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National Youth Series – Pembrey 2-day

It always rains in Wales, at least whenever I’ve been there. Despite this, Charlie and I thought we’d venture down to Pembrey on the South coast so he could race in a National Series 2 day stage race…nothing ventured.

Charlie has raced in two National events previously at Morecambe, so he sort of knew what to expect, but this was a new venue and format. Some reasonable early season form at Hillingdon had given him some confidence, but a recent illness, an unshakeable cough and having to pull out of the last race of the London 2-day event the weekend before, meant it was going to be even more of a challenge for him.

The event was for Youth A, B and C – all doing three stages over the two days. An initial short TT prologue on Sunday around a dedicated cycling track at the country park on Sunday, followed by a 45 minute race in the afternoon going in the opposite direction. Monday was a 1hr race on the Pembrey motor race track (wide, exposed but flat), which Charlie was quite excited about.

The Country park is a great venue, lots of camping space, beaches, dry ski slope, toboggan run (a highlight), play grounds, walking and cycling trails etc. The cycling track is a little narrow, but a challenging course with a sharp incline in the direction for Stage 2 race and some testing corners. Charlie was a bit disappointed with his TT position, being 38th of 52, but the pack was actually quite close.

The race in the afternoon was a real challenge. Starting at the back of the grid from his TT position, Charlie worked really hard to stay with a large lead group, despite having to chase back on twice in the early laps. He soon learnt the best way up the hill was a sprint and then to recover on the way back down. Always somewhere near the back, he did start to look comfortable. But on the last lap, when the lead group overtook another group of lapped riders, he got juggled to the back, but was still reasonably happy to have the same time as the lead group despite being unwell.

Then things went a little further awry, as on Monday morning a road closure meant we found ourselves on grid-locked single track roads, pushing the car out of muddy verges, and despite planning to arrive more than 90mins before the race, we watched the race start as we drove into the track! As he’d been coughing all night, it might not have been such a bad thing. So we put it down to fate, watched the first 30mins of the race and then started the long journey back.

I’d certainly recommend it as a venue to go and it makes a good weekend away (weather permitting). The challenge of large, competitive fields in the National Series is a step from the local racing – but a great experience for the riders and it certainly has a big event feel.

Write up courtesy of Ben Shalders (Charlie’s Dad)

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