Tristan Robbins (BH Solidor) was crowned National Junior Road Race Champion after sprinting clear of his two rivals at the end of the title race based around Ampleforth, near York, on Saturday.
The riders rolled over the start line on the climb to Ampleforth College under leaden skies to begin three laps of the ‘long’ 13.4 mile lap – through Ampleforth village, across Yearsley Moor, through Oulston and Bogg Hall and Yearsley before skirting round the Moor again and heading up through Gilling East and back to the College – followed by two laps of the ‘short’ 12 mile course, which leaves out the Oulston/Bogg Hill loop.
As the riders completed the first lap, a group of three was away with Joey Walker of RST Racing Team, Arron Handley of Bike Box Allan and Max Stedman of Felt Colbornes almost 40 seconds clear of the main bunch, with some of the 102 starters already beginning to feel the pressure.
Over the course of the second lap of the large course – which had been mainly dry – the race came back together – although it started to string out and fracture - and the rain arrived. It would vary in intensity for the rest of the race but would be a constant feature from that point in.
As they climbed past the college for the second time it was James Shaw of HARIBO Beacon on the front with Charlie Tanfield of Adept, Tristan Robbins of BH Solidor and Shaw’s team mate Tom Bayliss in close attendance. They would all figure in the closing stages of the race, but for now they were simply the front of the bunch, driving it on.
It was Tanfield that showed first, breaking away to ride the third lap alone with a gap on the field that, at one point, stretched to over a minute. With just the two ‘short’ laps to go and with the gap never falling below about 45 seconds but, as the penultimate lap drew to an end things started to change. Bayliss went off the bunch in pursuit of the leader and as they passed the bell he was just 17 seconds – with Handley, who had been part of the early break, 30 seconds further back.
As the remainder of the bunch - decimated by crashes and the weather - passed by a few seconds later it was RST Racing’s Manx rider Nathan Draper who looked freshest and, sure enough, as Tanfield’s lead slipped away it was Bayliss and Draper that took his place at the head of the race to be joined in the run-in by Robbins.
The last 200 metres kick up, and when it came to the sprint it was Robbins who had the edge, dropping his two rivals on the approach to the line to finish a second or so ahead of Draper with Bayliss rolling home just behind in third. Tanfield’s reward for his earlier efforts was an exhausted fourth place.
The remaining 20 riders trickled in behind them – just over a fifth of those who set off at 12.30 making it back to the finish.
Speaking after the race, Robbins reflected on the day: “It’s a really nice course and after the first lap it just hammered it down and – as happens when you’ve got surface water – it was just sliding all over the place so it wasn’t actually speed that made the split – it was positioning. But people were falling off everywhere and because nobody knew the rain was going to come it was almost pot luck at that point, but if you weren’t up there, it was over.”
“It was fairly steady at the start – as is always going to be the case when you’ve got that many riders and everyone’s thinking about the end. As it was always going to be on this course, when it kicked off it really made a difference. I couldn’t see what was happening behind, but when you looked back it was in bits.
“James Shaw was really aggressive all day – and I thought he was either going to win or blow his doors off – one or the other – because he was working so well and he was so aggressive about it.”
When did he know he could bridge across to Tanfield and take the initiative? “I didn’t really. I had the feeling – because we came across the finishing line and started to attack there and I knew that Charlie was a minute ahead there and, basically, we were climbing up the hill and I saw Charlie and Tom ahead of me.
“I had to do a double-take – I didn’t really expect him to be there – and so I was thinking that I was riding for third and then suddenly realised there was an opportunity for the win, so I just gave it all to get across.
“I’d thought about this race beforehand and as everyone does, you run through scenarios in your had as to how you’re going to do it – and my ideal scenario was to come in to the finish with three or four guys and so I was almost pinching myself as we turned left and I was going ‘Hang on! It actually worked for once!
“I know that coming in to the finish with three or four guys with a big, wide, uphill sprint is always going to be something that I’m good at – I’m not really a climber; I struggled round today, but that sort of sprint at the end from a break away is what I do.”
1 Tristan Robbins (BH Solidor)
2 Nathan Draper (RST Racing Team)
3 Tom Bayliss (Haribo BEACON)
4 Charlie Tanfield (Adept Precision)
5 Joey Walker (RST Racing Team)
6 Joseph Fry (RST Racing Team)
7 Oliver Maxwell (Windmill Wheels)
8 Stuart Balfour (Spokes RT)
9 James Shaw (Haribo BEACON)
10 Dan Gardner (Speg-Project 51)
11 Stephen Williams (NFTO)
12 Arron Handley (Bike Box Allan)
13 Max Stedman (Pedal Heaven Colbornes)
14 Jez McCann (Catford CC)
15 Lewis Stevens (Strada Sport)
16 Ralf Hodgson (Marton RT)
17 Will Perrett (Heanor Clarion)
18 Scot Auld (PH-Mas)
19 Oliver Payton (PH Mas)
20 Callum McBrearty (Nottingham Clarion)