Tour of Sussex Stage Race

8 Jul

Finally this race was upon us! I had been looking forward to this for some time, not least because I’d been in good form, but also as I really enjoyed my forays into multiday racing earlier in the year with the Toachim GP and obviously the Tour Of The Milburys.

This was a 3 stage affair run over the course of a weekend, 50 mile flat road stage, 2.5 mile TT, and then 50 mile hilly road stage. Time bonuses of 30 secs for winners of road stages down to 10 secs for 3rd place. With all this in mind it was set to be a good race. I had a very strong set of guys with me, Damien Breen, Andy Lack, Seamus Kelly (guess where he’s from?) and Gareth Thomas who had been lighting it up so far this season. We did have Nathan also on the start sheet but he took a tumble a couple of weeks prior so sat this one out sadly. I was staying down in Eastbourne along with a couple of others, I’d dragged my partner Lucy along for the fun and games too!

Stage 1

This was pan flat, a nice circuit which was fast and had a slightly uphill sprint. The idea for this one was to cover the breaks, perhaps send a couple of guys up the road early to test the water and if that didn’t work try to set it up for a sprint for me.

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We got off to a start down in Lewes after the Mayor gave us a wave off, and the pace was quick when we did hit the circuit, but perfectly manageable given the lack of elevation! Early on we got Andy up the road and he stayed away for a time. All the while I was just sitting in trying to conserve energy. Eventually Andy came back mainly due to the arrow straight Roman Road down one side of the course, would take around 2-3 mins to get out of sight there. A few things tried to go, but nothing of note, a few shouting matches between some of the riders and before we knew it the lap board came out and showed 3 laps to go (I think). It was around this point that Stu Spies of Dynamo and Mike Lancaster of Dynamo chipped off, they went off hard, and started to pull time. It was looking ominous, they got out to a minute which is a fair gap on a circuit like that. Soon this danger was noted by the KW team, and what ensued was a textbook display of a team working as one, everyone took turns to bring this back, Gareth was putting in some big old turns, and slowly we reeled them in, Lewes boys took a turn or two and before we knew it they were almost caught. I moved to do a turn as I felt a bit guilty just sitting in, but Gareth told me to get back and save myself, so I duly obeyed šŸ˜‰

Into the last lap it was all together, I said to Gareth and Damien that they would be best off saving their legs to try to stretch it out near the end to make it less chaotic. As we stormed down the Roman Road I was jostling for position, and out of the dead turn about 1 mile from the finish Gareth put in a monster dig, so big that he flew off the front with one in tow, I got over and looked back, the bunch was in a straight line, possibly a bit early, but it was good, he kept going, I could feel his pain, and he put in ANOTHER dig to keep it fast, at this point we maybe had 500m to go and I could see the flags in the distance. Soon the bunch had swarmed, and I said to Gareth to move left a bit so I could get through, to this day I have no idea how I got a line, numerous people have said that they planned to get my wheel but thought I’d be boxed in. The pace hotted up and Alex from Dulwich opened it up and got a couple of bike lengths with around 100m to go, I thought I couldn’t let the guys do all that work and not win! I started sprinting (in the hoods like a chopper, but it was uphill šŸ˜‰ ) and soon gained on him, went past him, and then if the pics are anything to go by won by a bike length or two.

I turned round and thanked all the guys who all did a great amount of work for me to win this stage, Gareth was delighted as I don’t think it was possible to see who had won from behind. So stage 1 down and 30 sec bonus in hand we were looking good. A yellow jersey presentation followed before we went to the pub for ten pints! Not really, just a chat about how we may play the stages going forward – but before all that, an uphill TT needed to be done, the words that strike fear into a man the wrong side of 75kg šŸ˜‰

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Photo here near the finish line from Pauline Unwin of Meudon

photo(6)

Stage One 6th July – Lewes ā€“ Laughton ā€“ 51 Miles Road Race
1. Rob Sharland Kingston Wheelers 2 2:04:10 (30sec bonus)
2. Alex Ioannides Dulwich Paragon CC 2 ST (20sec bonus)
3. Richard Unwin VC Meudon 2V ST (10sec bonus)
4. James Walsby Catford CC 3 ST
5. Mark McCullagh Dulwich Paragon CC 2V ST
6. James Local London Dynamo 2 ST
7. Michael Williams Dulwich Paragon CC ST
8. Gavin Morton VC Meudon 2 ST
9. Luke Farren Brighton Mitre 2V ST
10. Marc Townsend Neon-Velo 3 ST

