Last weekend, the Inspire VCUK Racing Team travelled north of the border for the annual Youth Tour of Scotland stage race. The event is held over 3 days and 4 stages of racing, using a mixture of closed countryside roads and a superb city centre criterium circuit in the centre of Perth.
Riders posing at the Strathallen Independent Boarding School, Race HQ for the weekend:
Day 1 began in Forgandenny, just up the road from the school and here is an early morning view of the surrounding countryside:
Stage 1 on Saturday afternoon, was a 9 lap road race on closed roads, featuring a KOM climb and a fast rolling and technical descent to the finish.
The 60km race was contested by 80 of the best riders from across the UK and also national team from Ireland and a strong contingent from the Isle of Man.
Here are the boys warming up for this stage:
The Inspire VCUK Race Team were delighted to be able to assist in this race by providing neutral service, ensuring that any mechanical issues, punctures or crashes were tended to quickly and efficiently to get riders back into the race.
Neutral Service #2 approaching the KOM on lap 1:
Our boys rode really well in this race, maintaining good positions in the peloton and managing to stay in the front group from start to finish. Lewis was particularly active near the front of the group as the riders rode up the ascent, whilst Halley enjoyed bombing down the descent into Forteviot.
Lewis on the RHS, looking comfortable on the climb:
Plenty of #VCUK riders visible in the bunch:
As the race gathered pace on the final lap, it was pleasing to see all of our riders still in the lead group and ready to contest the sprint. As the group descended the pace really hotted up, with Halley leading the charge and Theo Hartley on his wheel! Halley’s effort was a little premature, according to Theo, who had hoped that Halley could have taken him closer to the line.
Meanwhile Luke managed to use his technical nouse to finish really strongly in 11th place.
Halley finished in mid-twentieth close to our guest rider Matty Taylor with Lewis rolling over the line in 31st position, after narrowly avoided a collision involving Alistair Leivers.
So a solid day out for all our riders!
Day 2 involved a short journey into nearby Perth City Centre to contest two criteriums.
The council had increased its offering from previous years by allowing the circuit to be used all day long on Easter Sunday!
The weather was improving hour-by-hour, with bright sunshine, zero wind and probably the warmest spot in the UK.
The bunch of eighty riders lining up for the start of the first criterium:
The races were run over 40minutes and the first race was very fast with any riders sitting outside of the top 10 always going to struggle with exits out of the four corners on the circuit.
Our riders are learning to deal with this fast and furious style of racing and in particular the need to stay up near the front. This will take time to understand and put into practice and it was evident during the first race that all of our riders were positioned too far back. Luke had the strongest start but a minor skirmish caused his chain to jump off and by the time he fixed the problem he was ½ a minute down on the leaders and very disappointed!
Matty Taylor (guest rider from PH-MAS Cycing) who had a really strong weekend!
Halley, Lewis and Luke working hard as the bunch lines out:
Luke Cheetham looking attentive, as always!
Lewis Hartley working hard!
Later in the race, the intensity became too much for Lewis who is currently experiencing some knee pain when racing/training over longer distances. Lewis was forced to back off a little to avoid aggravating the injury too much before he seeks some specialist treatment next week.
Halley and Matty battled on in the race and finished in the leading group.
In race 2, Luke again started strongly and was looking really comfortable towards the front of the peloton, keen to make the second race more successful than the outcome of the first.
Halley, Matty and Lewis all started well and looked good.
After around 30 minutes, Lewis again backed off and rather than making big efforts out of the corners, he chose to use lower gears and spin his legs to save his knee for the next day.
Unfortunately, towards the end of the race, after 20 laps, a serious crash occurred on the finish straight with two riders having to be stretchered off the course and taken to A&E. We heard later that both riders had not sustained serious injury and are recovering well but owing to a risk assessment of the course and judgement from the Chief Commissaire, it was decided to abandon the 2nd race.
Riders warming down after race #2 in Perth:
So, on to the final stage on Easter Monday, this time close to the HQ in and around the school grounds. The final stage involved 16 laps of a 2.55km course equalling 40km in total. The course is very technical with elements comparable to the Paris-Roubaix!
The course also includes a short but steep climb to the start / finish area which when tackled 16 times becomes pretty hard on the legs!
Halley taking a drink to keep hydrated on a very warm day:
Riders being briefed before the start:
All the riders had different levels of success and misfortune on all the stages. For this stage, Luke got caught behind a crash and found himself at the very back of the bunch as they started the climb. By the top a gap had opened and Luke was unable to stop the elastic snapping, probably following his efforts on Saturday and Sunday. To his credit, he battled on for the rest of the race and never gave up!
Luke battling on to stay in contention:
Matty and Lewis demonstrating great technical skills:
Shortly after Luke’s misfortune, Matty had a mechanical failure with his electric gears which prevented him from changing into lower gears. This was really bad luck as he had performed so well over all of the previous stages and he reckoned that the final stage was the one that really suited his ability, being a well versed CX rider with good technical ability and good climbing ability.
Nearer the front of the race was Halley and Lewis, both hanging on in there as they counted down the laps. At one point Lewis was given a helping hand by Luke as they approached the bottom of the climb and I also heard that Lewis gave Halley a little push on the top section when Halley was suffering. I was really pleased to hear these little stories from the riders as it tells me that these lads are starting to look out for one another which is an important aspect of riding in a team / team building!
Halley taking one of the faster corners on the course:
At the finish, Lewis and Halley crossed the line in 33rd and 34th place and in the leading group. The teams GC positions after the final stage were: Halley 23rd, Lewis 30th, Matty 37th and Luke 46th. Full results can be seen here.
Lewis with dust on his face, just after finishing the race: