Johnston wraps up the overall but the men’s series goes down to the final round
The top two matched each other pedal stroke to pedal stroke
The main favourites, who have dominated the top of the standings so far this series, were foiled as they marked each other out of the race and the rest of the field did not hesitate in taking advantage. Andrew Edwards (Bristol RC), Christopher Wright (Army Cycling Union) and Lucy Driver (Forever Pedalling all took their first wins of the series whilst Aimee Parsons (Avid Sport) took her second 4th cat win in a row. Lauren Johnston (Avid Sport) was only a whisker away from the overall series win going in to round 9 and confirmed her victory with a round to spare. The men’s overall, on the other hand, is still in the balance. A top two finish for John Russell (Bristol RC) at the final round will see him snatch the win from Charlie Revell (Team Tor 2000 Kalas).
The men’s 2nd/3rd Cat races this winter have been fiercely competitive and very entertaining, and a despite a change from the wintery conditions of the past few rounds to a benign, almost spring-like day, the racing did not disappoint this week either. Bristol RC were out in numbers looking to make life difficult for Revell at the top of the standings, and the series leader decided that attack was the best form of defence, launching the first move straight from the gun along with Josh Griffiths (Bristol South CC). It wasn’t long, however, before the tables were turned and Revell was now chasing the opening salvo from Bristol RC; Edwards had launched clear with his teammate Russell locked on his wheel.
Revell showed his usual composure to pick his moment to bridge the gap and once he had joined the leading pair Edwards stopped pulling on the front and the bunch were back in touch. The moves kept coming as Steve Cottington (Bath CC) and Adrian Lawson (Latchem Sunwise) got off the front, and the pair were joined by the ever-active Edwards as the breakaway seemed to be getting established, with Jared Linden (Royal Dean Forest) looking to bridge and make it a group of four.
The bunch appeared to be settling down behind, until Revell kicked the hornet’s nest by launching his way off towards the leaders. He was immediately marked by seven riders, including Russell, third overall Rob Hardyman (Forever Pedalling), seventh overall Tim Southcombe (Somerset RC) and one of the riders who featured in the successful break last week – Morgan Curle (Giant – Halo). Russell was the first to make the bridge to the leaders, shortly followed by Revell and the rest of the chasers, and it looked like a decisive group of nine was going to ride away from the rest of the bunch. Indeed, they had quickly established a seven second gap, with all the main favourites present.
But the combination wasn’t working and with Harry Tucker (Avid Sport) leading the chase behind, the gap was coming down, rather than extending. Despite Linden, Edwards, Southcombe and Curle breaking away from the escape group to try and create a selection that would work together, a few laps later the whole race came back together. As the big hitters declared a ceasefire, Sam Gaskin jumped clear, joined by Linden and Tom Brookes (Bristol RC). However, half a lap later, the escape had shuffled, with Edwards jumping past the leading three and Linden managing to grab his wheel whilst the other two were gradually reeled back in by the bunch.
This gave the front pair freedom to ride, and four laps later they had managed to establish a twenty second advantage. With the win riding away from them, those who were not racing for overall positions needed to do something to change the situation and it was Curle, Brookes and Elliott Barratt (Bath CC) who jumped clear into the gap to try and bring the leaders back. Brookes dropped off the back of the other two, and then Barratt struck a pedal, leaving Curle chasing solo having closed the gap to eight seconds with four laps to go. However, that was as close as the young rider got, with the gaps starting to go out as the finish approached, and the question was no longer if he would catch the leading pair but if the bunch would catch him.
Linden had been in successful breakaways early in the season as a 4th Cat, but he did not think that his sprint would be enough to take the win from Edwards, so with one lap to go he made a jump to solo for victory. He initially got a gap, but as the pair rounded the penultimate bend they were back together and Edwards made no mistake, finishing several bike lengths clear to take the win. Curle had still been hanging on ahead of the bunch going into the final lap, but a late escape from Revell, Russell, Southcombe and Hardyman consigned him to seventh place, just holding off the first to finish from the main group, Jamie Atkins (University of Bristol) by a single bike length.
Revell had needed to put two riders between himself and Russell to secure the series win, and with a third and fourth placed finish respectively, he did not do enough to stop the final round becoming the deciding race. Hardyman’s fifth place secures his podium spot, and keeps alive the slimmest of chances of catching Russell in second overall. A podium finish for Southcombe and Linden next week could see them take fourth overall.
The women’s race started in cagey fashion, with all the riders looking to take advantage of the full BC points on offer. Meg Dickerson (Forever Pedalling) is never far from launching an attack though, and she was the first to try and escape, shortly followed by Emily Slavin (IRIS Race Team). However, a large part of the women’s series this winter has been the tenacious riding of Rebekah Nash (University of Bristol) in second place overall. Nash has clocked up lap after lap on the front of the bunch, and when she has the bit between her teeth, it is very difficult for any riders to escape.
