We were on the scene early – in time to catch the end of the ladies’ championship.
‘That was savage, Ed!’
Was Vik’s summary of the that particular race; there were four away, Emma Pooley, Sharon Laws, Lizzie Armitstead (Cervelo) and Nicole Cooke (MCipollini), then – much later, the bunch at pedestrian speed.
But what’s slower than pedestrian?
The next big group was moving at Cyclists Touring Club speed – ‘savage’ is probably the best word.
Through the finish, the chase groups were down on the drops, but out on the circuit it’s back on the tops, catch a few rays, have a chat.
Chequered flag time and it’s Lizzie who zips into view first with a desperate looking Nicole a few seconds back then Sharon and Emma giving three Garmin-Cervelos in the first four.
We did the rounds before the start; Evan Oliphant (Endura) looking lean; Dan Fleeman (Raleigh) fully recovered from 8th in Beauce; Dan Patten (Flanders) still smiling about his win in Flanders, last week; Andy Fenn (AN Post) making last minute adjustments to that Dolan; Alex Coutts (Giant) hasn’t done much lately due to opening his bike shop – he’ll have fun, today.
Kristian House rides past – he’s serious.
We decided to miss the start and get on the Ryals climb; our take was that Sky would explode it early and we wanted to be there.
Not easy – maybe it was a marshall giving us a bum steer but we ended up lost.
If there were race arrows, we didn’t see then.
Let’s moan first – the big circuit was too big at an hour round; it should be half of that and do you really need a ‘death climb’ so early?
Sky were always going to try to eliminate most of the field there.
And it shouldn’t be out in the wilds – what’s wrong with passing shops, bars and toilets ?
OK, now that’s out of the way.
Lap one, top of the Ryals climb and the race could well be over; around a dozen are away, with three Sky’s – Froome, Dowsett and Thomas plus ‘our Dan’ Fleeman, Kristian House (Rapha), Steve Lampiere (Sigma) . .
Just behind, Wiggins, Stannard and Kennaugh for Sky – looking like they’ll make it up.
With team mates Swift not far behind and Downing not far away either.
And those who won’t figure today; in no particular order – Jez (Sky), Cav (HTC), Roger Hammond and Dan Lloyd (Cervelo), Rob Hayles (Endura), Dan Patten, Malcolm Elliott (Motorpoint), Adam Blythe (Lotto) . . .
Picnic time – with especial thanks to Janine.
Lap two; yup, it’s all over.
There are six Sky in the break of 13: Wiggins, Froome, Kennaugh, Thomas, Stannard, Dowsett plus Fleeman (Raleigh), Bibby (Motorpoint), House (Rapha), Lampiere (Sigma), Partridge and Wilkinson (Endura) . . .
Behind it’s gelled back into a bunch; Cav leads but it’s all over – around five minutes we make the gap.
Big finisher Johny McEvoy (Motorpoint) limps up, well off the back, it looks like he’s been on the deck.
Then it’s time to settle down to wait for another hour; in Belgium the circuits are designed so as one circuit is one beer – at Hooglede this year the circuit is 13.5 kilometres.
Lap three; Wiggins nails it over the top, it’s splitting, Dan’s trying to respond – but they’re gone.
The race was over on lap one, never mind lap three and the gap yawns at six minutes.
The bunch is splitting, but it’s academic.
He’s behind the GB car.
Time for the small circuit and Wiggins, Thomas and Kennaugh have forced themselves clear and are in three up mode, smooth, boring through the head wind.
The next team in the three up ttt is House, Bibby and Stannard.
The six strong Fleeman group is going through the motions a minute or two back – complete with non paying passengers Froome and Dowsett
Dan gives us a nod – there’s not much else he could have done, today.
Two brave men have detached themselves from a lined out bunch – Rob Sharman (Orbea 23C) and Simon Richardson (Sigma).
The wind blows, the flies buzz and we settle down on the wall to wait.
Lap two on the wee circuit and the gap is 2:23 between the two three ups – Wiggins to win?
The lead three are smooth, fast, tidy – the gap to the next three has come down a wee bit; Kristian House leads.
Dan and his five chums are still there – but the bunch has split and a group with the 100% ME guys – and Evan Oliphant has made up time on them.
The bunch is enjoying the Northumberland air; Cav chats to Mark McNally whilst Rodge Hammond continues to cruise on that 53 x 11.
Lap three on the wee circuit and it’s status quo up front; but Brad is looking a little sore now – Kennaugh is so skinny but so strong.
Bibby leads the second group, Stannard looks like he’s on the club run, House is already working out how to get fourth place.
Dan Fleeman’s group has gone, the chasers have gone right through them – he’s in the next group and chomping hard on an energy bar.
Time for the finish.
It’s ebbed and flowed at the back; at the start, Andy Fenn was saying that it might well all come together on the wee circuit – he’s not far wrong.
Stamfordham, the finish and despite the sunshine, the big crowd and the presence of Eurosport’s David Harmon the atmosphere was muted.
Maybe if there had been music, beer flowing and you could hear the PA more that 100 metres from the line, there would have been more of a ‘buzz.’
As it was, Ian Stannard rode in unheralded; the finish straight was short, uphill and curving, there was no way that Harmon could see the riders and give the speil as they charged in.
Brad charged in solo – now there’s a surprise !
Geraint was too quick for Peter – just like last year.
Ian was fifth and Ian Bibby was too quick in the battle for ‘best home pro.’
Hauled out along with the peloton with one lap to go.
One look at Ben Swift told you that it hadn’t been an easy day and if skinny legs mean anything, pencil Brad on the podium for one month hence.
The sun shone, ‘it was a good day out’ for most folks and Brad will look good in white in the Vendee, next Saturday.
But please Brad, bin the black socks.