The only race on the amateur calendar that fills me with dread, the precognition of pain and stomach butterflies which seem to fly my heart into my mouth and leave me gasping for air at the mere thought of competing the Banbury Star Road Race. No other race does this to me, then again no other race goes up Edge Hill three times!
We had 4 riders from the Shutt Velo Rapide racing team in the field of 80. Myself, Jos Busby, Phil O'Connor and Billy Leason.
I knew this race is always won from a breakaway and I wanted to take every opportunity to get in that break, so we all stayed pretty tight near the front.
The race started with everyone at the front looking at each other to pull the peloton along. You could tell everyone was thinking about the hill; the smell of fear clung to the peloton.
A couple of attacks went, they didn't stick: just picked up the pace. Amid the acceleration I made space for Jos to pull in front of my wheel. The race arrived at the turn onto the flat road before the hill intact, but not for long...
The hero that he is, Jos sat on the front and delivered me to the bottom of the climb in pole position. Time grit my teeth and tackle this monster!
I was 4th over the brow, a quick look behind told me that there were about 20 of us. I sat on the front after the hill as I knew the 20 of us could leave the rest of the race behind if we started to work together... Which 3 of is did! Lazy buggers! Now, being that this race is my home turf, I know every nook and cranny of these roads, where every pebble of gravel sits and because of this I know exactly how far I can push my tyres in each corner. I used this to my advantage coming onto the back straight of the first lap (by Upton House) and I was joined by the incredibly strong and eventual winner number 2 from the Oxford uni team. 2 minutes later Graham Knight of Equipe Velo joined us and a minute after that another rider joined our group and we were away!
Towards the end of lap 1 I gave my end-game tactic a trial run which was to take the descent into Horley at mach 3 to create a gap for the last 500m. I so nearly lost the front end of the bike down that hill but it looked like it would definitely work. We regrouped going up the hill finish and were told we had 40 seconds on the peloton. Happy days lads, let's keep this up and push on, and before we knew it we were over a minute up on everyone else.
That wretched hill hoved into sight again and the gradient started bite into our legs. A quick word and a gentlemen's pact saw none of us attacking for the KOM points, number 2 took it since he was the one pacing us up the climb.
There's a tradition in Le Tour de France of a man who dresses up as the devil every year and chases the riders up the cols. This year Kieran Munday did the same for this race... And it was amazing!
The awesome thing about racing in your local race is you hear everyone shouting encouragement at you. In massive agony but happy as Larry!
Last lap and we're still holding the race at bay. The hill loomed into view for the last time, not biting our legs this time but mauling chunks! Why oh why did I put a 23t on as my lowest gear?!
I saw number 2 machine away from us, I couldn't step up to his challenge and off he went. The other two started to look more and more tired. We still had a minute lead though right?
On the back straight and the official's cars overtook us. "there are 4 chasing you" the commissaire told us as he went past. I picked up the pace and really started to tank it while the other two sat on. To my horror, just before the descent where I was planning on attacking, a pickup truck overtakes us, slowing us down as it found a place on the narrow descent to pull into. It took up half the road and completely wrecked my racing line. I still managed to pull a gap but it was nowhere near enough. I was caught coming up the finishing hill and had nothing left to sprint with coming 8th