Did not start, did not finish, race cancelled. Safe to say that my first three results this season weren’t exactly an explosive start to my first year as a junior. Winter training had gone well (or so I thought) despite being hampered slightly by work commitments – I was 16 for crying out loud! Anyway, my confidence was quickly dispelled at my first proper road race in Northumberland. After pulling out of my first scheduled race due to illness, I brazenly asserted that the Reivers Road Race (as it was named) would be “a good indicator of form.” Turns out my form was rubbish. I was dropped after around 30km of the rolling circuit and didn’t bother continuing. Team mate Joseph Agnew fared rather better, staying with the bunch until close to the finish.
The inauspicious start somewhat dampened my enthusiasm for the Straiton Struggle RR one week later (the 5am start and pouring rain probably didn’t help either). On arrival I was informed, along with the rest of the field, that the race would not be going ahead due to road works. Great. Still, at least I would be fresher for the Lang Whang TT the next day. Given that I had never completed a TT even half this distance, the 48km slog didn’t give a great deal to be optimistic about. Despite my recent poor form, I pulled out a decent result to come 22nd out of around 70. I was, however, 1st in my category (junior) and so took home a £35 prize. It’s at this point that I usually neglect the fact that I was the only junior in the race.
Next up was the Dunfermline RR (incorporating a separate junior category) in which, despite being last in bunch for 98% of the race, I came 14th overall, 5th junior and so picked up 14 points – giving me my 3rd cat licence.The next day I raced another long time trial in Humbie, this time feeling quite laboured and finishing mid-field. My latest time trial of the year came one week later with the historic Meldons TT. On a course which suited me I won the junior prize and finished mid way down the results (not bad considering that it was an extremely strong field).
May’s racing would comprise the ERC-promoted Ingliston criterium series. In with the 2/3/4s, I was dropped from the bunch at varying points during the first three races in the series, coming 21st, 18th and 15th respectively. The fourth race, for some reason, was altogether different. Managing to stay with the bunch meant I took 6th in the sprint – more points.
This success would pale into insignificance, however, at my next big race and key season objective, the Fife round of the National Junior RR series. I knew that the competition would be extremely tough (most of the top juniors are 1st cats) and so was hoping to stay in the bunch for at least two laps out of the 4. In the end I managed this, getting shelled by the ferocious tempo around 2.5 laps in. Despite a strong entry from the team car in the “most blatant cheating during a race” in its attempts to bring me back to bunch, I was completely wasted. So much so, in fact, that riders who had been dropped before me began to pass me on the final lap. In the end, I was happier with my performance than my placing – 50th.
On June 13th it was back to the more comfortable setting of a cat3/4 RR, this time finishing up a hard climb. I hoped that my recently improved form would hold up and it did, powering me to 7th place (team-mate Stephen Walker showed well, only to be scuppered by a nasty crash with 15km to go). Another painful night on the foam roller had me ready for Crit under the Castle the next day. In the junior-only race I knew that Harry Johnston of Team Thomsons Cycles would be the one to watch. In the end he proved too good, simply riding everyone including myself off his wheel, despite being sat on the front from the very beginning. I held on the longest, but was eventually caught by a chasing group of 3 to contest a tactical battle for 2nd and 3rd. I made two serious attacks on the cobbled climb but couldn’t get separation, eventually being deprived of the podium in 4th. Yet again I was forced to reflect on a good performance with a disappointing result.
I was scheduled to ride the 2/3/4 Campsies RR on Saturday 20th June, which so happened to be the day after my high school prom. After getting back home at 4:30am on saturday morning, I decided against it. Instead, a (very) late entry into the cat 3/4 Balgay park criterium in Dundee on Sunday 21st June was to make up my weekend’s racing. An extremely tough course, coupled with some technical hairpins and wet conditions made for an interesting day out. Thankfully, I proved to be one of the strongest and after just running out of the legs required to follow a decisive acceleration on the final climb, I managed to hang tough for 3rd – my first podium of the year.
In essence, this first half season has itself been of two halves – coming into the year I was short of race fitness and lacked the ability to compete in races. Gradually, I accustomed myself to the different demands of road racing and now I can legitimately claim to be major player in most of the races I compete in. Currently I’m around half of the way to gaining a 2nd category licence, which is now my key goal for the year. The ERC junior squad will head to Ireland for the prestigious junior tour (14th-19th July) which will undoubtedly be a unique and enjoyable experience. The Scottish Junior RR championships in Kinross and the late season hill climbs will hopefully herald some more good results, and I hope to update you on them in due course.
Thanks for reading (only my 2nd blog post so apologies if I rambled a little)