Four men – counting the one behind the camera – their mission, to eat as many sandwiches, scotch eggs and sausage rolls as possible in one afternoon, whilst soaking up the sun, roadside at the British Elite Road Race Championships 2018 in Northumberland.
We didn’t linger too long at the start, not wanting to get trapped by the closed roads.
Ian Bibby (JLT Condor) seemed like a good bet for today after his strong performances at the Tour of the Reservoir – but alas, it was not to be.
Finding the parcours among the rabbit warren of wee Northumberland lanes took a bit of Googling and head scratching.
Sky on-point the first time we caught the race, the ‘dog leg’ en route the circuit; was it going to be their usual lap one Blitzkrieg, leaving everyone in the ‘red’ before going on to dominate things?
Aero guru and multiple British champion on the track and TT’s, Dan Bigham (Ribble) was well there and would end the day as king of the mountains.
Big engine Harry Tanfield (Canyon) was having a nitemare though, an early mechanical saw him chasing hard before they’d even made the circuit.
We set up camp over the top of the big climb of the day and the break was already established on lap one with big hitters Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue) and Ben Swift (UAE) there but Madison Genesis were the men with the motivation and driving hard.
Early days; but there were some big names trapped back in the bunch – Ian Stannard (Sky) and Mark McNally to name but two; McNally’s Wanty strip adding a bit of Flemish colour to the north east of England.
JLT Condor’s Alistair Slater was back in the cars but would get back up after a tough chase.
Meanwhile, Harry called ‘time !’ a man can only do so much.
Lap two and it was still the Madison Genesis boys on the front, those Pro Conti and World Tour names not frightening them.
Sole Sky man in the break, Owain Doull was taking on some nutrition and considering his options.
‘Behent’, as we say in Fife, Sky were working hard to try to get the break back, Doull being there or not.
Richardson Trek’s George Woods, who’s featured in the pages of VeloVeritas in the past but is more of a man for the small circuits wasn’t enjoying his day out in Northumberland.
Lap three and Doull had decided – or been ordered – to work; the pressure was well on and the break was strung out with some hurt faces being pulled.
In No Man’s Land were Messrs. Slater and Stannard – but this wasn’t the Ian Stannard we watched bludgeon the peloton to death when he won the title back in 2012.
‘Le peloton battu’ the French call it, the ‘beaten bunch’ with the fire extinguished.
But still with clusters of riders chasing hard to try and make something of their day.
More Flemish colour from David Bolland from Anglo-Belgo squad Kingsnorth Wheelers – you’re missing kermises with good prize lists being here, dude.
The big gruppetto was well strung out with Cav ‘Meerkating’ (copyright Carlton Kirby) to see what was going on up ahead.
He didn’t look like a man enjoying the race or on form – we reckon Eddy Merckx’s 34 stage win record is safe for another year.
Last lap and Doull and Blythe are at the back of the break – they both want that lovely jersey; it always helps with contract negotiations…
Stannard meantime ploughs on behind, with Dave giving him some encouragement.
No one in the gruppetto looks happy, especially not Cav.
Madison meanwhile, chill at the back, all they can do is wait to see how their boys have done up front.
Scottish Road Race Champion, Mark Robertson (Army) is still in there; it was a day of big DNS (30+) and DNF with the tough parcours, pace and heat.
We heard on the radio that; ‘Swift is clear’ and assumed it was Ben – nope, it was his cousin, Connor (Madison Genesis), a big strong lad and looking good when we saw him off the last lap and headed for the finish, down the ‘dog leg.’
Doull was in hot pursuit, Sir David like to keep the jersey in the team, just to remind everyone who’s ‘The Daddies.’
But Adam was right behind and about to launch on a solo chase after Swift.
The ‘other Swift’ was leading a hard chase but the gaps were too big and to us it looked like ‘Cuz’ would hang on for the win.
One of the local lads had the race on his iPhone and the result was confirmed: 1) Connor Swift for Madison Genesis; 2) Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue); 3) Owain Doull (Sky).
Good company, great weather, great sandwiches (thank you, Madam Hardie) and a surprise winner – not a bad old day.
One wee point though: why not put the race on a 12 mile circuit so we could see it nine or 10 times?
Thanks for reading.