The Rough and Tumble of the Rutland!
The 21st April saw us travel down into Leicestershire for the Rutland International Classic. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the race it is set over 114 mile with 11 sectors of off road tracks varying in length and severity. It is the UK’s answer to the Belgium classics and it brought in a good entry of teams from all over Europe as well as all the domestic pro teams. We were in for a tuff day in the saddle.
The race set off under glorious sunshine, which was a massive relief for me as last year’s race was a definite low point for me, never have I felt so cold and rough on a bike!! This year started off fast and furious as normal and I immediately managed to settle into the race. An early scare on the first lap as I got caught behind a big crash reminded me of the dangers of this race so I was on high alert afterwards and did what I good to hold a decent position in the peleton.
The pace rarely slowed down and as we dove into a tight right hander to start racing over the sectors after 40 mile of fast racing straight away there was another crash, this time I managed to weave my way through the carnage to get myself back in position. It then raced hard over the first KOM climb, my legs already stinging from the bunch being lined out along the narrow rough track in some tough cross winds but I managed to hold position as we raced over the top and followed the narrow lanes as they weaved their way across the Leicestershire country side.
A strong break of 6 men had managed to get away, this move would go all the way to the finish, but in the bunch we were chasing hard. By we, I mean the rest of the bunch, I did my best to stay out of trouble and hold my efforts for later on in the race as I knew there was a long way to go yet. We hit sectors 9, 8 and 7 hard and fast. These are some of the roughest sectors of the race. Immediately it was carnage as lads were crashing and puncturing as they struggled to hold a line. I was cashing in some big efforts as we raced over the cut up farm tracks and I arrived at the other side unscathed and still in a good position.
There was now only me and Mat Kipling left and we worked well together as we fought to hold our position in the front end of the peloton as it chased the leading 6 riders. As the miles clocked on I began to believe we could pull something out of the race, get 2 strong finishers for the team then disaster struck!
As I raced along sector 4 I heard the dreaded noise of my rear tyre blowing out then felt the familiar bumping as my rear wheel went flat. I’d punctured before in this event on the sectors so did my best to keep my head and get to the end of the sector where I would be able to get a change of wheel. Then as I reached the tarmac once again Mat was also stood by the road with his back wheel in his hand! 2 rear punctures for us both at such a pivotal point of the race was massively unlucky!! The wait for a spare was agonising as more and more riders went past us, then the team cars started to pass. I have to admit I was gutted. It was soul destroying knowing how much effort had gone in to the race up to that point and now I watched the race disappear up the road until finally the team car emerged from the dust. We were unlucky enough to only have been drawn in 18th place in the convoy for our team car but Andy Leon our driver and George Kirkin our mechanic did a mega quick job in getting us both back on the road.
We chased hard to get back on but then as we rounded the corner coming to start sector 3 it was race over. The organisers had imposed an 8 minute time limit. This meant that riders who were 8 minutes down on the leaders were cut from the race due to the traffic control. We were only 4 minutes behind in the peloton but then the punctures had cost us dearly and it was time we were unable to make up!
I have to admit I was disappointed, being so close to a strong result then having it taken away with a puncture was very frustrating. However after getting back to the team van I had started to see a few positives from the day. My legs had felt good and I had coped well in such a strong field when I have had very little racing leading into the event. Let’s hope for a bit more luck this coming weekend in the Tour of the Reservoir. You gotta love bike racing!!
Chris Mark, Team Velo29-BlackHawk.