STRATFORD CC
 

Tony Owen continues to race at the top level.

 by Tony Butler

Typical Darley Moor weather, cold, damp and very windy.

Just south of Ashbourne lies the darley Moor racing circuit frequently used for cyle racing on top of a hill which is next to an airfield so wind is always something of a factor when racing at this location. 

The weather put people off so it was a reduced field of 40 riders who started the race. 

The Darley Moor circuit from the Start/finish line consists of a steady 90 degree left hand bend into long flat straight.  Next is a hairpin left-hand 180 degree bend followed by a downhill chicane. Then followes a 90 degree left hand bend. The remaining portion of the lap is uphill through another chicane to the finish line. To conclude, the lap is a 1.6 mile long triangle with a couple of wiggles. 

It was a head wind to the finish line so the perfect storm of combined challenges. Tackling a hill into a headwind. In fact it was one of those days when there was no help anywhere from th wind. 

Tony admits he should have warmed up a little more as the race went from the gun. The speed was up to almost 40 mph just 100 yards from the starting gun. The speed was took Tony by surprise, soon he was near the back of the group which is not a good place to be. 

At each hairpin he was able to gain ground on most of his fellow competitors. During the first few laps he was able to move to the front of the bunch and be ready to jump with most of the attacks which were coming think and fast. The only problem was he missed the important move. A group of eight riders had already fled the bunch and were working well together. They held a gap of almost twenty seconds which does not sound a lot but in such difficult conditions it might as well have been five minutes. A solo rider would not be able to bridge across. Tony tried but to no avail. 

Fifteen minutes in and the race was effectively a stalemate. The bunch was not organised enough to close the gap on the motivated break. The pace was consistent and pretty fast which meant the gap stayed at between 20 and 25 seconds throughout the remaining one hour and fifteen minutes of riding. 

The race decided it was all about the final push to the finish line. Tony's plan was to hide behind one of the bigger, stronger riders in order to get the best possible tow to the finish. This worked well as he managed to finish at the sharp end of the bunch in 5th place. The only problem was group of eight in the leading group had already finished so it was most certainly a sprint for the very minor places….My final result was 13th overall and 6th in the “B”. section

 

Next came the Beano road race . The race was welcomed to a beautiful warm, still spring Sunday morning. On quiet roads just a few minutes south of the M25.

The race organiser had done a fantastic job selecting this particular course. The roads were generally well maintained and undulating which made for an interesting seven mile circuit.

The race was neutralised for the first few miles until it was on the circuit for real. Then it was lete eight laps to the finish 0r 56 miles. 

It was a good sized field of almost sixty riders but two dominant teams GS Vecchi (Nine Riders) and Dulwich Paragon (Six Riders) had lined up. It certainly looked like this race would be controlled by these two teams.

My tactics to day was just take a risk and go from the gun. Hopefully one or both of these teams would send some of their riders up the road to join me? 

As predicted the moment we reached the circuit start the pace in the bunch dropped as these two teams waited for the other to attack. Tony seized his chance to jump clear and was off up the road on his own. Just keeping going at that pace was a challenge but one Tony thought he could cope with. The question is who will want to join him. As it turned out, no was prepared to move u, being thirty seconds up the road in plain sight of the bunch and it seemed like he was going to be lonely…. “I was left to my own devices for almost the entire first lap”. Just on the slight uphill to the finish, he either slowed down or the bunch decided to react, they caught him. 

Then the classic counter attacks started. Lead riders from Vecchi and Dulwich went straight away. Tony could see the race unfolding in front of his eyes but did not have the strength to go with them following yhe earlier effort.

It was just a case of hang on in the middle of the bunch while recovering a little then hopefully bridge the gap to the lead group which now totalled thirteen riders. Another lap completed. 

Unfortunately the dominant teams had other ideas. They closed down every attempt as both had representation in the lead group and must have felt a team win was on the cards. This continued for the next six laps, or was it seven? The Start line lap counter miscounted the number of laps which meant we raced for an extra lap which represented added Value. The racde distance would now be 63 miles! 

The race really was a master class in teamwork.  

The lead group maintained a gap of just over one minute. Enough to deter the bold from attacking.  

As the laps counted down the focus on of the bunch shifted to the now inevitable sprint finish. A small hill 2kms from the finish looked like a good point to test his competitor’s legs, however others had also decided this was the spot to go for a long dash to the line so this move was also neutralised. It was unquestionably going to be a bunch sprint as the road was almost flat to the finish line with just a slight uphill for the last 400 metres.

Sprinting is not Tony's strength so he did well to get 8th on the line, with 13 riders already finished this meant he was 21st.