The Junior National Series continued over the weekend, with the team heading up to Fife in Scotland for some stage race action.
Stage one began in St Andrews outside the picturesque Madras College and saw the riders take on 108km of challenging climbs, culminating in the brutal ascent out of Falkland up to Craigmead.
“The first stage was jam-packed with hills, with the pace lit for the first half of the race,” Elliot recalls. “The terrible weather on the descents made it pretty dangerous, but luckily we all managed to survive them with no crashes.”
“As we all prepared to hit the final climb, I managed to move up and I hit the climb in about 20-30th position. Loads of people were just going backwards, whilst I stayed up there.
“I started to fade with 1km to go, then was crawling all the way until about 200m to go, where I dug even deeper, with my legs screaming at me, to pass another couple of riders.”
Michael, Theo and Elliot all rode superbly to finish 15th, 21st and 22nd, respectively. The torturous climb to the finish blew apart the race, with many riders losing several minutes. Our trio all finished within 40 seconds of the winner and this not only put them in a strong GC position but also meant we were lying third team overall going into the second day.
The team woke up on Sunday motivated and ready to smash the second stage. With three riders in a good position on GC, it was a case of the rest of the team keeping them safe, with one eye also on the Points competition.
“We had a goal after stage one and Dan, George, Sam and I rode the best we could to keep Elliot, Michael and Theo out of trouble,” Ash said. “Sam controlled the bunch for the early part of the stage with Dan and George assisting too.”
“I followed a move at 50km to ensure it didn’t get away without an Identity rider. Theo bridged with Harry Hardcastle and countered. I then dropped back to the peloton to control and ease the pace there.”
Elliot continues, “On the second climb, the weather decided to take a change for the worse and the peloton split up. I had poor visibility so was just trying to stay on the wheel in front. Eventually the pace eased up and it all came back with around 40 riders left in the peloton, including Theo, Michael and me.”
Two riders managed to sneak away from the peloton with 25km to go. They worked well together and managed to hold off the chasing bunch. Theo put in a strong sprint to finish sixth from the bunch and eighth on the stage. After finishing second in both of the intermediate sprints, Theo also finished second overall in the Points competition.
Michael and Elliot rode brilliantly to finish in the main bunch, losing no time on GC. With riders who’d finished ahead on stage one losing time on stage two, we finished with three riders in the top 20 overall, with Michael 16th, Theo 19th and Elliot 20th.
“I managed to finish with a top 20 on GC, which I am really happy with,” Elliot said. “We also got three riders in the top 20 and 3rd best team. We have such a great team spirit and we’re all delighted with the results we’ve achieved.”
Ash added, “It was a great combined team effort with great individual riding from Elliot, Michael and Theo to finish where they did, plus the 3rd in team comp and 2nd for Theo in the green jersey. I worked hard to help the lads and it all paid off so I’m really pleased.”
Elliot concluded, “On behalf of Theo, Michael and I, I’d just like to say thanks to Ash, Dan, George and Sam for sacrificing their own chances for us this weekend. I’m proud to be part of this team.”
Congrats to Louis Rose-Davies and Jacques Sauvagnargues on their victories.
Thank you to Craig, the Spokes team and everyone involved in putting on such a great event.
Photos: Guy Swarbrick and Janet Reed