Sunday 13th May saw the British junior road national championships on a course looping around the Brecon beacons in south Wales. Riding some of the course the day before the race I was expecting a hard fought day across the 120 kilometer loop on the exposed roads.
Sunday morning and my table at the Premier Inn in Pontypool was awash with food; Porridge, Toast, Cereal, Coffee and Tea all on the agenda, the usual, to some degree, however not after the last few weeks of foreign and often strange breakfasts!
The sensation of fresh out the packet socks ensured my feet and legs knew it was a big race day, however the race itself didnt seem to have realised this. Early on three four or five man groups went up the road, eventually gaining upwards of five minutes on the bunch, which was literally freewheeling along for the first twenty five miles. The presence of teams up the road and a lot of nervous legs ensured no chase was instigated by the bunch. It was slightly worrying seeing the time rise up and up on the blackboard, especially in the knowledge we only had another eighty or so kilometers left to race, however I tried to be patient and bide my time until I felt an attack from the increasingly nervous bunch would actually stay away.
The time came as the bunch hit the windswept moors. Splits where already starting to occur and as I pressed on from around fifteen riders back I could see the gaps opening. I initially went alone, at the moment captured above, however three riders soon came across. At this point I really started to press on, trying to rally my fellow escapees to do the same in an attempt to gap the fragmented bunch. It was a pretty tough ten miles, with not everyone in my group wanting to do their equal share of work, however I knew with twenty or so riders now up the road, the pressure was on to bridge the gap. Dan Pearson, the defending national champion, gallantly rode across to our move and we soon hit a long straight descent, catching a group of eight riders in the process. Sam Lowe and Alex Peters also came across at this point, however with the bunch hovering at around forty seconds behind there was no time to rest on our laurels, and the group soon started to work on the long decent.
Twenty miles later and we had predominantly been on dual carriage way, riding through and off in the group. We hold the bunch at a minute or so, with the early breaks of eight riders only just up the road. The pace was pretty sedate since the post moors bunching up, the racing had almost been neutralised until the early leaders where caught. This happened with around twenty five miles left to race, however with another long descent on the cards, the group did little but roll through.
Coming into the last ten miles and the group was splitting almost entirely due to people missing turns in the line, unfortunately one of these small splits managed to get away and with five or so miles left to race I was faced with a fifteen second gap to a group of four up the road. I attacked numerous times into a pretty tough headwind and eventually got away, however it was no easy ride getting across! I eventually did so with one other rider just as we come into the last steady three kilometer climb up to the finish line. The headwind continued to blow in our faces and the lead group soon swelled to ten riders as the pace dropped. The gradual gradient of the climb combined with the wind meant it was going to be extremely hard for anything to stick and this was the case despite Dan Pearson and myself attacking numerous times in the last few kilometers.
The race eventually came down to a sprint in which Super Sam Lowe (as he shall always be known on this blog) easily jumped away to take the win, I was up there for the podium places until the last twenty five meters, eventually fading to take a slightly disappointing seventh place, my first time out of the top three at a national level British race this season (albeit only two races in!).
This week saw the start of a short time off racing, good timing with my AS exams currently taking place. I also realised that this weekend just gone was my first at home since before KBK in late February! Coming up I have my last exam this Friday, followed by my next race, the Hillingdon GP, on Sunday.
Finally major props to Jon Dibben for winning stage 3b at the most recent nations cup in Germany! First win of GB for the year. Unfortunately I wasnt part of it due to my exams, however hopefully it wont be the last time we get the jersey over the line first this year!
Nationals photo credit: Guy Swarbrick