Annual road race report – a great day’s racing

What a great day of racing the club’s annual road races provided – perfect dry and sunny weather, with only a slight breeze for the opening race. The 45 mile, 3 lap course however still made for two challenging races, with the energy sapping climbs of Edge hill.

The men’s race for Cat 3/4 riders started the day at 9am, with a maximum field of 80 riders. The race was also part of the Oxfordshire Road Race League (ORRL), a team event, which the club is now part of. The club’s team of six riders were; Richard Santhouse, Danny Marron, Nick Nixon, Peter Drnovsek, Oscar Strange and Ed Anderson. Unfortunately, Josh Lovell had to withdraw due to Covid.

The race got off to a fast pace along the Warwick road and as is usually the case, around six riders tried to make an initial breakaway. This didn’t last for long, as the peloton was pretty much all together again by the time they reached the bottom of Edge Hill. As expected, though the climb started to string things out and by the time they’d reached the top, a group of 25 riders had managed to make a breakaway. Among that group were Star riders, Richard, Nick, Oscar and Peter, with second claim club rider Tobi Ng (Team PB Performance) managing to lead the group as they started their second lap.

Richard Santhouse and Nick Nixon in the leading pack

During the second lap, two riders James Philpott (a non-club or team rider) and Louis Genin (University of Warwick), managed to make a breakaway of initially, around 30 seconds – a gap on this course, which normally presents no danger. The pursuing group of 23 riders, still looked strong and had managed to increase their lead over what remained of the main peloton by just over 2 minutes.

So, as they started their final lap and gap times were called, everyone waited to see if the two leaders’ riders could be caught. However, whilst the chasing bunch tried, this never materialised, with their lead slightly extending. Added to this, Philpott was already noted as the first rider up Edge Hill on the two previous occasions, so that clearly was not his weak point. He then made that three times in row, easily winning the King of the Mountain category. From then on, he made his bid for the win, crossing the line a comfortable 53 seconds ahead of Louis Genin.

Genin was very nearly caught on the line by a sprint finish from the bunch, with Denis Gorman (Kenilworth Wheelers) narrowly claiming third place. Tobi Ng finished 7th, with first club rider Richard Santhouse right on his tail in an excellent 8th. Nick Nixon was 11th, Oscar Strange 20th, Danny Marron 23rd, Peter Drnovsek 48th, after being knocked off his bike on Edge Hill, and Ed Anderson 60th. This excellent team effort, moved the club up into third place in the ORRL.

Mark Boyles, 2nd place Loius Genin, winner James Phipott, 3rd place Dennis Gorman and organiser Mike Gillett

Whilst the day had got warmer for the afternoon’s women’s race, the wind increased, providing a headwind as the race got underway along the Warwick road. A competitive field of 66 took part, including some of the top UK teams and young riders, competing for British Cycling’s Women’s Team Cup Road Race.

Unlike the men, the pace of this race got off to a relatively slow start, with no one attempting to make a breakaway. So again, the first climb of Edge Hill brought about the first splits in the race, this time with several groups emerging at the top. The leading group of around 12 riders managed to eke out a lead of around 15 seconds, from several small splinter groups. However, towards the end of the first lap, they were all together again in a group of between 40 or 50 riders. The tough Edge Hill climb had already left 13 riders over 2 minutes adrift at this early stage in the race.

The early leading pack in the women’s race

On the second lap the race started to split up again into several groups, with 11 riders eventually making a clear break, from a chasing pack of about 20. The rest of the field was now getting well strung out and it was clear as the race entered its third and final lap, the winner would emerge from the leading group who were working well together. What did transpire from this leading group of 11 riders, was the determined ride of the eventual winner, Emily Proud (Le Col RT). As they all climbed Edge Hill for the last time, Emily was dropped and emerged from the top a good 30 seconds in arrears of the rest. With approximately 6 miles to the finish on a fast section of the course, she put in an amazing effort to not only close the gap, but then win the sprint to the finish.

Emily Proud celebrates a well earned victory.

Lucy Lee (Das Hasling) was 2nd, Zoe Langham (Pro-Noctis) 3rd, Tasmin Miller (Hutchinson-Brother UK) 4th, Ruth Shier (Hutchinson-Brother UK) 5th and Frances Owen (Wahoo-Le Col) 6th.  Club juniors Peggy Simpkins and Poppy Kisley put in a great performance on such a gruelling event, finishing 57th and 59th respectively. Winner of the Queen of the Mountains competition was Zoe Langham (Pro-Noctis), who won the close battle of Edge Hill by a single point. The team event was won by Hutchinson-Brother UK, with their second win of the series, with Le Col race Team second and Wahoo-Le Col third.

Finally, a big thank you to race organiser Mike Gillett, this year ably assisted by Tobi Ng, and all the marshals and helpers who made the event so successful.

All photos courtesy of Paul Dean and a full gallery of all his photos are now on the website