On the 7th and 8th of April I raced over on home roads at the Junior Tour of the Mendips, on roads and hills I’d been training on all winter with Tav and co, so i felt well prepared going into it, and also having carried out a reccy of the course in the week with team mate Jamie who was going to be racing the event for the first time.
The race consisted of the standard format, a prologue round Chew Lake, a longer stage on the top of the Mendips, and then a final stage on the Sunday incorporating Burrington Combe, Blagdon and finishing up West Harptree. All set for a weekend that constantly changed race by race.
I was one of the first off in the TT, a bonus in that I would have more recovery for the afternoon stage, a disadvantage as it meant getting there earlier, although compared to normal this was a short journey! With plenty of time to get ready I was able to take my time, and didn’t have to rush to make the start of the TT, ariving in plenty of time.
I didn’t go well in the TT, despite the reccy allowing me to ride the best effort I could, and despite getting it all out on the road I didn’t do a great time, losing 40 seconds over 4.5km, so not very good and down on GC, leaving it all to do on the road stages. I was disappointed with this result, I knew I’d lose time but didn’t think it would be that drastic, so was a bit down, but needed to pick up and go again for the afternoon race.
The afternoon race was ok, I missed the breakaway again, although being aggressive early on and looking to go with moves nothing was happening, it seems the one I didn’t chase stayed away, always learning! The race went up West Harptree and we raced up it this year, and I had some fun on it, completely in my zone, and loving every minute of it, seeing riders who put time into me in the tt going backwards. On the circuit I kept myself near the front, although drifted backwards at points, which was silly of me. Coming into the final lap the break had 2 minutes, and with a quick lap from the bunch that came back to 17 seconds on the line, and with a change in GC leader I ended up losing no time at all, so still 40 seconds back going into the final stage. The main aim of the stage was to stay upright and not lose more time, so mission accomplished.
Day 2 rolled round, excuse the pun, and i was feeling ready to go. Warming up the legs felt good, and I knew what I needed to do, get in the break and then win, easy!
In the lead up to Burrington I was too far back, and had to fight a bit on the lower ramps to move up the pack so if something went I was there. Part the way up I had some ‘encouragement’ from Tav and Stefan, which consisted of ‘Attack’ and ‘Go on’! Some great tactical advice! Later on was Dad shouting ‘come on’ which pushed me towards the front, coming over the climb in the top 10 with it all strung out behind, no KOM points but feeling good on the climbs.
Over the top of Burrington attacks started to come, and no-one was interested in chasing them down, I was boxed in initially mid pack, but managed to get out when we hit yesterdays circuit, and hit out, to see what I could do. I smashed it down the climb and realised I had a gap that was worth pushing on. Coming out of a focus turn I was joined by Alex, a strong rider who had ridden a good tt the day before, so I realised this could succeed. We pushed on and caught riders, making gains on the leading riders, which we managed to catch as a group of 8 on the lower slopes of Blagdon, where we had over 2.5 minutes on the bunch. This allowed a steady climb of BLagdon, although looking around everyone was struggling, and I still felt good. over the top we pushed on again, looking to maintain the gap.
It was looking good, felt strong and guys were dropping. I was admittedly riding clever, pretending to eat and drink to save energy and not pull through, any gain I was going to take. Felt I could win the stage, and with that close to the overall.
Then it all came tumbling down, literally! With around 10km to go, with the pack in arrears, a rider unintentionally moved across my front wheel, causing me to come down hard. Adrenaline kicked in and after quickly checking over the bike, I got back on and tried to get going. I couldn’t get a tow back to the break and with the group approaching I went to sit in, but the legs just couldn’t push, so I went out the back, and ended up coming in around 10 mins down, quite a contrast to where I thought I’d be!
Over the line, collapse off the bike and then into the back on an ambulance to get patched up, not how I envisaged ending the race, but ah well, that’s just how it is sometimes.
However it proved to me that I am strong enough to race at this level and spend the day in the breaks chasing the win. I would like to thank the ambulance crew for sorting me out, and all those who have helped me leading up to the Mendips and since, and to Stefan for making Burrington easier, “it will never get as hard as hanging onto my wheel up Burrington”! Its been a journey, just need to get to the line in one piece! Also my thanks to team and personal sponsors for helping this season to go and race with confidence in equipment, the bike and glasses were superb, and I could always see where I was going, which helps unless its down on tarmac!!
And cheers to BCDS for putting on a local junior national event, makes a change!