Sunday July 30th saw the second running of the Tour of Witheridge Moor. I hadn’t raced the course before, and it became clear from just a 15 minute spin to warm up a bit that it wasn’t going to be flat. The race was to be 2 laps of 26.5 miles, with a total of 4,500ft of climbing for the 53 mile race. The first lap was taken at a fairly steady pace, a couple of fairly tough climbs but nothing crazy. The first big descent saw a nasty looking crash at 40mph+ which resulted in many taking it a bit more cautiously next time round. A relatively long climb followed this, though not massively steep. I took this opportunity to hit the front and put some of the less experienced riders at the back of the group under pressure, and try to open up a few gaps and split the race up. As we hit the finish climb for the first time it became clear that the advice I’d been given before the race would need to be followed in order to finish well – don’t go too early, follow the wheels and hit it as the line comes into sight.
The second lap became much tougher about half way round; an attack had gone and people seemed to be happy to let it go. This was until we hit a climb on the back of the course…the race was in bits by this point, bodies everywhere and this climb would drag the final selection out of the remaining riders. As we came towards the top of the climb I started to lose the wheel in front, Gareth Bushnell came round me and managed a few words of encouragement, which got me over the climb and back to the group on the exposed section which followed. From this point it was a case of spending the next 7 miles praying that the pace would not increase to that level again, which thankfully it didn’t – the 15-20 riders left in contention all apparently feeling the same way. By this point there were 3 riders with a gap of around 45 seconds, and the win was almost certain to come from that group, which it eventually did, leaving those behind fighting it out for minor placings. However I came into the race with one main objective – get the 7 points I needed to move up to 2nd cat, so was still very keen to get as much as I could out of the race.
Coming into the final 5km, everyone was skipping turns and trying to hide as best they could. I went into the final climb in 3rd wheel. As soon as we came off the descent and hit the climb, people started to attack it. I let the gap go, knowing the finish was still a long way to go. Sure enough, the first attacker all but stopped before the line was even in sight. Now it was a case of keeping a good rhythm until the line came into view, at this point I was looking at coming in 6th. As the road flattened off and the line appeared up ahead I gave it everything, and managed to come round the last few riders in the last few metres to claim 4th and my 2nd cat license. I also managed 1st junior and picked up some prize money as a result of that. Gareth managed to come in for 7th place with other strong performances from Mid Devon throughout the race. A good day of racing, the weather just held off to the finish. Thanks to Exeter Wheelers for putting on the event.