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Racing in Wales

A staple of the race team’s calendar, we usually field a team in Wales for L’Etape de la Defonce, a category 3/4 stage race in South Wales. Due to low entries, the race was upgraded to a 2/3/4 this year and we were allowed to enter two teams. Seb Ashton reports back from a wet weekend in Wales.

Stage 1: TTT

After months of preparation and a handful of early morning TTT practice sessions around Richmond Park, the opening stage of the L’Etape de la Defonce was upon us.

We (The “A-team” – Dom Wilson, Harry Bunnel, Mark Tonge and I) arrived 10 minutes before our start time waited nervously in the morning sun. After a team photo, and one last to run through our tactics – based on last years times, go sub-16minutes which is approximately 40kph – one last time we were ready to go.

The course ahead of us was a rolling there and back over 10km, featuring a headwind out, and (strangely) a tailwind on the way back.

As the starter released us we quickly settled into a pace line, but it was clear that our best-laid plans were soon for nought, when Harry hit the front over the incline and into the long descent, our lightest team member (Mark Tonge) couldn’t hold the wheel into the strong headwind and got distanced. 

As we reached the turn Mark was well off the back, so it was up to the three of us remaining to deliver our time. With the wind finally in our favour, we charged up the climb we’d descended moments before, all the while keeping an eye our average. With the finish line in sight, we broke up as we were all out of the saddle trying to save as much time as possible.

As we rolled over the finish line we’d beaten our target, but we’d later find out that wasn’t enough and we were 14th out of the 20 teams entered.

Stage 2: Road Race

Punctured in the first 10km, burned all the matches trying to get back to the bunch and would not have made it had the chief comm not stopped the race to tell them off for racing on the wrong side of the road.

Lasted 2/3km in the bunch after the restart but my legs were empty. Rode solo for 1/2 a lap then the autobus caught me, so bought a ticket. We rode well together, and by the end, we had ~10 riders. Didn’t deliberately attack the group in the final 5km but went off the front on a long climb. Took one guy with me, but finished strong and on my own.

Stage 3: Road Race

The rain in the morning made conditions a bit treacherous as we started the race. The bunch kept a great tempo for the first 20k, tough enough to keep it strung out but not so hard that people were getting shelled. This pace allowed Rich to put a lot of time into the bunch to keep his GC hopes alive.

As we approached the hilltop prime the GC contenders put the hammer down Dom, Linton, and I were caught napping and were the wrong side of the split. I burnt a couple of matches and made the bridge with Linton finishing off the move. Dom made it safely across too.

As we caught the bunch we saw Rich picking himself up off the floor (He is ok just road rash, and a few cuts). With little time to recover after the effort before the climb signs weren’t promising, I put in a dig and made good progress, but not enough to hold the wheels of the break, and was distanced as they went over the top.

On the descent, I picked up a few riders. With the sun out and the roads drying, we worked well together picking up dropped riders, and being joined from behind by others who missed the split. Still keeping it spicy, but nothing ridiculous.

As we hit 15km to go I took to the front up a climb, when I looked back I had a gap on the groupetto (probably due to some great blocking from Harry, Dec and Jas) then ITT’d to finish with the comm car and a NEG for company.