Stage 2

After we had eaten and checked in to the hotel I had about an hour to get ready before my start time which was the last of the day thanks to the win earlier on. I’d been told it was 3.2 miles with a flat bit, then a hilly bit, then a flattish drag, so in my mind it was TT bike territory. Little did I know it was not quite that long, or flat, it was around 2.3 miles with a little bit of flat either side of a fairly tasty climb. But knowing I can get the power out in the TT position I wasn’t too put off by this news. Though Gareth was a bit annoyed as he was saving a bit for the mile that never came.

I was hearing that quick times were near 7 mins, and Mike from VC Meudon had done a 7.06 which seemed quick given till I was up our team had not got below 7.30. I set off and it was hard work, still well into the 20’s I was quickly sweating like a dog! I wanted to try to ride to my powermeter for the first couple of mins as I knew what I’d done for 10 mins in the past (around 410w) so had in my mind around 440w or so would probably be about right for the duration. I set off hard and kept it there, staying seated most of the time, I got to the top of the hill and sprinted out of the saddle up the steep left kick and could see the line in the distance, it was quickly clear I wasn’t getting near Mike’s time, but I wouldn’t be a million miles away, I stopped the clock on 7.21 (and managed 450w which was a surprise) which when back at the HQ was good enough for 5th place, so not bad at all, and it didn’t put us in a bad position for the last stage. I was still leading with Mike as my nearest competitor 15 secs back.

Stage Two 6th July – Eastbourne ā€“ Beachy Head ā€“ 2.5mile Hill Climb TT
1. Mike Lancaster VC Meudon 2 0:07:06
2. Andrew Feather Exeter Wheelers 3 0:07:08 @ 0:00:02
3. James Lowden Lewes Wanderers 2 0:07:15 @ 0:00:09
4. James Local London Dynamo 2 0:07:15 @ 0:00:09
5. Rob Sharland Kingston Wheelers 2 0:07:21 @ 0:00:15
6. Michael Coyle Brighton Mitre 2V 0:07:22 @ 0:00:16
7. Stuart Spies London Dynamo 2 0:07:23 @ 0:00:17
8. Mark Smith Crawley Wheelers 3V 0:07:25 @ 0:00:19
9. James Walsby Catford CC 3 0:07:29 @ 0:00:23
10. Jamie Francis London Dynamo 3J 0:07:31 @ 0:00:25

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Stage 3

This was always going to be the decider to be honest, the course wasn’t long at 47 miles, but it was hard. It started down on the sea front which meant we had to go up the hill climb route before we even got onto the circuit. Once on the circuit it was a mix of rolling roads, fast descents and a long long drag into a headwind that was around 1.5 miles long. All this in a featureless landscape atop Beachy Head in 29 deg! Still, I wasn’t moaning (at first) as it was stunning and totally different from the usual courses in Surrey/Kent etc.

We rolled out and it was clear that people were up for this, and as we hit the early slopes of the hill Andrew Feather of Exeter and a chap from Lewes CC battered it off the front and smashed the race to bits, these two boys were flying. I was quick to get into a small group behind them as people began falling out the back straight away. We got onto the circuit and a group of 8 had got away with a few strong men in the mix. Gareth and Damien had made it to this group with me, but sadly Andy and Seamus had not managed to make the bridge, so we were down to 3. Gareth and Damien wasted little time in getting on the front the drag it back, and that is what they did, a fantastic job, the first of many times I’d been amazed at the effort put in for the KW win. With it all back together the guys slipped back to get a rest, I was in the wheels just covering anything that happened ahead of me. With 4 laps left to go a move went, a Dynamo and Crawley rider went, Damien chased down, but quickly found himself in no mans land, so carried on to get over to them. They rode together quite strongly and pulled out a sizeable gap, I wasn’t too concerned with this, it gave us a break and prompted Meudon to chase, which they soon did, and slowly it all came back together. But before we did make the junction James Walsby of Catford who I’ve raced with quite a few times chipped off the front. To be honest, I wasn’t concerned, I knew James was a bit of a nutter and liked to suffer and was of the opinion he would suffer like a dog in the wind and rule himself out. However, he got up to the leading 3 and rode past them. Once we got up to those 3 James was visible up the road, maybe had 20 secs or so. I was still not too worried. I don’t think Damien was too happy with his judgement in hindsight, but I don’t think it had a negative effect.

