This weekend the team were in Lincoln. Friday evening Will and Jack rode the city centre circuit races, Saturday joined in the Sportive and then the big event on Sunday; the Lincoln Grand Prix.
As a British Cycling Premier Calendar event the Lincoln GP is top drawer racing for the UK. Full time professional teams are joined by the best amateur road racers from around the country to endure 103 miles out tough racing including 13 laps of the city and the infamous Michaelgate climb. A narrow cobbled hill which whilst only 300 metres long is a lesson in pain and bike handling given its 25% gradient. The crowds through the ancient city centre add to the atmosphere with riders encouraged, cheered and sometimes pushed up the punishing climb.
For the team this is a big step up from week on week racing, and the final of 3 Spring Cup races at this level we will compete in for 2017. Our objective for the day was to complete the race inside the time cut off (which incidentally is only 5 minutes from the leading riders). None of the boys had raced this event before so there was also a steep learning curve around how the dynamics of the race were going to pan out.
On paper the course looked to suit the team, once up the Michaelgate per lap.
Our tactics: Keep in touch on the climb and then regroup over the top. Repeat 13 times. Simples.
So the day started well. We all arrived early at HQ, after a couple of detours around some Lincoln housing estates. Follow the HQ signs they said. What signs? Where are the loos? Follow the signs they said. What signs? Where do we line up for the start? Follow the signs they said. What signs? Bit of a theme me thinks, perhaps a business opportunity for a sign maker in Lincoln....
Dave and Jamie rock up to the managers pre race briefing whilst the team get ready and start their warm up. The meeting is a who's who of past racers; now overweight, over opinionated all of whom know each other. Some use it as an opportunity to show their true colours and argue with the judges already, most let the briefing wash over them. Time for us to act like the newbie and keep quiet.
We get a nod and hello from Colin Sturgess, former World Pursuit champion and Jamie's boyhood hero. The draw gives us place 16 in the convoy of cars, not great but better that than in Rutland where we were up front and fighting for space constantly with the bigger teams and somewhat aggressive drivers.
Back to the team we relay instructions from the meeting. "Place 16, mechanical service on the left, ride safe. Good luck." Final prep is completed for the Fadden Feed Service and Annie in the city centre, we await the roll out.
The race rolls out, a little delayed, unsure why, but no-one seemed to worry about it. The crowds in the city centre were buzzing and this was it, time to race.
We had been warned the first lap would be brutal ending with the ascent of the Michaelgate. However all the bunch stayed together bar a couple of stragglers. First retirement a Raleigh rider after 3 miles, no idea why, must be having a bad day. We pass him in the convoy as he soft pedals to the feed zone, his day ending earlier than expected I'm sure.
So now it's all settling down, we get a couple of laps under our belt. And relax. Race radio occasionally bursts into action. Mechanical; Team 365.... Crash crash crash.... Feed required in peloton; Wheelbase.... but nothing required for Flamme Rouge. Absolute 80's is playing on the team car radio. Come on Dave let's sing along to some soft metal. "I want to know what love is....."
A break goes clear, we listen for the numbers over the race radio. None of our boys