At the beginning of April, the Inspire VCUK Racing Team travelled to Perth in Scotland to participate in the best youth stage race in the UK – the Scottish Cycling Youth Tour of Scotland.
The race involved 3 tough road stages (1, 3 & 4) combined with the stage 2 Team Time Trial. The race HQ was the Strathallen School which also formed the base and accommodation for all of the teams/managers for the weekend.
Stage 1 – Forgandenny
Stage 1 was a 60km road race on closed roads around the village of Forgandenny. The terrain was hilly with a grippy road surface.
Eighty riders took to the start and just after the 12.30 bus had passed through the village the race was allowed to commence.
There was strong competition in the field including international teams from Belgium, Wales, The IOM and Ireland alongside some strong regional teams and so the VCUK felt privileged to have two teams in the race containing all six development riders and two guest riders namely Ollie Rees from Yorkshire and Toby Tanfield from Newcastle.
The race was not without incident, especially for the VCUK team. At the beginning of race, Lewis Hartley crashed in an incident involving Jack Barton. Lewis was OK to continue despite a knock to his knee but Jack required emergency treatment and was transported to Perth A&E. Later we heard that Jack required over four hours of surgery to install a plate in his forearm in which both bones were broken. We wish Jack a speedy recovery!
Mid-way through the race, Daniel Gibson suffered a mechanical when his chain snapped. Fortunately the mechanics from neutral service managed to repair it which enabled Dan to get going again and finish the stage although his chances of doing well in the General Classification were ruined. Later in the race, Luke Cheetham got caught behind an incident and then struggled to get back to the peloton and he ended up riding in a smaller group a few minutes behind the leading group.
Throughout the race the remaining six boys looked good and comfortable in the bunch and never really looked like they were in any trouble.
As the race approached the finish, the VCUK team car which provided neutral service #2 in case of a split in the peloton, was able to pull over at the finish line and witness the riders blasting down the hill towards the chequered flag. As we got out of the car and ran to the side of the road to watch them come in we saw the big bunch approaching and then disaster struck. As the riders jostled for position, travelling at over 60kmh, a crash unfolded and all we could see was several riders flying up in the air and bikes all over the place, including some green VCUK kit.
As we ran up the road to assist it soon became clear that two of our riders had been involved and were in a pretty bad way. Toby Tanfield was receiving treatment and so was Tom Ashcroft. Both required emergency first aid and were eventually transferred to Perth and Dundee A&E departments. We are pleased to report both riders were successfully treated and are now recovering but at the time it was very scary!
Nathan Hawthorn and Ollie Rees were also impeded by the crash and rolled home at the back of the peloton. Lewis just avoided the crash and finished in 12th place and Cory in 28th.
Stage 2 & 3 – Coupar Angus
Stage 2 was a 6km TTT on a very wet circuit near to Coupar Angus.
The highlight for the VCUK on this stage was the team of Lewis Hartley, Daniel Gibson, Nathan Hawthorn and Cory Edmondson putting down a really good performance to finish just 10 seconds off the winners (Isle of Man Team) in 4th place from 18 teams competing.
The circuit took around 10 minutes to complete and was mostly flat but included some tight and wet corners and plenty of mud!
The lads rode really well and looked smooth throughout. Daniel who had no chance in the GC contest also sacrificed himself for the rest by putting in some really fast turns before peeling off towards the end as only 3 riders needed to finish together.
The second team was down to two riders after Toby and Tom were forced to withdraw. Ollie Rees was keen for a fast time but it was always going to be difficult to compete as a 2-up compared with a full team and consequently Ollie and Luke lost a significant chunk of time on this stage.
Stage 3 was another 60km road race using the same circuit as the TTT. After some lunch and recovery at a nearby hotel, the riders rode out to the circuit for stage 3.
The race stated around 2.30pm in the pouring rain and on the first lap another significant crash took place. Fortunately none of the VCUK riders were involved – possibly because they rode most of the lap at the back!! The race was neutralised and then stopped on the line whilst first aid attended the injured riders on the opposite side of the course. This gave the team manager some time to have quiet word with the riders and instruct them to rider near the front of the race and NOT to ride at the back…
The words seem to do the trick as for the remainder of the race the riders were evidently near the front. Ollie Rees even managed to chip off the front for half a lap before the peloton reacted and chased him down.
The race was curtailed at 4.30pm as this was when the road closure ended so the race was reduced to 54km. At the finish, Nathan led the charge to the line with Lewis in close quarters. Both ended up with top 20 placings and the remaining riders all ended up in the top 40.
The lads went back to the school very positive, especially after the storming TTT performance and a dominant ride in the afternoon!
Stage 4 – Strathallen School
Stage 4 was the final road stage involving 16 laps of a 2.2km circuit around and through the school grounds. The course was technical, wet, included a gravel section and also a brutal climb up to the start finish area.
The peloton was set off in two groups of 40 based on GC that would re-group after the first descent. This was on safety grounds.
Lewis, Nathan and Cory started in the top half of the field with Daniel, Luke and Ollie in the latter half.
The race set off without incident and it did not take Ollie long before he reached the head of the race. Ollie was determined all weekend and for a first year rider he showed a lot of strength and talent – watch this space BC!
After around 3 laps the team took another blow with Nathan crashing and having to retire from the race. Nathan lost his wheel on a slippery manhole cover at the bottom of the climb and was unable to restart and finish.
Soon afterwards Cory Edmondson crashed on the descent and this meant we only had 2 remaining riders that could realistically contest GC and we could no longer contest the team GC that relies on 3 counting riders.
To his credit, Cory continued in the race and helped Daniel move up in the race and get back to the leading group of riders.
At the finish, three riders had escaped off the front and built a lead of around 1 minute on the fragmented peloton. The VCUK still had Lewis Hartley, who worked very hard throughout the race, and Ollie Rees who always looked comfortable to contest the bunch gallop. As the riders attacked the climb for the final time, Lewis looked strong but his legs died towards the top and he rolled home in 14th place. Ollie finished strongly in 8th place. Daniel, Cory and Luke all soldiered on and finished the stage.
At the end of the race the riders went back to the school to pack up, have lunch and then attend the presentation of jerseys and prizes. In the end, we missed out on the team classification but we managed to get two riders in the top 20 of GC with Lewis in 11th and Ollie in 19th. Dan and Cory finished around 40th (mid field) and Luke 60th. Nathan, Toby and Tom were forced to retire.
This was a really tough weekend mainly due to the weather and crashes but I am sure that the riders learned a lot and, apart from the crash victims, had a good time!
The riders benefitted from the help provided by DS Jed, Andrew / Jacqui Edmondson, Chris / Nicola Raw, Elaine / Adam Hartley, North East Regional Team, Alistair Rees, George Preston, The YTOS organising team, Scottish Cycling and all of our sponsors including VCUK, Champion System UK, GoCoCo, Creative Nature, Secret Training CC, The BGF #25, The Fred Whitton Challenge, Limar Helmets, Velo Champion Shoes/Glasses, Shark Composites Frames, Prolite Wheels, BIKMOteam Insurance, Higher Nature Vitamins, Hewitt Cycles, Fastest Highest Strongest Coaching, Skechers Podium Shoes – THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO HELPED
Full results available here >>> https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/events/details/142035/Scottish-Cycling-Youth-Tour-of-Scotland-2016-#results