reserves.
Stage 1 - was an individual time trial of one lap of the Cyclo-Park circuit. Not my forte and it was windy - my arch enemy. Although I went as hard as I thought I could my time was not amazing. I was only a few seconds down on the fastest times but a lot of people were between me and them. Not an ideal start.
Stage 2 - was a circuit race around the Cyclo Park circuit consisting of sixteen laps and on lap five and ten there were sprint primes for the points competition jersey. My plan was to sit and do nothing as I was likely to end in a bunch sprint that I would almost certainly not win and save the legs for the following two days. It was a bit hairy early on as it was a bit bunch for a race around the circuit and its twisty and windy with some suspect bike handling by some of the riders. There were a few slight spills and one guy high-sided it in front of me which was a bit concerning but disaster was avoided. With a lap to go no one was away so a bunch sprint looked certain, then one guy jumped away, there was a bit of looking around, so he pulled out a bit of a gap. On the drag to the line the bunch rapidly closed on him but as I was at the back of it I couldn’t see if he hung on then I saw an arm go in the air which looked like my teammate. My teammate, Charlie, won the bunch sprint but didn’t know that the guy just in front of him was the winner and he thought he was being lapped. Don’t worry, he got plenty of stick for celebrating getting second.
Stage 3 - Moral and motivation was high as I was feeling quite good and having done nothing up this point wanted to try and get a result, however, while the rider briefing was happening it started to rain. I do not like riding in the rain and I really do not like racing in the rain. More kit was added, and as we rolled to the start, the rain became worse and to add to my woes it was windy, the wind is my enemy, I’m not a heavy powerful rider and I get blown around like a leaf. The race went on and the puddles got bigger, it was quite a fast pace and the wind was making it hard for some riders. With just under two laps to go, we approached the turnoff towards the HQ and I turned off. I couldn’t face another two laps of being soaking wet and cold. At this point, there had just been a split in the bunch which I managed to avoid and there were now riders all over the road. The organiser pulled a number of riders out at the bell who was no longer in contention to save them riding around getting wetter and colder when they had no chance of winning the stage but also there were marshals around the course and this would save them also. After the finish, the organiser added time to riders he pulled out and he also did the same to me but a lot more. The good news was this meant I could start the next day. The even better news was that my teammate Declan, who likes racing in the rain, won the stage. A bona fide win by the Surrey League team.
Stage 4 – With the skies a lot clearer and temperature a lot higher, motivation was high to redeem myself and get something out of the weekend and after yesterday’s early finish I wasn’t feeling too tired. With the team, our stage winner was second on the points competition and we had 2 riders around the top 10 only about 11 or 12 seconds off the overall lead. The plan was to help Declan win the points jersey and get me and maybe Charlie up the road so the rest don’t have to chase and try to force the other GC contenders to work and jump them later. The flag dropped and almost immediately Declan went up the road with 3 others, great, the bunch sat up and no one was interested in riding which was good for us. Over the top of the climb I got away from the bunch and was looking at having to cross a 1:15 gap to the lead group… on my own. Not ideal, however, a few miles later I noticed a rider trying to get across to me so I eased a little to let him on, then we pressed on to get across. About 25 miles later we finally made it across the gap.
Rich leading the break in the fourth stage.
At this point there were six of us in the lead group but two refused to work, a lap later the gap to the bunch had shrunk to 30 seconds as riders were trying to get across, two riders did manage to bridge, they were both willing and able to work so for half an hour we really pressed on to open the gap up again, this worked and the bunch fell back. An acceleration dropped three riders from the group leaving five of us with one guy who refused to work despite of the cajoling/encouragement/abuse we gave him. The finish was off the circuit up a climb that was about a mile long. Normally the sort of finish that really suits me. After being up the road for so long and working hard the good legs I had up to a lap to go had disappeared and were now a bit sore and the signs of cramp were twitching away. On the steep part on the finish climb, Mr Work Shy put in an acceleration which dropped my team mate and one other leaving three of us. Another acceleration put me on the ropes and I started to lose contact with the lead two. I tried to push back up to them, but my legs refused to do anything, leaving the two to fight out the finish and me to roll in for third. A bit disappointed especially as the guy who had done nothing won the stage. My team mate won the sprints jersey after scooping up the points on the stage, so that was good.
A good weekend, apart from Sunday, and the Hunt 36 Carbon Wide Aero’s were awesome as usual.