This was to be our second race event of the weekend so, after a gentle spin on Sunday morning; we headed up to Winchester for the town centre criterium. Having only done three road races in the last two and a half years years, I have dropped down to 3rd cat, this gave some hope for a good ride. The course was brilliant, with a long drag up the finish along the high street, before a super twisty, technical second half of the course.
I knew you had to be at the front from the start to be in with any chance of winning, so I lined up behind the lead car, and made sure I never dropped lower than 3rd place in the opening couple of laps. I soon moved to the front and went full gas up the finishing straight, bringing just two riders with me, Luke Gray (TrekUK) and Steven Dance from Andover Wheelers. We quickly opened up a sizeable gap on the chasers, but within a couple of laps, Luke put in a massive attack up the finishing straight. I quickly jumped on his wheel, but Steven was dropped. We carried on riding smoothly for the next few laps, but it wasn’t long before Luke was attacking again, jumping several times up the start straight, but each time I was able to get on the wheel. With two laps to go, Luke put in another attack, and it took a big effort to get back to his wheel. I decided to stay there confident that I could win the sprint. However, unbeknownst to us Steven Dance was never more than 10 to 15 seconds behind us, and as Luke slowed in the final lap, anticipating an attack from me, that gap shrunk very quickly… We turned onto the finishing straight and I stayed in second wheel, determined not to start my sprint too early and blow it. Luke kept it steady and just as we reached 150m to go and I was about to start my sprint, Steven came flying past us, and there was no time to get back on terms with him. I beat Luke in the sprint, but unfortunately it was only for second place… I was super disappointed to miss out on the win, but Chapeau to Steven on a great ride!
Despite Euan also not racing on the road last year, he somehow managed to stay a 2nd cat rider, so lined up against the fast boys in the Elite/1/2 race. There was almost an hour delay by the time his race came around, so any kind of warm up went out the window, it also meant his first practice lap of the course would also be his first racing lap. The riders were called up to be gridded on the high street by the commentator who recognised both of us from mountain bike races he used to organise in the 90’s. This resulted in him going crazy down the mic whenever either of us hit the front!
When the flag was dropped Euan was immediately swamped by a load of riders, some who had no regard for safety and were dive bombing in to corners. One said rider eventually came off and looked to break his collarbone. After about 5 laps and lots of insanely quick cornering, Euan found his way to what he thought was the lead group, only to find out at the end there were 2 up the road from the word go. After several attacks, both solo and with fellow MTB’er Ade Lansely, and the chasing down of riders, the peloton shrank down to only 11 riders who were to contest the sprint for 3rd. We all know Euan is a shocking sprinter so his only option was to go a few laps early in a do or die move. He kicked hard out of the last corner with 2 to go, but kicked a bit too soon catching his pedal on the inside on the corner, causing him to fly off towards the barrier, luckily staying upright but losing contact with the group. He caught back on up the final straight as everyone was sprinting for the line, but couldn’t pass anyone, so finished 13th. It was a fantastic event, with a great course and atmosphere, and also a good chance to catch up with old friends, some of who even had a mini fan club, hey Andy!
The evenings racing capped off a great weekend, so both are in high spirits leading up to the final round of the British XC series on the Olympic MTB course this weekend.