John Andrews Road Race, Somerset
‘Cullen In At the Kill Again’
Sunday saw the 6 members of the race team travel to Langport in Somerset to compete in the John Andrews Memorial Road Race for 2/3/4 category riders.
The race takes place over 12 laps of a 5 mile circuit before heading off on a 5-mile finishing section to make 65 miles. The circuit is a fast but twisting, route with a 90 degree turn onto a long drag and then a short steep climb of about a third of a mile, called Picts Hill. The weather conditions were dry and sunny, but with a cold easterly wind discouraging breakaways.
Lap one was something of a disaster, with David Johnson suffering a flat tyre (with no service vehicle his race was over) and a crash in the peloton putting Ian Cullen on the deck and delaying Andy Perkins. Within half a couple of miles Ian and Perky were back in the main field.
The first two laps were taken at a very high pace with the field averaging 27mph, despite the two climbs. The pace was too much for Steve Jones and Jason Poore who were tailed-off But Ian and Perky, along with evergreen Andy Hitchens, a winner of the event in 2012, remained safe in the bunch.
As the race passed the mid-way point the speed and distance started to take its toll, with riders shelled out of the bunch each time the drag was tackled. Hitch remained ever vigilant near the front of the bunch, whilst Ian recovered from his earlier efforts regaining the field.
With 4 laps to go there was a lull in the pace allowing two riders from Cardiff Ajax and Plymouth Corinthian to escape – they quickly established a 30-second gap.
With 3 laps remaining Perky jumped clear over Picts Hill to join pre-race favourite George Fowler of NFTO – they enjoyed a half lap of freedom trying to connect to the 2 leaders, before being reeled-in. Perky made another attempt, as the bunch started the last lap, this time solo, but he never gained more than 15 seconds and was caught with 4 miles remaining, leaving the 2 lone leaders ahead.
On the run in to the finish Ian and Hitch both remained attentive near the front of the peloton as the bunch chased down the leaders, covering a late attack by former winner Glynn Griffith and positioning themselves well for the tricky uphill, headwind finish. In a very long sprint, Ian burst out at the yellow flag with Hitch in close attendance, the pair taking first and second place in the bunch gallop. Ian just caught the second of the two leaders on the line, to take second place overall, with Hitch 4th.
Perky, paying for his earlier efforts sat-up before the sprint started and was pleased he did so, there was a huge pile up in the second half of the bunch that left around 20 riders on the deck and a couple headed to hospital. A quick check of the Garmins revealed that despite over 3,000 feet of climbing, the race had been run off at an incredible average speed of 25.5 mph !
Next week sees the team tackle the local classic, Tom Hawkins RR, promoted by Exeter Wheels near Umberleigh, with Ian and Hitch clearly on great form MDCC will be fielding a strong squad again.