Yesterday was my second British National Championships. I had made the journey up to Bradford in search of a new jersey, crisp and white, with three bands. The course, around Lister Park, combined a testing climb a sharp corner and fast decent to test riders all round ability.
With attacks going from the gun it was clear the race was going to split, and possibly very early on, selections were made, however fresh legs in the bunch ensured the race came back together on a number of occasions.
The atmosphere of the race was amazing, locals had chalked rider’s names on the floor, and the combination of the two race announcers meant the riders always had a reason to push on. Early on Chris Lawless and Joe Kirkham animated the race, firing attacks of the front and testing the legs of those behind. It was very quickly established that the climb was going to be the key part of the course, with the dragging ‘false-flat’ section making the climb even harder. The final corner also proved interesting, rewarding those willing to take the risk for a bike lengths extra gain, stringing the peloton out into one long line early on.
I had decided Chris and defending champion Germain Burton would be riders I would not risk going up the road. Despite the prestige of the formers results, Lawless was allowed off the front a few times early on, partly down to the speed in which he placed his attacks, however also due to the seemingly lethargic mood of the peloton. I had gone into the race, thinking I would try to stay out the wind and keep my head down, a result of past British national level races in which I felt I had given to much to early. However today’s race turned out to be much more aggressive, with attacks going early from the ‘big name’ riders, and the hill defiantly testing the legs of some in the bunch.
With about seven laps gone, Chris attacked on the home straight, the bunch watched eachother knowing it was very early to go solo, but in the knowledge it was a dangerous move. I was sat second wheel as Germain started to wind it up, I felt reasonably comfortable sat on his wheel and was astonished when I looked back at the top of the climb to see a thirty or forty meter gap to the bunch, with just home rider Jake Scott on my wheel and the Manxman Jake Kelly making his way across the void.
I had presumed we were just dragging everyone up to Chris, however somehow the race had split, the riders in the break all knew eachother very well and after a little hesitation the move started to work. There was a lot of soft tapping, riders wary not to commit, this was frustrating as our gap was hanging at around fifteen seconds, but other than shouting at my fellow riders there wasn’t much I could do…
The race hung in suspense, the break went through periods of solid turns and then riders sitting on and refusing to give a turn. With about four laps to go I put in a small dig over the crest of the climb, eager to lift the fluctuating pace as much as anything. The other riders reacted, but I was pleased to say other than Lawless the group seemed about ready to split again.
Soon the MaxGear rider had attacked, his blistering trademark turn of pace lighting up the front of the race. The rest of the break watched eachother, everyone eagerly trying to hold their poker face. I was nervous to say the least, with three laps to go and Chris riding away, however also confident that I could catch him on the climb. That was where I chose to make my move, taking exactly a lap to catch him, and managing to shake the other riders of my wheel in the process.
However I now had the dilemma of how to win the race, one lap to go and I had just made the effort to bridge. I knew Chris would not give up without one hell of a fight, and that if I committed on the climb I may stand a chance, but would I risk that with the sprint just after…
Chris chose to play poker, not giving a turn and risking it, with the group behind I pressed on but made sure I didn’t give to much. He lead out from the last corner and although I was on his wheel the long and short of it was I didn’t have the sprint. The timing of my bridge across hadn’t been perfect but Chris had ridden a brilliant race and I was pleased to be on the podium. Always next year but I did want that jersey.
Jake Scott rounded off the top three, it was a brilliant moment standing on the Podium with my two team mates for the next weeks European Youth Olympics, a race we would depart for immediately after the race. I would like to say a massive thankyou to the organisers of the race, it was a fantastic spectacle, atmosphere and day all round, showing that a purpose build circuit really isn’t needed to hold a brilliant bike race.
I would also like to say thankyou to all my sponsors, this is my first medal at the British National Championships, and hopefully not my last. Next time I just have to bring a jersey home! So a huge thankyou so Condor Cycles, Rapha, and to Science in Sport for the products they gave me for the nationals and the European Youth Olympics.