5 of the Bill Nickson Racing team travelled north on Sunday to take part in another CDWN road race, on the tough and demanding capernwray circuit.
The riders racing were myself Tom Dalton, James Warren, Frank Pilkington, Adam Mitchell and John Findlay.
Every rider knows this circuit is tough, and requires both good legs and a natural ability to go uphill. Before the race started, we made the obvious plan to work towards the goal of delivering James Warren fresh for the finish and in a good position. James is the best climber in our team, and a course and finish like this suits him well. We also have John Findlay who can also make some good moves on the climbs.
The race began at a fast pace, with riders even being dropped the first time up the climb in the neutralised section of the race. The first lap up the climb in race conditions was quick, and took a 60 man bunch down to around a group of 35 riders, with many unable to keep with the pace. At this point unfortunately Adam dropped a wheel on the climb, and was unable to regain position and was out of the race. Adam, another rider like myself is suited to the faster but flatter racing where positioning and leg speed comes over straight climbing ability.
It was around lap 3 of the 5 lap race that a break of 3 riders rode clear over the summit of the main climb, soon building a decent gap around 35 seconds, another rider soon bridged and made the break into 4. At this point in the race the rest of the bunch remained together, only splitting up further each time up the climb, before a select group of only 20 remained. In this bunch James was constantly looking strong in the front, John was feeling good and staying in the wheels, and I at this point was beginning to grit my teeth to stay in contention, I knew I had to dig deep to stay in contact to possibly help in the final for James, and also to get some good training in the legs for the coming races.
On the final lap of the race the break still held 20 seconds, dangling up the road. The main bunch cruised up the climb on the bell lap, clear signs fireworks were going to go off on the final ascent. Once over the top at the bell, riders were reluctant to chase, in fear of tiring before the showdown. At this point myself and James had a quick chat, that the break down the road was too dangerous to be allowed room so late, and that I would commit myself to bringing back the break. Its another sign in our team that we are prepared to work for the strongest rider, and the rider who is most likely to offer us a win on the day.
The finish at Capernwray is right at the top of a 1.5km climb, that kicks up twice, with the final 200m on a tough gradient. I knew after 2-3 laps I could not win on a finish like that, after 1km of climbing there were other riders looking stronger than me, so it was right I committed to bringing the break back, so James could light it up on the climb. After 1 lap of pretty much going as deep as I could on the front, the break was back in, with around 3km remaining. Its always important to bring the break back early enough, to stop any confusion & panic chasing in the final.
Once the break was back, I was quickly dropped, leaving James and John both in perfect positions for the finish. The eventual winner of the race, from Team 3-1 attacked at the foot of the climb, and the bunch hesitated and all looked around, in racing its moments like this that can win or loose the race, everybody knows they need to go now, but who wants to drag everyone to the finish? You have to stick to your guns and wait. James managed to wait and show a calm head, waiting for the bunch to swarm to the finish before kicking for the line, getting a brilliant 3rd place on the day. John also rode well to claim 10th another good result.
James was clearly disappointed to only get 3rd, but as I said afterwards on another day the final would have played out differently, and when someone attacks early, it’s a gamble whether to go or not.
Frank riding in the elite race, again showed his class by finishing with the main bunch. I would personally say this is franks most impressive ride so far, if not for the team. Frank is now the first rider we have from the team genuinely competing with elite level riders, and on such a savage course, it was a great ride. I think if he picks his races correctly and makes the right moves in the race, frank could win something big this year.
James can be confident from gaining 3rd place, with Oakenclough, Bole Hill and Dolphinholme all still months away, he really should not worry the win will come.
Main thing is we are all looking strong, and more importantly all prepared to throw our cards in for 1 rider when required, and that’s bike racing.