We rode on and with 2 laps to go James had 30 odd seconds, it was with maybe 1.5 laps to go that Gareth hit the front again, he hit it hard, I was concerned it was a bit early so tried to call him back so we could go hard on the hill, either way the pace hotted up as we followed Gareth. He dug in hard, and once back round to the hill things were getting desperate, we had only a few miles left and James was still up ahead maintaining a decent gap. Gareth hit the front again and I was finding it tough to hold his pace but I wasn’t the only one and his pulls split the bunch, he was spent, told me it was my time, which I knew it was, but I was so hot and legs aching I had very little give over the top of the hill. Or so I thought, two attacks came, first from Lewes I think, I responded, it hurt. Then after the bunch had fractured, Mick Coyle from Brighton came through hard with Keith Lea in two, I knew I had to respond to this or it would be curtains, I dug in again and we got clear with about 7 others, this was the selection made, sadly Gareth was done, and no wonder, he buried himself all day (weekend) and it was down to me.

Gareth doing the business

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We got working eventually over the top to try to cut back James lead, conscious that he would be as quick as the bunch down the hill into the finish, I led the group down the hill, got held up by NEG on one corner, but fairly clear otherwise, I HAD to win the sprint to be in with a shot of retaining the lead. The sprint was downhill so a fast one, I could see the line in the distance and nobody was coming through as I sat on the front, I knew I was going to have to lead it out. Enough was enough and with around 200m to go I opened it up and took the win. We then had a two-hour wait to find out who had won, it was going to be close. I personally thought James had it by a few secs despite what others had said.

After a fish and chips I sauntered into the hall to the presentation, lots of prizes were awarded, last rider, points Jersey (which I won), stage winner of hill climb etc, I was just concerned with one thing, the GC. They read it out in reverse order, 3rd Andrew Feather of Exeter who did a great ride, and is also now a 1st cat I think, and then the moment of truth….

I’d not managed it and was 2nd to James by 12 seconds, be interested to know what it was made up of as James told me he had got 30 secs on us which would have meant he would have won by 2 secs, but one of the marshals mentioned a time bonus for being held up or similar. But all in all it was not important, he had done a storming ride, and certainly surprised me and a few others I think (not least himself, he said he got cold he rode so deep!) so richly deserved and couldn’t have gone to a nicer guy.

The guys were a bit down I think, as was I, but so many positives to take from the weekend, we rode like a unit, and almost delivered on a stage that on paper shouldn’t have had me in the mix at all, let alone winning a bunch kick from a select group. I don’t want to be that boring bloke who keeps yapping on about his team, but I can see why Cav does it, it really is special when you get a few guys working for you and when it comes good its amazing, when it doesn’t its deflating, but they couldn’t have done more. And I’ll surely be able to pay Gareth and co back soon enough. Maybe I could give him my free haircut in Lewes that I won for the points Jersey? šŸ˜‰
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1 James Walsby Catford CC 3 7 2:04:50 @ 0:00:00
2 Rob Sharland Kingston Wheelers 2 28 2:05:30 @ 0:00:40
3 Darrell Pembroke VC Meudon 2 51 2:05:30 @ 0:00:40
4 James Lowden Lewes Wanderers 2 30 2:05:30 @ 0:00:40
5 Andrew Feather Exeter Wheelers 3 24 2:05:30 @ 0:00:40
6 Keith Lea Addiscombe CC 2V 1 2:05:30 @ 0:00:40
7 Michael Coyle Brighton Mitre 2V 3 2:05:30 @ 0:00:40
8 Gavin Morton VC Meudon 2 54 2:05:30 @ 0:00:40
9 Alex Ioannides Dulwich Paragon CC 2 22 2:05:30 @ 0:00:40
10 Stuart Spies London Dynamo 2 38 2:05:30 @ 0:00:40

A great weekend nonetheless, 15 points is all I need to get to 1st category which is pleasing with plenty of the season left. Might have a crack at some more fast TT’s now to see if I can trouble Steve’s records again (though the git keeps lowering them).

Rides here –

http://app.strava.com/activities/65389638
http://app.strava.com/activities/65389591
http://app.strava.com/activities/65389621 (data dodgy till 45 min point when I calibrated again)

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