What better way to spend the bank holiday weekend than a bit of bike racing around the Isle of
Man? I can’t think of one. And by ‘bike’ I mean pedal bike.
For the 6th year in a row now I was off doing the National Youth and Junior tour of the Isle of Man over the May bank holiday; round 3 of the National series. It began with a trip on the train, that is, it began with an argument with the Midlands Rail representatives about available bike spaces (of which, it turns out, there were in fact many). I was headed up to Birmingham to stay over with my teammate, Matt who I’d travel with the following day. We were up at 6am, to leave at 7am, to get to the terminal for a 12.00 ferry. There we met up with the rest of the team who, as a result of some logistical problems due to not booking madly early, were on as foot passengers carrying all of their bikes and kit.
The lack of wind on the ferry meant no one was forced to reacquaint with their breakfast and we
passed the two-hour journey with ease - playing about ten games of cheat.
It was only about a 5-min drive (15-min walk for the others) to the self-catering apartment on the front, which we had booked for the weekend. The place itself was interesting, the cleanliness was questionable, the loose floorboards added an extra layer of excitement when visiting the toilet and working out how we’d fit all eight of us into the six visible beds and two rooms made for some problem solving. We did get everyone somewhere to sleep (even if it did mean a bit of sharing) and the place itself would do everything it needed to for the couple of days we were there.
The racing kicked off that evening with a 1-km prologue, the only technical bit being a 180˚ at
midway, which we recce’d several times, perhaps a bit excessively since it wouldn’t affect how we took it in the actual thing at all. After a hefty warm up about 45-min beforehand, we rocked up to the line as a team with 5-min to go; our bright, lime green kit being either the envy or entertainment of the marshals and other riders. A short effort like this is not my forté and the time reflected it, I was pretty far back but only 5 sec off 1st. Matt had the best ride, coming 3 rd , but with the same time almost exactly as 1st and 2 nd ; if only he’d lunged a bit sooner. We were back to the hotel quickly, had a light tea (since we’d eaten before the TT), then helped unpack the team car, which had been driven up that evening, then we went to bed ready for a 5.50am start the next day.
I had the usual Weetabix for breakfast and a couple of bowls of the irresistible chocolate muesli.
We were out of the apartment by 6.45am and at the race by 7.30am, for an 8.45am start. The
pretty impressive scenery and gruelling climbs on the way to the race made us a little disappointed as we passed the airfield about 5 mins from the course. Still, a race doesn’t need hills to be interesting. This one certainly didn’t with breaks going quite regularly. I made sure I was in every one that posed a threat. One of them seemed like it would stick with about 10 of us, all strong riders and all smashing it, but it came back. With about 3 laps to go, a couple of Dutch riders were up the road, I rolled through for a turn then had a gap so pushed on. I caught the other two and we rode steady for a bit, but only held about 20 secs on the bunch. I thought we could make it stick if we pushed on so I did just that out of the corner and into the tailwind. The gap went out and about 3/4 of a lap later we were joined by 3 others and had 1 min on the peloton. We rode steady for the next couple of laps, but on the last lap began playing around a bit. The two Dutch guys were taking turns to sit on the back, and Sam had his teammate in yellow so didn’t have to work. I messed up the finish a bit and missed the attack from one of the Dutch guys and then Sam’s. I was pulling them both back, but swung off and the two on my wheel sat up, then the gap went out. To limit the time loss, I pushed on and was rolled to the line for 4th. Not too displeased, only 20 secs off 1st and more than a 1-min advantage to the rest of the field.
We spent the rest of the day sat on the sofa, not doing the schoolwork we’d all brought with us.
The Tour of Yorkshire saw us through to dinner, which was Carbonara - courtesy of Matt’s mum.
We were in bed around 10.30pm for a 9am start, for a 2pm race, a couple of hours before which
we had a late second breakfast. It was on the east coast this time, but again quite flat. The legs
were feeling much better than they had yesterday and so I was mixing it up in the attacks early on, desperately trying to get that 20 secs, which proved pretty difficult since I was marked quite
heavily. Me, Matt and teammate, Will were all attacking until one of us stuck. It was Will who got
into the winning break in the end, and the rest of us sat it up. Will went on the take a good 2nd on
the stage with the rest of us rolling in in the group.
It was a pretty good weekend for myself and the team overall, a 3rd and 2nd on individual stages, and a 4th for me overall. I was a bit disappointed not to have made up the small margin to 1st but it would have taken some doing on that course.
We had a nice spin back to the apartment before a much-appreciated pizza for dinner. Then we
prepared for the slog home beginning at 6.30 the next morning.