Colclough’s European Silver Medal
3rd July, 2009; European Road Championships 2009; By Larry Hickmott in Hooglede (Belgium)
Women's Under 23 Road Race Championship
First year senior, Katie Colclough, on the podium (left) with a Silver medal after a sensational ride in the Under 23 Women's RR Championship. Winner (centre) was Chantel Blaak and bronze medal went to Marrianne Vos.
Road medals at international championships are never an easy thing to achieve for any country and Great Britain’s record over the past few years has been getting better and after a Silver to Luke Rowe in last years European Junior Men’s title race, this year, GB has a Gold and a Silver now thanks to Joe Perrett (TT) and Katie Colclough (RR).
The Under 23 Women’s European Road Race Championship followed the Junior Men’s Championship and Great Britain had a strong team with many riders who are based in Belgium racing in their country’s colours. Like all the road races in this championship, the Women’s title race started in Ostend in what felt like the hottest part of the day and like the Junior men, the race was a long one – 135 kilometres.
Whilst the race was dominated by the Dutch who had riders attacking and controlling the race throughout, the championship was eventful for the GB riders. A rider who has only three months experience in road racing after swapping from the Sprint programme, Anna Blyth, did herself proud by getting to the finishing circuit and whilst yo-yoing on and off the leading pack, she also found time to help Katie Colcough who snapped a seat bolt and had to have a bike change where upon Anna helped pace her back.
Katie makes her move with over a lap to go -- brave but fruitful for the youngster.
Lucy Martin also had her problems and after a good season in Belgium, the Academy rider was not 100 per cent and had to abandon on the second finishing circuit after getting dropped. The other riders battled on though and as the pace started to build in the lead group, splits started to happen and first Hannah Mayho who has been finishing her school work in June and lacking race fitness was dropped and then Alex Greenfield too found herself adrift of the leaders in a small group that was distanced by the leaders.
GB though had two riders in that lead group – Annie Last and Katie Colclough. Both are very talented bike riders and were holding their own and more with their international rivals. Whilst the Dutch had a rider away, the leading peloton was more or less under control by the Dutch but that didn’t stop the other nations like the Italians attacking and trying to get away. Nothing was being let go however and then with a lap and half to go of the 12 kilometre circuit, Katie Colclough made her move and the gap opened up.
A strong time trialist, Katie put her head down and came through the bell lap with only a handful of seconds and it was a great unknown as to whether she would be able to hold off a charging peloton but the East Midlands rider certainly did that and more when she came across the line, completely spent after the ride of her life but with a silver medal to her name. It was a result born out of a very hard work ethic and her coach Simon Cope was not surprised at all by her effort saying it was proof that the Women’s Under 23 Academy in Belgium was bearing fruit and helping to bring the women in the academy up a level or two internationally..
Behind Colclough came a certain Miss Vos, Marrianne, former World Champion in cyclo-cross, on the track and on the road to claim the bronze medal and then there was a bug bunch kick won by a Lithuanian rider. After the line, just past the huge cluster of Dutch celebrating their win, was Katie being rightly congratulated on her ride. I went to speak to her and asked the Silver medallist about what she admits is her best result ever.
“I’m really pleased with that result. I didn’t expect that at all. All of a sudden I thought I’ll just go and I got a gap. The Russians and Italians were trying to go but the Dutch were covering everything and I don’t know why they let me go.”
“I attacked on the downhill before the feed after the cobbles and I just went for it and I was able to get through the corners quickly.” When Katie came round the top corner of the finish straight, the bunch was not in sight so the speed she opened up that gap was remarkable. Katie added “my sprint is not the best so I need try things like that.”
Her race was not without incident and during the early laps on the finish circuit, her seat bolt broke and she had to endure riding a bike that felt like a BMX one with the seat now on the top tube and far too low. Help though was at hand. “I had a really quick bike change with Simon (Cope) and didn’t really lose any time. Then Anna dropped off the peloton for me and helped me get back on.”
Talking about the pace of the race, Katie explained “After Chantel Black went, everyone just watched and the Dutch blocked. After that it was pretty steady. Katie was also pleased with how the programme of racing she has had under Simon Cope has helped her. “I would never have done this well if I had not been here for the last few months. At the beginning of the season I really struggled with positioning in a group a lot but now I feel a lot better in the bunch.”
Annie Last: Another rider who did a super ride was Matlocks Annie Last. “I did a couple of road races at the start of the season but since then have been doing a lot more mountain biking. The race today went really well. I got caught up in a bit of a crash at one point but I managed to get back on. Then, on the last lap, Katie got away and I did my best to control the chase as best I could before I blew coming into the finish.”
“The aim today was to stay at the front and see how it went and if it came down to a sprint, then I’d have a go but as it turned out Katie got off the front and got the result.” Annie now has the Mountain Bike Euros next week and with her form in the European Under 23 Women’s Road Race being so excellent, expect some big things from her next week!”
Anna Blyth (4th road race): For a rider to come to a major road race championship with only three months experience is quite something and Anna did more than enough to repay the faith the selectors had shown in her by bringing her along for the experience. Big things are expected of the Leeds young lady once she has had a good base of road work behind her and in the Championship race, Anna showed a lot of grit and courage.
