National Series – Junior Tour of the Mendips
This weekend was the first Junior National Road Racing event of the year (The Junior Tour of the Mendips) the race was made up of two stages one flat of 102km and one which was real hilly at 96km.
The first day looked to be a Matt Hargrove’s day – a fast and flowing course – although Matt did everything right saving himself for the final bunch gallop there was a small breakaway at about the half-way point. The good news was that we had Joe Evans in the breakaway, he did an impressive ride to finish 2nd.
I tried to bridge the gap to the break but it was clear that the bunch were onto me so I sat up and chilled. Matt and I had decided if others were to pull the break back I would try and lead out Matt for the win and I needed fresh legs or this. The 4 man break didn’t come back so I still lead Matt out for the bunch sprint. Matt finished 4th in the Bunch and 8th overall and it was clear he was very strong at the finish.
The 2nd day was more suited to my kind of riding style – really tough racing with 4 climbs and 3 of them very steep. Our plan was to keep Joe E out of trouble and go on the second climb to lead the race. Unfortunately a break went up the road early and gained a 1min 30sec lead so I rode away with a rider, Peter Cocker, who I knew to be extremely strong. After about 30km of racing our idea was to get to the second climb before the bunch so that we could join the break and control it. We had been away for about 25km working well and were quite shocked to see the bunch chasing us again.
We held them off for a little longer but eventually it was clear they were chasing hard. I sat in the now narrowed down bunch and soon after I still felt strong again. I went to the front with Matt intending to work and try to pull back the break for Joe E but the bunch let me off the front and I felt good so I rode off on my own with the bunch seeming unable to pull me back. I was alone for about 10km (maybe more) until 2 riders joined me. We worked well and brought back the remaining 2 riders off the front. Then it was the third climb a tough one which we were to do twice.
The two riders who had caught me went quickly up the climb and as my energy levels were now low, they pulled about a 15second gap on me and another rider. We struggled to work together so I ended up chasing the two riders a head but after my efforts in the race already it was too much to ask to bring them back. Eventually I was caught by a group of about 7 or 8 riders before the final ascent and I had to hurt to get up the final climb and to stay in contention. The remaining bunch was also breathing down our necks, and in the end I crossed the line in 7th place on the stage and 8th overall.
Overall Matt did well with an encouraging sprint on the 1st stage and making the climbs really well despite their steepness. Well done also to Joe E for an impressive 5th position overall in his first Junior National Tour. All in all it was a positive team performance which bodes well for the future.
Photo taken from Guy Swarbrick – Check out his excellent photography here