St Ives CC were the evenings hosts providing us with a short, fast and flat route alongside the A1. We started off just south of Sawtry heading southbound down the old A1. Immediately we were on to the routes only climb, a mile long drag ascending some 40m and with a fractional steepening half way up. From there the road leveled off taking us headed towards Monks Wood and the rapid descent down Woodwalton hill on to the Fens. I’m pretty sure the 42.2mph logged on my computer was from there! The circuit finished with a blast along a pan flat and smooth surfaced road. The June sun provided a comfortably warm evening and with only a light breeze, conditions looked set for a quick night.
After last Thursday’s break away I decided to join the 6 minute group with the expectation of a harder and faster ride. Tim remained in the 8 minute group along with the VC Rutland boys we had jumped off the front with last week. Needless to say I had high hopes of catching up with Tim in a couple of laps time.
I found myself in a group dominated by 5 Welland Valley riders and another from St Ives. Heading up the drag the group was surprisingly uncoordinated; I had expected to see immediate organisation. However, as we turned towards Monks Wood, the Welland Valley chain gang took root. But, once again it soon became apparent we were an uneven group with two of the Welland riders seeming stronger than their team mates. Everytime the group slowed up or the team effort stalled they rode forward to crank up the pace. I certainly felt I had the form to ride with them, but whilst happy to pull my weight in the bunch, I wasn’t going to work carry their other team mates. Nevertheless, I did find myself dangling at the front once or twice!
Half way through the race, as we completed the 2nd lap, we were caught by the two groups behind us. Yet, despite the circuits broad open roads and the wide vistas across the fenland plain we still hadn’t seen Tim’s pack. Now, though, we were a much larger and stronger peloton, I felt pretty certain the catch would be made as we entered the final lap.
As we headed up the A1 drag I felt good, even so I sat at the back to take on some drink and rest for a bit. Turned onto the Monks Wood road I moved forward and joined the rotation at the front of the pack. This was being controlled by stronger Rockingham and Fenland Clarion riders. The stronger Welland guys from the original group also came forward.
We bore down on the road, my speedo counted up, 27, 28, 29, 30 miles per hour. I came off the hoods and sank low on the drops, molding my back in imitation of the fen landscape. As we completed the lap, there was still no sign of the lead group. Perhaps they had all punctured or taken a right for a swift beer in Alconbury? With Tim in the group, a wrong turn wasn’t out of the question, even with marshals – it happened last week OK! Whatever, the reason, my certainty that we would catch began to falter.
On entering the final lap not much had changed. The lead group was still ahead and the scratch somewhere behind us. I kept at the front of the group and our racing became routine. Only a puncture near the front as we accelerated off the bottom of Woodwalton Hill threatened to disrupt our progress.
Finally, as we turned onto the roundabout to take us along the old A1 and the drag up to the finish line we saw the lead group. They were already halfway up. Despondency stilled our legs. The peloton understood their would be no catch tonight. As we crawled along, a few grumblings gradually converted to a pace injection. This was still a race, we were still a bunch and the finish line was approaching. As we passed the steepest section of the drag the bunch quickened; the sprint was starting. I kept on the wheel of a Clarion rider then things became a little congested; I was boxed and being overtaken. A gap on the inside, I followed another wheel into it then passed them. About a 100m to go I was in a bout 5th position, I kicked out of the saddle and started passing riders again. Just one ahead on my right, and I was moving passed his rear wheel, upto his bottom bracket. The leading edge of my tyre drew level with his fork, but it wasn’t enough. The road ran out and I rolled in 2nd place from our bunch’s sprint.
As I sat up I saw Tim chatting away at the side of the road. He saw me grinned and shouted out “3rd”. Tim had attacked his group, but admitted he’d gone too soon. A brave effort. Gary and Jack, the VC Rutland riders from last weeks break took 1st and 2nd place, leaving Tim to take a well deserved 3rd. For the 2nd week running I finished 14th. As we Rode back to the HQ, the srcatch group powered up the hill. They didn’t look a happy bunch!
A good night for St Neots, and if I hadn’t decided to move up a group, well who knows.