Race type: Road race
Location: Within on the Hill, Lincolnshire
Date: 15 July, 2018
From Andy Stewart
Took Thomas down to Within on the Hill in south Lincolnshire on Sunday for the National Junior Road Race Championships. Although I had booked it 6 weeks or so ago, we had had his O levels (ED: that's GCSEs to the younger generation aka 45 and under) and holidays since so he was not in any shape to take this one on. Having spoken with him when we came home, Thomas was of the same mind and we were not going down, a major relief to me, not having to travel.
I hadn’t considered England being knocked out of the world cup though, which was the real reason he didn’t want to do it. So, on return from his Prom on Saturday, after a full nights drinking and partying, the question gets asked.
“What time are we going down south?”
I nearly had kittens.
After a lively and lengthy discussion, a pub was found in the area on booking.com and we were off.
Apart from the Isle of Man trip, we have done strangely little of this this year and this was our first overnighter. We did these last year with Sergeant Whittle and his pup Alex and they were a scream. They were planned and this wasn’t but it left me thinking on the drive down that I had missed these trips a lot. These are the bits I take pleasure from for putting up with the rest of the crap that goes along with having a cyclist for a son.
After a quick pub meal in the evening it was bed and an early start the following morning. We planned a drive in the morning to recce the course, but as usual the thought of another hour in bed left me to drive that alone out of curiosity. And what a cracking course.
11.5miles of seriously rolling beautiful countryside with a 7% hill for a mile or two to finish each lap (after the race Thomas said it was the best and most enjoyable course he had ever ridden).
Breakfast done we headed for the HQ which was at Within on the Hill Prep School. Turning in to the drive was like being in Brideshead Revisited. The place was stunning. Beautifully manicured and old world charm hosting the major Junior road race of the year.
Park on the cricket pitch, sign on, warm up on the turbo, and off to the start at the school gates.
I will say I haven’t had the privilege of watching a pro road race, but that I doubt that they are better organised and set up and run than this race. A dozen Marshall’s cars including 4 police vehicles, 10 or so motorbike outriders to control what were open roads for traffic. The Marshalling was impecable and I would be surprised if anyone who watched could find fault.
As usual with these teenagers with raging hormones, they were faced with an obvious choice as a peloton. Its 30 degrees already, we have 70 miles to go with a load of climbing. Do we;
The pace was relentless. The attacks were twice a lap every lap with none sticking. The riders were going down like fly’s from very early on with the first dnf after 1 lap. Crashes galore out on the course and punctures everywhere, kids were returning banged about throughout to the school.
Thomas was mid bunch every lap, which shocked me as I hold a couple of parents we knew there that he would be unlikely to finish today.
None of the usual attacks today as it was never in the remit. Andy Bennet had urged him to do the race and just finish if possible. He did just that and would have come home in the group but for getting snagged in the last two crashes on the last lap, the last one carnage.
He rolled in a minute and twenty behind and I was really proud of him for his guts alone.
Nearly 2 litres of water taken, tyre marks on his helmet, salt all over his face, and couldn’t stand up for twenty minutes afterwards. Just what I want to see. A trier.
66th of 120 isn’t an impressive looking result on paper. But it’s the best race he has ridden in my eyes.
He will have better looking results in the future, but I will remember this one for a long while.
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