We arrived to windswept Bells Yew Green an hour before our race to find the VO2 development team warming up in a bus shelter, a bizarre sight! Once we’d gillet’d and arm warmered up and taken a very quick look at part of the course, it was time to get cracking – and the pace was very very hot straight away as Nick Hitchins (yellow jersey, Grupetto) and Mike Smith wanted to get away, which they duly did after a bit over a lap. I was absolutely destroyed during this section and thought that I wouldn’t be staying around very long – I did think about handing my food up to Rob so he had plenty as I clearly couldn’t last 3 hours at this pace – but couldn’t move up to where he was to hand them over!
Fortunately, after the 10 man breakaway went the pace slackened. Initially this was great as we were getting a good rest, but it became apparent that the 10 man break was getting a dangerous gap, particularly as it contained the yellow jersey. Rob hit the front and put in a monster turn up one of the hills, putting many riders in difficulty (I wasn’t feeling great, despite having found the biggest rider possible to draft behind!) and starting the process of closing the gap. A Rapha Condor rider joined up with Rob and swapped some turns and I worked my way to the front to join the fun. Hargrove cycles and another team (I couldn’t identify them as they were wearing a gilet covering their race jersey) sent some riders up to join me and we worked well together to close the gap – I was starting to feel pretty good and had to sit up a few times after gapping people on the descents and climbs. When the gap had been cut fairly significantly, Rob rode up to tell me to sit in – and then proceeded to roll some turns to get the break back into the fold. It was gratifying to see everyone in the group huffing and puffing as I returned to sitting in in the group.
We then started a nightmare phase where both Rob and I were feeling tired from our efforts, and the pace during the climbs was very hot as people were trying to get away. We both drifted slowly backwards on each climb and had to chase back on numerous times – trying to stay together to support each other.
This continued for quite a while and at some point two riders got away – Alex Highams and Alex Peters (Rapha Condor) – and established a big gap – finishing about 3 minutes ahead of the peleton. At about 112k in, with only 10k left to go, I couldn’t hack the pace any more and got dropped on one of the climbs. Luckily I was not alone and a good working group formed. Although we were behind the cars for a bit, we chased back on – just in time for the next climb where I went bang again and was forced to TT it in alone (well, with two riders sitting doggedly on my wheel).
I rolled across the line just under 2 minutes behind the peleton to find that Rob had napped 12th in the sprint for the line – securing his position on GC against those in the bunch. Unfortunately, the breakaway was far enough ahead that Alex Highams leapfrogged up the GC to gain the yellow jersey for the final day, pushing Rob off the podium. As a testament to how tough the day was, only 46 riders finished – of 80 that started yesterday.
Another great performance from Rob and I was very pleased with my ride – definitely feeling more comfortable than on day one!
Report by Ben Knowles
We are a group of London-based cyclists, who get together for races and training rides. We have a website forum as our virtual clubhouse, and instead of regular weekly club rides from a set place we arrange to meet up for mountain bike, road or cyclocross rides, races and time trials from a variety of venues. We also meet up socially every month.