Ras De Cymru Race Report
Friday, 18th July, 2014
The original Spokes RT plan was for the team to compete in the Junior Tour of Ireland. However when we realised that the dates clashed with the British National Junior Road Race Championships, we had to think of an alternative.
The Ras De Cymru did not disappoint, with six stages over five days, the longest amateur stage race in the UK proved to be both a huge challenge and a brilliant learning experience for Daniel Curran, Ben Forsyth, Lewis Grieve and myself (Fraser Martin).
Entries were open for teams of 4 riders who held Category 2/3/4 licences. We learned on arrival that there were 20 riders competing who had already achieved their Category 1 licences and the field had a least one veteran rider who had previously ridden for GB so it was clear that the field had plenty of experience and quality.
Ben Forsyth at 16 years of age was the youngest competitor out of a field of 100 and with only 10 juniors racing, we were relishing the challenge but with a touch of nerves and anxiety.
Stage 1 was a team time trial on a pan flat circuit over a 6.6 mile course. We completed the course in 15 minutes and 15 seconds which put us 15th in GC with Team Wiggle leading. We were a bit disappointed with this result but with restricted gearing and the appearance of a horse on the circuit slowing us down, we had to keep the motivation levels high.
This motivation was carried into Stage 2 which was a 53 mile road race around a circuit near Abergavenny. The circuit was very fast with only 1 hill which we rode 3 times. The race started like a one-day race with a flurry of attacks, none of which were getting away. We all rode sensibly and knew that there were bigger and harder stages so this was not one to be wasting too much energy in. However with 6/7km to go I found myself creating the winning breakaway. After a string of attacks from other riders I took the opportunity to make my move. I was followed by Gunther Zeucherman (London Pheonix) and James Bradley (Twickenham CC). We rode well together and bridged across to solo rider Richard Harris (Cwmcarn Paragon) who had broke away on the final climb. Tactics began to take place with around 2/3 kms to go when some riders started to skip turns. As emotion took control I continued doing work so that the break would continue. This took its toll as I finished 4th in the downhill sprint while the race was won by Harris. This meant that I missed out on the vital bonus seconds. Lewis, Ben and Daniel also finished with top 20 places, meaning we all finished the day with even higher levels of morale than we started it with.
Stage 3 was the first of the hilly stages. It had 2 two long draggy climbs and finished on a shorter steeper hill. Having got to the start line later than everyone else, we were forced to start right at the back in the neutralised zone. Having had complaints from the NEG about the state of some of the riding in stage 2, there was a zero tolerance rule for crossing the white line in the middle of the road. This meant that we all had to use our bunch skills and awareness to move up the bunch once the neutralised zone ended. The first of the hills was soon after the neutral zone and meant that we were all fairly near the back of the bunch. This wasn’t good as it meant we were on the wrong side of the splits in the bunch. I was fortunate as I found myself in a good group which managed to work our way back into the group. Lewis and I then sat comfortably in the bunch up the hills patiently waiting and trying to retain as much energy as possible for the ITT in the evening. Lewis was unfortunate in the sprint at the finish as he placed 11th, missing out on BC points.
Stage 4 was the dreaded Individual Time Trial. The ITT was 7km long which finished up a 900m climb. The run up to the climb was rolling therefore suited the guys with bigger gears; however this did not stop us from giving it our best shot. We all set decent times we were happy with and 2 of us in the top 20 on the day – Lewis Grieve-19th (11.42) and myself (Fraser Martin) 5th (11.20). The winner was James Lowden of Team ASL 360. After this result it meant that I was 5th overall in GC and Lewis was 29th in the GC.
Stage 5 was a 93km road race around the “Three Cocks circuit” which was used in the British Junior race, Cadence, which was at the start of the year. Having had a poor result at cadence, we were determined to return to the course and make sure it was not to get the better of us again. The race started slowly until a flurry of attacks livened the race up. I reached the hill off the front with David Griffiths (Glasgow Wheelers, riding for the Wales development Squad). When climbing the hill on the circuit, I looked back and saw that there were Wiggle riders on the front of the main bunch. Being high in the GC I thought they were chasing so that I didn’t get a gap, so I eased my effort and dropped back into the bunch not wanting to waste any unnecessary energy. Griffiths continued his effort and established a gap which other riders bridged over too. The break at one point had over 2 minutes. I finished in the bunch behind Lewis taking 22nd and 23rd. This meant I lost some time to the breakaway meaning I dropped from 5th in GC to 8th.
Knowing what was waiting for us at the end of stage 6 we knew our tired legs would have to perform miracles in order to get us over the hill that met us at the end of this stage. This was the longest stage as we had to ride 110km, finishing on a 6km climb to the finish. The stage had two tough hills which we had to negotiate before reaching the finish. The first climb was about 30km from the finish and shelled out a load of riders, meaning there was a select bunch as we prepared ourselves for the pain of the final climb. Lewis and I entered the climb in the top 20 which was good as we were able to ready ourselves for the attacks which were bound to happen at some point. I however did not make it much further than 1km into the climb when my legs gave up and my heart rate sunk meaning as I was unable to apply any pressure to the pedals. The same happened to Lewis with 3 kms to go. This was incredibly disappointing for us both as we had hopes of a decent GC result having ridden the other stages well. Daniel and Ben were caught behind a crash in the feed zone meaning they were unable to start the climb in the main bunch.
Looking back at the race, it has been a phenomenal experience which we will benefit from greatly in the future. Lewis Grieve finished highest on GC at 29th, following by me in the top half at 40th, despite losing lots of time on the final stage. Ben Forsyth is happy having completed the race at the age of 16 and Daniel is delighted having completed the race in his first season of road racing.
I’d like to thank Braveheart for their funding as we would not have been able to compete in this race without their help – Thank you very much.
Fraser Martin, Spokes Racing Team.