Beaumont Trophy is a bit of a trek to say the least, 300 miles from Reading. Thankfully the journey got split up along the way, collecting the Orr-acle from Leicester and then staying in Stockton on Tees in an awesome motorhome on John Reeve’s drive. Handy to have a great DS!
On the morning of the race we ended up running pretty late with being unable to get through Stamfordham to get to the rider car park, so I ended up preparing my bike and kit parked up in a queue until I was allowed through. It gave me a good opportunity to enjoy my pre-race TrueStart coffee without rushing! Once I got parked up the team area was all set up and everyone was getting kitted. John was ahead of the game and had prepared my usual extra-large High5 bottles with extra electrolyte tabs in. I’ve been struggling during longer races with dehydration and cramping. After some experimentation I’m getting on top of it by drinking a lot with a heap of electrolytes. Typically going through 5-6 bottles in 3-4 hour races.
A quick warm up with the team and we rolled to the line, getting a good position on the second row. We rolled out and a break of two guys quickly established itself…in the neutralised section. God knows what they were thinking, there were a few jokes as the peloton absorbed them. Shortly after the flag dropped a proper break got away, including team mate Ben. Ben is a lover of the early break, for better or worse. If he kept his powder dry he could really light the race up when it matters. One to watch when he engages his brain! With Ben away, the team’s life was pretty easy for the next 3 hours. I ate and drank well throughout the 3 hours, taking on board plenty of High5 Sports Bars. Rob Orr kept an eye on my pack positioning and moved me up whenever possible. I even snook in a nature stop, nearly riding in to James Gullen when coming to a stop, sorry James! Thankfully I was well positioned when the hitters decided it was time to reel the break back in, so I had a comfortable ride doing some silly speeds on their wheels. I tend to just eat energy bars in the first few hours to keep my levels topped up smoothly, and save gels for the final hour or so when the pace and effort ramps up.
My nutrition, in order!
When the break was finally caught around 120km in, I was poorly positioned as I’d been a bit lax in holding my position at the front of the peloton. I saw a break of around 20 establish itself and it looked like most teams were represented as the pace eased up in the peloton. I’ve gotten in to habit of taking FireStar 180mg caffeine sachets with around 1.5 hours to go in races, just went it all starts getting hard. They're a really cool sherbert-type powder that you just pour onto your tongue. The extra caffeine boost definitely helps a lot! I worked my way to the front and countered my team mates move as he was brought back in by the group. I got a solid gap quickly and set about getting across to the break. My legs felt really good so I was confident of getting there. I was soon joined by 3 other riders from Wheelbase Altura, Zappi’s and One Pro Cycling. We bridged over to the break in around 10 minutes.
Once in the break it seemed as if there was no consistent drive to push on. Some people were working but there were a good few people sitting in. It was the final big lap so maybe people were holding back for the final ascent of Ryals. Climbing isn’t my strong suit so I had no intention of waiting around to get spat up Ryals. I moved to the front and after following a few moves, 6 of us ended up just off the front of the break. I was happy to work and was putting some good turns in but after around 10 minutes the impetus dropped. I instinctively attacked and ended up solo on the rolling 15km section running in to the Ryals. I opened the gap up to around 45 seconds but Alex Blain (Madison Genesis), Chris Lawless (JLT Condor) and Damien Shaw (AN Post Chain Reaction) had gotten away from the break and were chasing me down. I rode hard but controlled up Ryals and was caught and passed on the second Ryal. The chasing group of 8 swept me up and shut down the 3 away over the top.
We finished the final big lap as a group and a few kilometres in to the small finish lap Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis) attacked. I was well positioned to get on to his wheel, and had mistaken him to be Tom Stewart so was very keen to get on-board after seeing Tom’s solo efforts recently. We worked on the absolute limit, opening up a small 17 second lead on the chase group round the grippy roads of the small lap. At times I felt we were hardly moving and thought we were bound to get swamped by the chase any second. We crested the final drag and I glanced over my shoulder to see Dion Smith (One Pro) and Liam Holohan (Team Wiggins) bridging across to us. They got over to us with around 7km to go.
I was very nervous that we could still get caught by the chasers so stupidly spent a lot of time working on the front. Both Liam and Dion put in a few attacks, which I tried to counter but to no avail. Matt was hurting and was yet to take a turn. 3km from the finish I was on the front and in the corner of my eye saw Dion winding up a big attack. I half responded, expecting Liam to jump on his wheel. Unfortunately, Liam didn’t and I backed out of covering the move. At the same time, Matt went out the back door. I pressed on, with Liam encouraging me to pull Dion back. Liam came through for a turn but pulled off and then sat on my wheel for the run in to the finish. My lack of pre-race preparation then came to bite me. I hadn’t scouted out the finish to know exactly how far out I could go from and was hesitant of when to go, giving Liam the opportunity to get a jump on me. I managed to get on to his wheel very quickly and moved up the inside of him, making good ground but with very little distance left to go I was going to come up short. I put a big throw in, closing the gap further but not enough, missing out by less than half a wheel.
To be honest, my immediate reaction after crossing the finish line was anger at such an amateur mistake by myself in the sprint. The UCI were straight over to scan my bike for a motor. It was quite a surreal moment as you see all the top guys getting their bikes scanned, and then there’s me getting mine checked! That really hammered home the result, especially when my teammates Charlie and Brad came over and were pretty happy too! Over the next couple of minutes my team mates came in, with Alex in 25th and Rich in 33rd capping off an awesome result for the whole team. The next 30 minutes are a bit of a blur and it was hard to really enjoy the moment! Being up on a UCI podium standing next to two awesome cyclists is definitely the highlight of my cycling career so far.
The 4-hour drive back home seemed to float by, and I didn’t sleep too well either. I knew my form was coming good after a tough start to the season, but I never expected to be able to ride myself on to the podium. It was a definite shock. A huge thanks to all of my sponsors for their support, I literally wouldn’t be where I am without them. Now, on to Nationals next week!
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We'd like to thank Larry Hickmott of VeloUK for the use of his fantastic photos.