By Website Editor
For the penultimate time this season, the HTRC Racing Team took to the start line on Sunday 14 September for the 44 mile End of Season Points Chaser at Witham St Hugh’s just outside of Lincoln.
We had a strong squad of 4, which included myself, Danny Posnett, Will Thomas and George Leighton – who was entering his final race of the season and keen to go out with a bang.
Reminiscent of Paris-Roubaix
The course was a virtually pan flat lap of 5.5 miles to be covered 8 times. Although flat, there were a number of narrow sections on the route littered with pot holes. As for the weather, well it was a little overcast but dry and warm with just a small breeze in the air.
After a briefing from the commissaire, and a short neutralised section to the course from the HQ, we were off and the pace was fairly brisk to start with. The first sections weren’t too bad, but once we hit the narrow section we’d been warned about, we immediately saw riders bouncing wide and into the potholes. It was a scene reminiscent of Paris-Roubaix with the road narrowing and riders eager to get to the front and out of trouble. I had a shocker of a start and was too far back. George was also with me at the rear of the bunch, so once we hit the exposed section of narrow road, George was tailed off. I myself was having to work my way around rider after rider to get to within the main pack of riders.
Once off the narrow section, the race calmed down, which came as a relief to me at first, but having settled down I noticed no-one was willing to race and attack. That soon changed though when our own Danny Posnett shot out of the bunch and a flurry of riders came after him. Unfortunately, and despite our blocking tactics, the move was nullified and it was status quo for the time being.
I was next to try my hand with a attack on lap 3, but despite bridging to another rider and getting a small break formed, the pack chased us down too and things were as they were.
Create a breakaway
At the end of lap 4 was a prime sprint and upon realising I wasn’t going to win that, I thought I’d try a canny move and bridge up to the riders who’d gone for the sprint, and therefore pulled out a gap, in a bid to try and create a breakaway. So the riders wound it up and duly sprinted for the line. I was in about 15th position and once we crossed the line attacked, bridged to the group of 6 and tried to get something organised. This move was a little more successful and we lasted around half a lap, but no one really wanted to commit and, inevitably, the pack closed us down.
It was at this point when I started to question the strength of the other riders. No-one seemed capable of working, which meant I had to either go solo or opt to sprint. So, onto the 6th lap I followed a move from an Airedale Olympic rider and we immediately got a gap. After a few turns, the Airedale rider eased up having seen the bunch wasn’t too far behind, but I’ve always been told that you don’t give up until the pack is on your wheel.
So, I duly carried on, and without realising had opened up a gap. I focused on my heart rate and essentially time-trialled my way round at my threshold limit. To my surprise, every time I looked back the gap had grown, so much so that I couldn’t see them on some of the shorter straights. A lot of this was thanks to the help of Will and Danny who did their best to block any moves at the head of the bunch.
No-one else knows how to ride in a group
This was brilliant I thought, but I’d perhaps I’d gone too early to go solo. The exposed section halted my progress a little, but when I was caught, it wasn’t the bunch, but a group of 5 riders instead. I tucked in behind, gathered my breath and started to work. Unfortunately, barring one other rider, no-one came through. It was the most infuriating situation, here we were a break of 6 with a great opportunity to gain points and we’re about to throw it away because no-one else knows how to ride in a group.
They should perhaps do some of Jim’s training and learn for next year! So, the obvious happened and we were swallowed up just before the finish line.
‘In for a penny in for a pound’
That didn’t stop me having another go. I got to the front and attacked staying in the saddle. My legs were not as fresh as the previous lap though so I wasn’t able to gain as much ground. I pulled another rider with me but we were soon caught.
Coming up to the start and finish line for the penultimate time, I concocted a plan. I was to tell Danny that I’d attack again and if unsuccessful he’d counter. Unfortunately when I came past, he was trapped in the bunch on the complete opposite side of the road to me. I thought I’d try it anyway and see what happens – ‘in for a penny in for a pound’ as they say.
Attacked and managed to get a gap
So the bell rung and I moved myself right up to the front in second wheel. I attacked again, got a gap again and was chased, yes surprisingly, again. But I’d drawn the sting out of the other riders legs and Danny, without being told remember, attacked and managed to get a gap with another rider. I had a big grin on my face once the pace at the front of the bunch eased up, thinking the winning move had gone.
But once we hit the windy exposed section Danny was caught, or so I thought. The bunch got to the tail end of the group then the rider in 2nd wheel behind Danny pulled up leaving him free once again. At this point we only had a couple of miles left and Danny’s gap was now widening. Me and Will though perhaps made a mistake without realising. We were so caught up in seeing if Danny could survive, that we’d forgotten our tried and tested blocking tactic. This meant riders at the front had a free rein to pull him back, and the gap was starting to decrease.
Too close to call
It was a nail-biting finish with me thinking ‘yes he’s won’ to ‘no, it’s over’ and then back to ‘yes he’s won’. In truth it was just too close to call once we were onto the finishing straight. Unfortunately luck wasn’t to be on Danny’s side and as the sprint revved up he was caught with what must have been just a 100 metres left before the finish (Tony Martin at the Vuelta last year came to mind).
He ended up freewheeling with us over the line, clearly shattered from his effort. Once we crossed the line the poor kid parked his bike up and fell to the floor. Other riders thought he’d crashed but he was clearly heartbroken knowing how close he’d come to taking what would have been a most deserved win for Danny and the team. My immediate feeling was one of happiness having ridden so well in places and having felt so strong, but now it’s all sunk in I just feel gutted for Danny and annoyed at myself for not doing more in those closing moments by not blocking the chase behind – we’ll know next time.
Saturday 20th September will cap the end of the 2014 season for the HTRC Racing Team at Selby CC’s road race. Its been an emotional roller-coaster of a ride this year, but today just about topped the lot.
Mark Walker HTRC RR Secretary
Source: Hull Thursday Cycling