“As an U23 development team, with a focus on the longer road and stage races, the prospect of a guest slot in 2 rounds of the Tour Series filled us with an equal measure of excitement and trepidation. Crit racing is as much a specialism as track racing, and to be anywhere near good at it takes practice and experience. So we went into the rounds at Canary Wharf and Torquay with realistic expectations, ie we’re about to get a kicking..
The Tour series is fast, furious and makes for great TV, the guys that are regulars have had a month to get attuned to the style of racing, we haven’t had that luxury, but there’s only one way to learn, do them and find out for ourselves.
Canary Wharf is a spectacular setting for a bike race, the high-rise business district adds a sense of enclosure to the course, but also attracts winds to drift around the corridor of buildings, which all adds to the challenge.
From the gun, the pace was amazingly high; this course is the quickest of the series, basically two long straights and four 90 degree bends. We start at the rear of the field, making any way up is difficult and soon most of the guest team riders were struggling to match the pace. The inevitable happened and the elastic broke at 1/3 distance and a few riders got distanced, including Todd and our Junior Jack, on his Junior gearing.
Conor and Al were constantly fighting for the wheel in front in the midfield battle, but the pace doesn’t really relent in these things. Again the going just got the better of the guys and others at around 3/4 distance. The field just kept being lined-out, especially out of the corners leading to the straights, any gaps just grew, until bang… great efforts though; it’s a tough series and hard racing, but these do make the guys stronger.
Which brings us to Torquay. The afternoon weather was appalling, with strong winds and driving rain. However, as we huddled at the HQ, things started to improve and the organisers did a good job taping most drains, that would be inevitably like ice. The course dried, the winds definitely eased and the crowds grew considerably. The course suited us better, with an uphill drag and being longer, gave us a tiny bit of recovery time; that’s what it looked like from the outside anyway.
Again, quick starting regulars tried to split things up early. However, the bit of Tour Series experience from the previous Thursday seemed to have benefitted Al and Conor. Both guys were settled in the last third of the field, but riding with some skill, bridging gaps immediately and riding around weaker riders. It was fast, relentless but a fair test for the boys. It seemed that every 3 or 4 laps there would be a noticeable lifting of the pace, and at 50 mins in, one such burst left Al with Olympian Ed Clancy, Ian Wilkinson and others dangling just off the back-not bad company at all-it shows the intensity and difficulty. This group just couldn’t get back-on, but that was a very, very good effort. Al followed the right wheels in theory, but that’s just theory..
Conor meanwhile was spinning round in the much reduced field as the race entered the last three laps. At the front, the pace would yo-yo as the bunch tried to bring back the three man break. Conor hung-in brilliantly and finished with the 35 or so main field after over an hour’s attritional racing, a great ride on the limit throughout-he’s set his bar higher now; it all bodes well for the guys that lasted well into the race. For the record, Conor was the only guest rider to finish with the main group.
Which brings us onto other news and that of the team’s first road race win of the year, with climber Luke Dunbar winning the Tour of Camarthen in grim conditions. This is a great pointer for Luke as he embarks on the prestigious six day UCI Tour of Serbia with our senior team CMI Trilogy Group. This will be a huge learning curve and a fantastic experience.
Loads more to come soon with Premier Calendar races and trips abroad, find out lots more on the team’s Facebook page Performance Cycles CMI.”
Many thanks to David Walters for his words and photographs.