Riding for a Masters Team has many benefits: The guys have years of experience. They are always well prepared for races and have thought of pretty much everything. And if you are all in a group together, they make you look deceptively younger with more hair. Despite this, during Open events, it means that they race in their own category and the younger guys are left to fend for themselves. At the Battle on the Border a couple of weeks ago, Oliver and I were left to race in A-Grade, whilst the rest of the team fought it out in the Masters A category.
Things did not start out well for Oliver. In the opening
time trial, his run was interrupted by several cars that pulled out onto the
course in front of him. Not expecting to be an overall contender, this didn’t faze
Ollie, as he was hoping to help me better my position in the road races after
finishing the time trial in 9th position.
Stage two was 142km long with 3 laps of an undulating course.
On the first lap, we hit the climb and Ollie dropped down to the small
chainring only to have his chain fall off. He stopped to rectify the problem
then chased the peleton down to rejoin the front group. This, in itself, is no
mean feat and I was shocked to see him make it back.
At the start of the 2nd lap, I was sitting behind
Oliver as we rolled through the start/finish line. With an extremely loud BANG
and a puff of white powder, Oliver’s rear tyre exploded and he was again left
standing on the side of the road. Any normal person would have had enough by
now and called it a day but Ollie got a spare wheel, got back on his bike and
chased the bunch down again on possibly the fastest part of the course. I was
even more surprised to see him make it back a second time.
A quarter of the way around the last lap, a small group of
riders was left at the pointy end of the race. Fortunately, Oliver and myself
were included. On a flat, dead straight section of road, a rider, for whatever
reason, moved out from the bunch. As he did so, he took out Oliver’s front
wheel and he hit the ground, landing on his shoulder.
After previously breaking his collar bone, the pain made him
think the worst, however, a trip to the hospital confirmed that it wasn’t
broken and it was more likely dislocated.
Either way, his race was done. After a day of exceptionally bad luck, I
suggested Oliver buy a lottery ticket, as it could only get better, but I think
he was so high on Morphine that he can’t remember.
This left just myself to represent the Mainline team in
A-grade and also made it very difficult to have a large effect on the race
proceedings. I decided to sit in and hopefully finish the race in the front
group. After time bonuses were rewarded for stage 2, I was sitting in 13th
position overall with another road race and tight street criterium remaining.
Stage 3 saw the race ascend what I considered a fairly hefty
climb 3 times in total, and I was hoping to just hang on. The first and second ascents
up the hill were at a relatively easy pace but the 3rd was much
faster and after the legs had over 100km already in them. I managed to just
hang on to the front half of the group and head towards the finish line in the
bunch. The finish saw no change to the overall standings.
The last stage was a tight criterium with many sharp turns.
Having raced it a number of times in the past, I knew position at the start was
key as it was very easy for a gap to open up and to lose contact with the front.
I got to the start line 15 minutes early and still had to push my way forward.
With the main contender’s teams at the front of the race, I was now hoping to
Steven Bradbury my way into the top ten. After 45mins and a couple of crashes,
I was still sitting comfortably near the front. Fortunately, a couple of riders
in front of me in the overall standings were poorly positioned at the start of
the race and were withdrawn after being lapped. In the aftermath, I managed to
claw my way up to 11th position overall, just 18sec short of the top
10. I managed to make up 2 places, but it was no Steven Bradbury.