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Yorkshire win Inter-Regional Road Champs
The best youth riders from across the country made the journey by plane, train and minibus to the beautiful countryside of Perthshire in Scotland for the British Cycling Inter-Regional Road Race Championships.
The twelve British Cycling regions ran selection processes which resulted in each team comprising of four Youth A or B boys and four girls. Three days of hard racing lay ahead and with the emphasis on team results. This format certainly gave the riders something different to think about compared to the youth races which have been held up and down the country throughout the year.
The profile maps which had been supplied for all the courses beforehand were a little deceptive and it's fair to say that most of the teams arriving at the course on Friday were surprised to find a very tough, mostly uphill course running along Loche Faskally. This was not a course for low profile positions and areo helmets, you needed good climbing legs!
First up it was the girls, teams were seeded and last year's winning girls team, Wales, started first and set a fast opening marker finishing in 16.36. Second up were the Yorkshire Team (Melissa Lowther, Lauren O'Brien, Abby Mae Parkinson and Amira Mellor), they stormed up the course and by the finish had taken 22 seconds out of the Welsh team.
As the other teams tackled the course none of them could overall the Yorkshire or Welsh times, it was the young North West team who got closest finishing third in a time of 16.54.
Into the afternoon and it was time for the boys. Pre-race talk was tipping equally strong teams from Yorkshire and the North West to compete for the opening win. The North West started first and as Luc Hall, Chris Lawless, Jake Ragan and Jack saddler shot up the steepest part of the course it was clear they were going to post a fast time, they crossed the line in 13.17.
They were followed by the Yorkshire team, Ollie Wood, Jake Womersley, Jake Scott and Leon Gledhill and at the mid way point they were up by a few seconds! They stretched their lead by the end posting a time of 13.08. As with the girls the seeding had been good and none of the other teams could overturn the times from Yorkshire and the North West, the team from South coming in third in 13.25.
With the time trials over it was onto two days of road racing. First up on Saturday were the girls who started their race in sunny still conditions. 40km of fast racing lay ahead on the closed road circuit at Coupar Angus which although fairly rolling contained a few sharp turns to test the young riders.
As the six laps passed by a few attacks were made but none were sticking. With one and a half laps to go a small group containing Kiera McVitty and Emily Nelson moved clear. Riding strongly for several kilometres before being joined later by Abby Mae Parkinson, Grace Garner and Emily Kay. For a while it looked like they may stay away but with 2km to go the main group pressed on to bring back the break and give us a fast and crowded bunch sprint finish.
Emily Kay was first across the line but it was team positions that counted and when all the places had been worked out it was a reverse of the first day with West Midlands in first position and Yorkshire second, with Wales coming through in third place.
Into the afternoon, it was time for the boys and the still sunny conditions which the girls had enjoyed had now changed to heavy rain and strengthening winds. Tough weather conditions, rolling country roads, was this Scotland or Belgium?
The race got under way and straight away 2010 National Champion Germain Burton slid out on one of the corners, he managed to get back on the bike but had to work hard to try and get back onto the group. Into lap two and Germain was down again, possibly trying too hard to make it back onto the group. Into lap three and a big crash, half a dozen riders were down and the riders were split into three groups spread around the course.
Yorkshire's Jake Womersley, Leon Gledhill and one or two other riders required medical attention. As the riders came around again the commissaires neutralised the race. By now conditions were pretty poor with deep puddles of standing water on sections of the road making the circuit dangerous. Reluctantly the race was abandoned, there was disappointment from some of the teams but the right decision had been made. The Championship would be decided on the last day.
Sunday arrived and another great closed road circuit in rural St Davids, awaited the teams. As on the Saturday it would be the girls to race first. Despite tired legs the pace seemed even faster today. A few attacks were made but the fast course made it hard to keep away and by the end of another 40 km it was down to a bunch sprint finish again and yet again it was Emily Kay coming over the line first. In terms of teams it was East Midlands getting most of their riders in the top placings to take the day's team.
With the boys' race cut short on the Saturday, the race organisers decided to extend their final road race to 70km. As they lined up there was feeling of groundhog day as the sunny weather disappeared and it began to rain, fortunately this was no more than showers and so there was no danger of this race being abandoned.
Team tactics were certainly at play today, a small group of four riders got away but the rest of the teams didn't seem too concerned. The three worked hard and managed to stay away with Kristian Woolf sprinting to take the win. Another small group had tried to bridge the gap and it was good to see Gernmain Burton had recovered from his falls on the previous day to sprint through in fourth place. Not far behind the bunch sprinted in with Yorkshires Ollie Wood leading them home.
Three days of great racing and it was time to work out the team results. Having started so well on the team time trails Yorkshire had kept their lead all through the weekends racing and were crowned 2011 Inter Regional Road race Champions. In second place were the team from the West Midlands followed by Wales.
Despite the weather this was a great event and huge thanks should go to Mark Mckay and his team for staging a superb weekends racing. Great credit should also go to the riders and to all the team managers and helpers who prepared their teams so well.
Next up the UK School Games with teams competing in Mountain Bike races followed by the Inter-Regional track races in September.