Tour of wales is the biggest event on the British junior racing calendar, you hear about it a lot leaving you wondering what all the hype is about. This is how my TOW18 went.
The time trial had the prediction of bad weather hanging over it for over a week. It was drizzly all afternoon with my start time being 18:58 I was hoping for it to all clear up by then and it was looking really promising as the first few riders rolled out of the start gate. The sun was out and the roads were drying, it wasn’t warm but the sun had some effect giving us a false idea of appropriate clothing. The rain started again and picked up towards the end of my warm up. I got to the start ramp with the barriers either side of me blowing around from the incoming storm.
I had looked at the course with Leo in the morning (in the dry). It was a tough route with a kick out of town onto some rolling roads where you could hold some speed with intermittent cattle grids to keep you on your toes. Other than that the main event was at the end where you were presented with a roughly 3:30min (depending on speed) climb with steep gradients. By this point in the race I was soaked through trying to maintain a straight line with the regular bash of a cross head wind. I couldn’t feel my arms, hands or legs. Looking out the bottom of my visor to judge the corner taking it at a mighty 2mph before kicking up the hill. It’s never nice when you finish and the main pain is the cold rather than the lactic in the legs but that’s life. The rain continued for another 15 mins and then stopped giving me (arguably) the worst conditions to complete this TT. Excuses excuses.
Stage 2 started with Leo in yellow after a storming ride in the TT the previous night. The weather was good and the spirits were high. We rolled through the town in the neutralised section before the racing kicked off. A break immediately went up the road with the green jersey up for grabs with intermediate sprints. That group got up to 5mins advantage as people in the bunch started to twitch knowing that if it grew anymore we wouldn’t have a chance bringing that back over the next 2 days.
I wasn’t enjoying the climbs that much but conserving energy for what would be a tough finish up the Rhigos Mountain. Be hit the base of the climb with three guys still up the road with 55 seconds. I was quite far back but overtook riders as the got distanced from the front group. I managed to stay with that group till the final corner of the climb losing 22 seconds. Leo and Tom were safe up front with all the other goats. After the stage Leo said that he had the legs to win this race so from then on it was up to me and Tom to look after him and to deliver him to the bottom of the Tumble mountain.
Day 3 of tour of wales was not as expected. With rain forecast basically all day. Heavy rain. Stage 3 was cancelled due to standing water the on the circuit, this was going to be a tough stage at only 32km it would be short fast and technical having played a large role in the GC in previous years. I was happy with the decision however having warmed up and taken my caffeine gel I was more than ready to race…
Onto stage for after a short trip back to the hotel, this was a flat circuit. If you were going to class any stage of the tour of wales boring this would be the one. The course suited me, I was looking to go for a stage result having lost GC hopes in the TT. It was all going well, we managed to avoid some bad crashes early on and keep the bunch together. I did some work on the front just ensuring that riders up the road didn’t get too much time due to 1min worth of time bonuses that were available and then dropped back to rest up before the finish. For most of the stage we were on an A road with traffic continuing to the right of us and we were limited to the left-hand lane, this caused some squeezing of the bunch but also nerves about the speed cars were passing.
A large crash happened on this A road with about 20km to go in the 92km stage. Riders came down in front of me and behind me but I managed to weave through and reaccelerate, being the rookie domestique that I am I had forgotten that Leo may have come down, I looked over my shoulder and there he was on the floor, not in a good way. I span round and handed my bike to Toby Perry, before picking Leo’s up. His bars were wonky, the left hood was pointing towards the right one and his chain was wrapped around the cranks I sorted this as quickly as I could and helped him back onto his bike. This according to Leo’s Wahoo it took us 40 odd seconds to get going again, so the bunch was up the road and we had a big chase back. I got Leo on to the back of the car after a Madison sling with his right bum cheek trying to get him up to speed to latch on. After this I was gone. Team cars came flying past at 65kph and it was just impossible to get onto them. The bunch was also traveling at close to 50kph so that wasn’t coming back single handedly. I rolled in 4mins down with Tom Gloag who had also come down in the crash. Leo was safely back in the bunch so I guess, mission complete.
The last stage was always going to be hard. Leo held the jersey by 2 seconds with others close behind. I rode Leo to the front and did some work to ensure that the break came back, this was a bad decision on my part with riders up the road being a small threat, they could have been given more slack and my effort would have been more useful in the upcoming crosswinds. I ran out of gas just as we hit the open fields and the bunch broke apart. I assumed Leo and Tom had made the front split but they hadn’t, trailing in a group of 20 behind. I worked with the third group on the road for about 30km and got back on with some time to recover before the tumble. After checking Leo had enough water and food I dropped back and sat in for the long ride up the tumble. I watched the front group drift away and I paced myself all the way up. Crossing the line with little left in the tank after a rough day.
Leo had done better than I had expected, not to say I didn’t believe in him but he had been put in a position where he had to do too much work throughout the day but he still managed to take the second step in the podium. Proud.
Personally, not the best weekend for me, I started the year strong after a hard winter, but now flagging with lots of race days in the legs. Looking to take some time to get some quality training in before my last few races of the what I can say was a very successful season!
Thanks to pedal potential for all the help this year