Late Friday afternoon of the early May Bank Holiday weekend and around 300 youth riders gather on the sunny seafront in Douglas, Isle of Man to start the Prologue TT. The sea is calm as a millpond and a bizarre mini castle, built of stone but looking just like a fantasy sandcastle stands proud out in the bay. The riders practice the course, focusing on the turn point and the start ramp. Transponders are attached. Numbers pinned. The tension builds.
There are five riders representing LVYCC this year – Max Bolton and Luke Prenelle in the U16s, Owen Prenelle and Eleanor Bolton in the U14s and Leo Bolton in the U8s. All age categories have three races – the Prologue TT, a flat road race on Saturday and a hill stage on Sunday.
Only Leo in the LVYCC camp is looking forward to the Time Trial, the others do not fancy their chances, thinking they might do better in the longer races. Leo is fond of the start ramp.
Our riders put out a solid TT performance, but they feel they can improve: Eleanor 17th/22, Owen 35th/55, Luke 49th/70, Max 31st/70, Leo 8th/9.
Day 2 – flat road race – Jurby in the north of the island, under beautiful sunshine. (Race start about 3k from the nearest toilet…) U16 boys are doing 38k, U14 boys 27k, U14 girls 22k and U8s 8k. Leo is the first one off – a strong performance from him against a lot of bigger riders – he finishes 7th, only 1 second behind the 6th placed rider and with a good time gap on 8th and 9th. He is fairly happy. Eleanor does brilliantly finishing 7th. Owen, Max and Luke all stay in the front group, with Owen and Max finishing in the top 20, and Luke in 27th. All the races have riders distanced from the main group so all our riders move up on GC. It is all to play for in tomorrow’s hill stage.
Day 3 – hilly race – Ellerslie in the centre of the island, under beautiful sunshine by the time the Bs start, shrouded in fog before that. This course has a cruel hill. The U8s are starting at the bottom and finishing at the top. The U14 girls have to ride it 4 times, U14 boys 5 times and U16 boys 6 times.
Leo has never ridden anything like this before and is the only competitor who lives south of Lancashire. His hill experience is lacking. He finishes 9th after battling with 8th all the way up. He is a little disappointed but needn’t be. I’m proud of his performance.
Eleanor’s race splits from the start. She settles into a chasing group of 5 following a lone leader (Zoe Backstedt) and two Scottish riders working together to try and chase down Zoe. She loses the wheel in front on the second lap but rides tactically to finish 8th, a strong performance and making up a lot of time for GC as the field is so strung out.
Owen rides comfortably in the front group throughout, finishing 11th, a fantastic achievement for a first year who spent much of last year with a broken leg. He too moves up on GC.
Luke and Max also fare well in the final race of the weekend. A vicious early pace splits the pack early on, resulting in a lead group of 15-20 riders, followed by a smaller chasing group and then still more small chasing groups stretching back down the hill. Max stays with the front group. Luke with the second group. There is a crash on the uphill in Max’s group which separates another three riders off. They are all able to continue but have lost the front group. Max is fortunate to dodge around it. On the final stretch of the final climb he sprints to a very well deserved third place just behind Oli Stockwell of Welwyn Wheelers and Will Corkhill from the Isle of Man. This is his first National Series podium finish.
Luke finishes 21st, just 4 minutes back. Again, a excellent performance for a first year as the time gaps stretched all the way down to 38 minutes behind the leaders.
In the eagerly awaited overall GC competition Max finishes 5th (4th in the points jersey competition), Leo finishes 7th, Eleanor 10th, Owen 14th and Luke 21st. Definitely results to be proud of. It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable weekend and I’m very grateful to the organisers for all their hard work and hospitality. The Isle of Man is a lovely place.