I think it’s fair to say that the few weeks spanning the end of May and the start of June have been some of the toughest since I started racing my bike. Off the back of a big training camp in Majorca I had good legs for the first 3 rounds of the EMRRL but, as is often the case in cycling, good legs are a guarantee of nothing and things didn’t quite align themselves to secure a result.
May came and along with it came illness. After 4 hours of crosswinds and chewing bars I just about finished the GA Bennett RR in the bunch, almost got dropped in a 3/4 race and then I was what can only be described as unceremoniously ejected out of the back of the pack at the divs after barely two laps! Motivation was low, Wattbike numbers were even lower and my head was not in the game, despite some motivation gems from team captain Ed Pickard. ‘It’s ok half-wheel (my totally unjustified and undeserved nickname..), I still love you’
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, far from it in fact! – Up to this point Team LLB had either won or had been in contention for the win in every EMRRL race (Elliot would then take his second win in Round 4 a couple of weeks later).
Things began looking up after a rest off the bike, 10 good solid days of training, a decent performance at Griffydam and even a cheeky midweek win after bridging over to the break at Harvey Haddon.
Completely out of character I actually arrived first for once at the Sixhills race HQ. My usual sweaty dashing about, frantically pinning on numbers was replaced with more worthwhile endeavours such as modelling the new team Oakleys (courtesy of DS Ramsdale) and making fun of Adrian’s shoes. It was dry for what felt like the first time in weeks, team banter was high, and it was already turning out to be a good day. The plan was the same as always, make things happen, get an LLB rider in the break because being in the bunch is well…….boring.
The race got underway in the familiar fashion with a few skirmishes off the front but the bunch’s fresh legs and a fast course prevented anything sticking in the opening laps. On lap three as the bunch was strung out descending into Burton, Chris M (OVB) came flying past in a monster gear and I jumped on. A quick look over the shoulder as we left the village and we were being joined by a rider from Clay Cross RT but more importantly we had a gap with no discernible chase going on behind. Hands on the drops, game on.
After linking up as a three, the next few miles back round to the finish line were full gas. 30 seconds was the gap from the commissaries car behind as we passed the lap board reading 3 to go. At this point I was still fairly fresh and thinking FINALLY this could be my chance, in a strong break, with three big teams represented, on a fast course that suited me.
It was tough into the headwind along the back road after the finish but we were working smoothly. I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt so motivated, finding fresh reserves of energy for each time it was my turn on the front. With 2 to go the gap was 1:15 with a lone chaser. The miles kept flying by… 1.5 to go, it was 1:30. I didn’t know it at the time but the lone chaser was from BCC and ended up helping our cause by neutralising a potentially strong chasing team.
1 Lap to go. Gap at nearly 2 minutes. Sweat dripping down the inside of my new glasses and I’d even managed to spill energy gel down my shorts but I didn’t care. I was getting excited. I couldn’t help but start to think about the finish; slightly uphill…perfect. I’ve never been much good in an out and out sprint but long and draggy? That I can do. Head back in the game, 10 miles to navigate first and then we’ll worry about that.
Final time up the hill out of Walton was surprisingly calm. I was half cocked waiting to respond to a move but my two breakaway companions looked just about as tired as I was feeling. As the road began to rise up before the finish I kicked in a big gear not wanting to hang around to chase and got a gap. There was the line. I went again, even getting out of the saddle as per DS Anderson’s frantic shouted requests and that was it, it was over. I had won.
The bunch sprinted home a couple of minutes later after sweeping up the lone chaser with Elliot arriving 5th, Ed 8th and Jono 13th. Everyone in the points at our home race! Tremendous day all round for LLB Racing.
From barely finishing races 3 weeks prior to finally winning a round of the EMRRL. What a funny thing bike racing is.
A huge thanks to Rich, Andy and the lads for all their help and support. Extending our lead at the top with 5 more rounds to go. Definitely a lot more to come from this outfit in 2016.