Asked about her race, Anna told me “The first 40 k were hard because I was conscious I had a job to do and knew I had to be up the front and I was always fighting to stay up there. As soon as you relax, you lose places and I was either sat on the front or coming up from the back of the peloton. By the time we hit the climb which we went up really fast, I was really struggling to recover. So for a few laps, I was slipping off the back and catching up just as we got to the climb and in the end it was one climb too many.”
On her helping Katie Colclough out, Anna explained “I spotted Katie was having a bike change so I helped drag her back up to the bunch and all in all, I’m happy with the ride because I think I did something in the race worthwhile as against normally just trying to get through it.”
“I always imagined it would be hard swapping from the sprint to the endurance programme. Instead of doing 500 metres I’m now doing 135 k and every race things in a race get easier even if the race itself isn’t easy. Like positioning, grabbing bottles and so on. I have probably raced more in the past few months than I have in years of sprinting. I have been away from home a lot too which has been strange but I’ve been with the girls which has been great but at the same time, it has been a lot to take in.”
“I have really enjoyed myself though and the team all have a good laugh when we’re together.”
Luc de Wilde hands a bottle to Hannah Mayho in the very hot race.
Bunch sprint for fourth place.
Katie has to race all the way to the line as she is chased down by Marrianne Vos
A delighted Chantel Blaak wins the European title.
The riders take it steady over the cobbles and afterwards Katie explained as no-one drilled it on them, they were not a problem for the riders.
1. Chantel Black, Holland
2. Katie Colclough, Gbr
3. Marianne Vos, Gbr
Junior Men's Road Race Championship
Yet again the weather saw the sun burning down on Belgium for the European Road Championships and if the temperatures were hot, the racing was scorching as the Juniors got stuck in as soon as the race left Ostend where it started. Ahead of the riders was 40 kilometres of fast roads until they hit the finishing circuit where they had eight laps of the twisting course around the town of Hooglede.
When they came through the pit area for the first time, the peloton was largely intact but just one lap later and the peloton was splitting and in the thick of the action was Joe Perrett who admitted later he'd done too much and was feeling it three laps from home.
Lap by lap, the race sped over the cobbles and past the pits and it was looking good for the British riders with all but one in the peloton. Attacks continued to be fired off and the French were especially active getting three in one small break at one stage but with a lap to go it was altogether with a large group of 60 or more riders fighting for the front. With the circuit around Hooglede having so many narrow lanes, moving up a peloton already going flat out was going to be difficult.
Sandy King at the front of the leading group with a lap to go.
As they got two laps to go, George Atkins, in his British champion's jersey, was spotted right near the front but the number of British riders in the lead group had now diminished to four with the others including Joe Perrett, Sandy King and Sam Harrison plus Peter Dibben just a few seconds adrift.
The pace had certainly taken its toll and the only question remaining was whether the Brits would have the legs to be at the front for the crazy finish which followed three right hand 90 degree turns before the sprint uphill.
With a lap to go and Sandy King was third in line in the leading group while Joe Perrett, Sam Harrison and George Atkins were also still in the large leading group and in contention for the medals.
That alone was a great result considering just how tough the race had been but after Luke Rowe's silver medal last year, could GB go one better? As the heaving bunch came round the corner in Hooglede, the question was answered as the Italians took control and it was a victory for them with the British riders out of the running for a top placing.
Talking to George Atkins shortly after he crossed the line, he explained "I've been on the limit since about three to go and I was cramping with about two to go. I managed to get a lot of drink in me and then sit in and suffer. The last lap was real quick, and there were a few big crashes on the last lap and I managed to avoid them but couldn't get close to the front. It was a pretty crazy finish with all the corners and a lot of riders still in the mix and riders doing kamikaze moves. Who ever won has got a lot of balls."
"This race was completely different to the nationals. Here it is flat out from the gun and it is a battle just being in the bunch really, moving up and holding position, getting on the right wheels. If you're not in the top few, you are using a lot of energy closing gaps and that."
Sam Harrison (1st year junior): That was an awesome experience. The first 40k to the finishing circuit was absolute carnage and I probably got carried away but you have to be at the front. There were a lot of in-experienced riders flicking people and riders going in ditches but I made it to the finishing circuit.
I got held up by a crash with 7 laps to go and George and I had to make a big effort to get back to the front. I was feeling good in the bunch, quite strong, but last time up that cobbled climb with 3k to go, the legs just fully cramped up and I had to almost stop, stretch it out and carry on.
"The race was flat out constantly and you probably get a tiny bit of rest on the down hills and you're having to dig deep so much in the race. It was a really good expereince. I am really pleased Darren picked me and I'd like to thank him for that because this will probably pay off next year if selected because I'll know how the race is going to pan out like where you need to be in the bunch, when you need to be resting, when you need to be at the front and so on. It’s about learning so this was an awesome expereince.
Two laps to go...
Seven laps to go
A split at the front with five to go
Joe Perrett enjoying himself smashing it on the cobbles with six to go
Peter Dibben takes a bottle from carer Hanlie Perry
Race starts in Ostend.
Great Britain team at the start after signing on -- Sam Harrison, Sandy King, Tim Kennaugh, Peter Dibben, George Atkins, Joe Perrett and Jon Mould.
Result – 135 km,
1. Luca Wakerman, Italy, 3.10.30
2. Markus Barry, Holland
3. Arnaud Demare, France
31. George Atkins, Gbr, @st
34. Alexander King, Gbr @st
49. Joe Perret, Gbr @st
55. Sam Harrison, Gbr @40 seconds