And Nash was straight on the coat-tails of the next move as Driver looked to go clear, joined by Hodges (Avid Sport). The trio were brought back and less than a lap later, it was Nash who was back on the front driving the pace along. This presented the opportunity for Dickerson to again try to get clear, but Nash was again having none of it.
As the race entered its final phase, the next big move came from series leader Johnston, who was not waiting for a sprint and made a move to get away solo. She got a gap, but with two laps to go work from Dickerson and Hermione Harrison (Cowley Road Condors) had brought her back to within the bunch’s grasp. It was all back together as the riders took the bell, with sprinters Driver, Harrison and Charlotte Berry (Performance Cycles) lined up along side one another as the fight for position started behind Stephie Price (Cotswold Veldrijden).
Driver was the first to launch her sprint as the bunch entered the home straight, and the Forever Pedalling rider carried this momentum all the way to the line going further clear with every pedal stroke to take the win by three bike lengths. Harrison jumped off the wheel of Johnston to take second ahead of the series leader whose third place was enough to wrap up the overall. Hodges continued her remarkable sprinting improvement to finish fourth just ahead of Dickerson and Berry. Nash and Prince paid for all their early work rolling in at the back of the front group.
But both Nash and Prince can be satisfied with preserving their overall positions; Nash held onto second ahead of Hodges who is now 15 points behind going into the final round and Prince is in a close fight for a top 10 finish. Johnston now has 330 points, a full 115 clear of Nash, and with only 50 points available in the final round she has underlined her dominance throughout the series with an impressive margin of victory.
The men’s 4th Cat race saw a hard early tempo from Francis Eddolis (Veloton), Samuel Whitehead (Bristol South) and Wright put a lid on any early moves. However, as the race passed the halfway stage Lewis Revill (University of Bath) made his move as the race went up the home straight to get clear of the bunch. The bunch were in no mood to let him go, however, and held him close within reach. This presented Wright with the opportunity to make the short jump across the leader one lap after Revill’s initial attack.
This gap to the front of the bunch gave the pair the motivation to work together and with three laps to go they still were preserving their slender advantage, being pursued by a bunch led by Chris Downham (Bristol RC), Corey Snell (Ely RC) and Tom Stoneham (London Dynamo). One lap later, Wright had ridden clear of his breakaway companion to give himself a twelve second advantage going into the final three kilometres and as he started the final lap the leader had nearly 20 seconds advantage.
Wright had timed his effort to perfection and was able to sit up and enjoy his victory as he cruised up to the finish. Behind, Joel Thomas (University of Bath) was able to capitalise on his teammates work up the road to take the win by a bike length from Snell with Stuart Hardy (Bristol RC) finishing one place ahead of his teammate Downham.
The women’s 4th Cat race saw an impressive field of 16 riders take the start, the second largest women’s field this series. Cowley Road Condors had come with the biggest team, with three riders and the top two from the previous two 4th Cat races, Aimee Parsons (Avid Sport) and Olive Holliday (Somer Valley CC) were also present. Janet Horton (Merthyr CC) was the first to try and make an escape, with Emily Walton (Beeston CC) also keen to drive the pace at the front. Walton was rarely outside the front two or three riders in the bunch with Hazel May (Imperial College) and Kate Millard (Clevedon) also sharing some of the pacemaking.
With three laps to go, it was still this trio occupying the front spaces of the bunch, but behind them Parsons and Holliday were now waiting to pounce along with Heidi Blunden (Racing Chance). Indeed, as the riders entered their last lap, it was Parsons who had taken the lead and was starting to ramp the pace up. She wasn’t waiting around for the sprint though, and she put in a carbon copy of her move last week to light the afterburners before the final corner and carry that gap all the way to line to take another win.
Holliday was closing fast, pursued by Lucy Rowe (Das Rad Klub) who hid in the group well until the sprint. Blunden was fourth ahead of May and Walton who paid for some of their work on the front of the group early in the race. Despite the reduced series points for 4th cat races, that result puts both Parsons and Holliday in with a good shot of a top 10 finish overall with the pair sitting in 11th and 13th respectively. They will have to earn a top 10 the hard way though, going up against the senior riders in the final round.
Thanks to Graham Young for the photos.
/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/avid_300.jpg00Felix Young/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/avid_300.jpgFelix Young2018-02-19 10:41:572018-02-19 10:43:20Tactical Racing amongst the favourites opens the door for three new winners
Thanks to Stuart Lessels who was out on the circuit taking photos, the link to his photo gallery is here. You can download a digital copy for £1 - let's make sure it is worth his effort to come and take photos in the rain! www.1000th.co.uk/f458883136
See you all for round two this weekend, entries close on Thursday evening.