Just very slightly late – a race report from the North West Tour – Several Lee Valley Youth riders made the journey north at the May bank holiday weekend to take part in this three day long event that forms part of the National Youth Circuit Series.
Stage 1 was a 2k out and back prologue time trial along Morecambe seafront on Saturday afternoon. The weather started warm and sunny but an imminent breakdown was forecast so the skies were being anxiously watched. The tide was fully in as we arrived and the seafront had eye-catching statues of cormorants dotted around. I’ve never been to Morecambe and I think it’s important to remember it’s not just about the racing, it’s also about experiencing the country if you’re going to drive all that way. It was a beautiful setting to look at, not so lovely to ride in. The Youth A girls had a strong headwind to contend with on the outward leg then a following wind to return. Kate Wootton flew the flag for LVYCC and put in a fast time of 3:39 to finish 12th.
Louis Bilyard clocked 3:17 in the the Youth A boys, putting him 36th and Max Bolton stopped the clock at 3:23 finishing 61st. Max was happy with his time, always knowing that most of the strong field of mainly second year U16s were likely to be faster than him. There were only 34 seconds between 1st and last place.
At some point during the A boys the wind dropped completely, and the whole B girls went ahead in calm conditions. Eleanor Bolton clocked 4:18 and finished 42nd. She is not keen on time trials but battled as hard as possible to avoid been caught by her chasing rider, the fast Natalie Bloomer from VC Londres. As the girls raced the skies darkened and the view over the sea was dramatic. Also dramatic was the sight of the tide going out. It was a little like someone pulling out the plug on a bath – I’ve never seen a tide change so fast.
The rain then poured down leaving the B boys to ride in the wet. Alex Dale unfortunately crashed at the turn around point, but still clocked 3:43, leaving him 53rd. Luke Prenelle – who we were all very glad to see back riding for LVYCC after the horrible car crash his family suffered over Easter – clocked just two seconds slower at 3:45. Ian and Owen Prenelle made the journey with Luke to stay in Lancaster, using trains and taxis as both have still got legs in plaster. Owen is showing great speed on the crutches and took up the role of photographer over the weekend. Even better his mum, Amy, who is still wheelchair bound after the crash, and younger sister Eve, made it up on the final day with the help of Kim Lloyd. It was fantastic to see them all and we wish them the very best in their recovery.
Below: Alex and Luke after the time trial
In the Under 12s race, also on wet ground, Daniel Lloyd put in a time of 4:11, finishing 13th and Carys Lloyd achieved 4:41 finishing 18th.
The person who found the course for Stage 2 on the Sunday did a fantastic job. It was a 3.3km route on closed roads heading uphill out of Lancaster over the M6 and climbing to an impressive height. The views from the hill were fantastic. They then crossed the KOM line and headed back down into Lancaster and climbed the hill again. The finish line was at the top. The start line at the bottom. The hill was long and relentless with some very steep sections and little space for recovery before having to do it all again. The A boys climbed that hill 14 times. It was brutal.
Below: Max on the hill.
By the end of lap 1 the bunch of A boys was losing riders out of the back. This continued with the bunch shrinking each and every lap. Riders who normally perform well in flatter races or on the track were being spat out. It was fascinating to watch but presumably awful to ride. Louis Bilyard held on for 5 or 6 laps, then dropped back with 3 other riders. They kept up a strong pace but not enough to hold the bunch. Max Bolton put in a fantastic effort to hold the bunch for 8 laps, by which time it had whittled to less than 20, then his legs gave out and he dropped back, eventually being mopped up by Louis’s group which had swelled to about 10 riders. The last remaining South East/Eastern riders were Thomas Gloag from VC Londres who finished 4th and Oliver Stockwell from Welwyn Wheelers who finished 11th, a fantastic performance for a first year. Louis finished the race in 26th place, Max 31st.
Below: Louis on the hill.
The A girls saw a great ride from Kate Wootton who finished 2nd for LVYCC. Isle of Man rider Amelia Sharples broke away in the closing stages and Kate won the sprint for second from the remaining small bunch. They had completed 11 hill climbs.
Eleanor Bolton put in a strong ride to finish 21st in the B girls, which considerably cheered her up after the time trial. Alex Dale finished 20th in the B boys and Luke Prenelle 45th. Daniel Lloyd finished 8th in the C boys and Carys Lloyd 11th in the C girls. Owen Prenelle gets a special mention for hopping round the whole 3.3km on his crutches, uphill and down.
The final two stages were due to be held on Bank Holiday Monday at the Salt Ayre circuit in Lancaster. The weather started wet, got wetter and stayed wet until noon. The circuit is flat and narrow and is notorious for crashes, particularly when numbers are high. Stage 3 is ridden one way and then Stage 4 in the opposite direction in the afternoon.
The A girls and boys rode in pretty much monsoon conditions, glasses were being jettisoned left and right as riders became unable to see due to the rain, not what you want when riding so close together at such high speeds on wet ground. There were several crashes in the A girls race, fortunately not too serious but splintering the field. Kate Wootton finished 9th.
In the A boys there was amazingly only one crash and all riders got up from it. There were some small splits in the field due to the crash but it finished in a large bunch sprint. Louis finished well in 7th, Max 25th. They were soaked to the skin and needed to dry off best they could before their final race.
There was a bad crash during the B girls race which resulted in the air ambulance being called due to fear of spinal injury. This shook everyone up, the girls were called off the course to allow space for the ambulances and racing was postponed for around an hour and a half. Everyone was thinking of the Salt Ayre rider who had come down and hoping for the best. Fortunately we later heard that she had been given the all clear and was discharged that evening.
By the time the racing restarted the rain had stopped but the announcement was made that the final stage would be cancelled for everyone. Eleanor finished safely in 25th in the B girls. Luke was 27th in the B boys and Alex 54th. Alex unfortunately was brought down in another crash and had to chase back. To finish the weekend Daniel landed 18th in the C boys and Carys 11th in the C girls.
Below: Daniel in the C boys at Salt Ayre
Kate Wootton – 4th
Louis Bilyard – 21st
Max Bolton -26th
Eleanor Bolton – 23rd
Alex Dale – 22nd
Luke Prenelle – 43rd
Daniel LLoyd – 9th
Carys Lloyd – 11th