Round 6 of the HSBC National Youth Circuit Series saw a huge field of the UK’s most talented under 16-year-old racers competing in the ever popular three-day stage race, the N-Fuse North West Youth Tour.
Day 1 saw the traditional prologue time trial take place on the promenade of Morecambe Bay but this year, an extended length to 3.8k gave the riders an opportunity to put more valuable seconds into their GC rivals than the previous year’s shorter version ahead of the two road stages to follow.
An out and back course simply running the length of the promenade to a dead turn and back again, this year’s prologue also introduced a slightly more technical element in the shape of a double bend chicane.
But the real challenge was more a physical and psychological one as riders tried to find the optimal pacing strategy into a stiff headwind to the far end of the circuit over a distance too short to settle into any kind of sustainable rhythm for any length of time, but also too long for an 100% effort.
Youth A girls
With National Champion and winner of three of the previous five rounds and the dominant rider of the series so far Zoe Backstedt (Storey Racing) not in action, there was a chance for the rest of the field to close the gap on series leader Grace Lister (Wolverhampton Wheelers).
Despite not having won a round of the series so far, Lister has been the class act of the field and by virtue of sheer consistency, went into the weekend with a 35-point lead ahead of her nearest rival.
Lister put up a decent fight finishing in the top five at nine seconds down on RFDA’s Maddy Leech who put in a storming ride to win by six seconds from Halesowen A & CC’s Kinda Ingram, a fitting result as both girls have displayed lots of attacking intent over the course of the series.
Last season’s prologue winner Eva Young (Pedal Power RT) finished in fourth narrowly beaten by her Scottish compatriot Imani Pereira James (East Kilbride RC) who rounded out the podium in third.
Youth A Boys
Unlike the girl’s race, there were five riders at the head of the standings going into round six in the under-16 boys race, all of whom were looking to launch their weekend with a fast prologue.
Max Poole’s (Bike Box Allan) the series leader by seven points, laid down the gauntlet for the weekend by winning the prologue with a run of 05:06, giving him a three second advantage over winner of the opening two rounds Finlay Pickering (Vive Le Velo)
Josh Charlton (MTSCycle Sport) finished a further two seconds back, rounding out the podium in third as the riders go into day two.
Youth B Girls
In the U14 girls, Izzy Sharp (Estrella Bikes) has been a revelation in winning three of the previous five rounds and carried a 28-point series lead going into round six.
A TT specialist, the slightly longer prologue of stage one was well suited to her strengths and she didn’t disappoint, putting on a blistering run that gave her a winning margin of 12 seconds over the series’ other main contenders Carys Lloyd (VCL), Awen Roberts (Towy Riders) and Ella Jamieson (Clifton CC).
“It was so hot, especially as I was wearing a black skin suit” said Sharp after her ride.
“It was a really tough head wind on the way out which meant I was spinning the gear out on the way back but I’m happy with the time and the result, it’s nice to know where you stand over all in relation to the others.”
Youth B Boys
The final Youth B boys race threw up a real surprise as Irish rider Quillan Donnelly took the win by a hair’s breadth from Ben Wiggins (Team SB Hub).
Cycling Ireland had a massive presence at the event so Quillan proved a popular winner.
The pair needed strong rides to finish just one second ahead of West Wales’ Finley Tarling with runaway series leader Jed Smithson (Worx Factory Racing) relegated to fifth place, just six seconds behind.
Day 2 sees the action move to the queen stage of the tour as the riders negotiate multiple climbs of the challenging Quernmore Road circuit in the hills above Lancaster.