Andy Morrison takes second place in Phoenix GP 2012

(Photo Courtesy of Marian Lamb Cycling Ulster)

Open season has well and truly begun,   Colin McElderry, Mark Scott and myself lined up at the Phoenix GP yesterday for the first true test of our winter training.

Mark as a first year junior has started the year with an A3 licence, Colin and I both first years but not juniors have entered in the A4 category.  I can't say too much about Marks race but from all reports fireworks were the order of the day with a high pace being set on the first lap and once the pace settled small breaks continuously tried to get one over on the bunch before being reeled in and a bunch gallop to be won by a North Down rider Matty Blaney on the line.

With this being our first season of open racing we were taking on board advice from the many more experienced members of the club on tactics and how to approach the race.  Both of us have a little experience of club racing from last season but this proved to be a very different affair.

The A4 category had filled up a week in advance so on the day 80 riders waited on the line to start the 4 lap, 35mile race around the Nutts Corner circuit.  The first time round everything was fairly calm, a few moments of speed as the bunch pushed out of the corners, especially from the Belfast Road onto Seven mile straight and this proved to be the standard approach as riders battled for position. 

With a full field of 80 riders moving through the narrow back roads, passing the group into oncoming traffic seemed to be the norm to try and stay in the front half of the bunch.  At times the group was cagey enough with the speed going up and down especially on the back straight of the triangle as we headed towards the Nutts Corner Roundabout, brakes were being pulled regularly and it never really looked like anyone was going to get away from the group.

Toward the end of the second lap as we turned up the Belfast Road for the long drag back to the start line I had moved to the outside of the group and along with 4 others tried to push things, we made 15 or 20m before we were reeled back in and the bunch strung out behind us.  Again as we turned onto the Seven mile straight the group strung out a little but the gap was never big enough to cause any great concern and soon riders were pulled back into the group.

As the bell went for the final lap and riders started to battle for position the bunch still stayed together and it was only 20seconds after talking tactics with Colin on the Long Rig Road that the race came to an end for 20-30 riders.  I understand it was a touch of wheels as the group yo yo’d that brought down the first riders about ½ way through the bunch, and the wave of collisions was quickly sent back.  Colin was unfortunate being caught with nowhere to go and coming off the bike but as we’ve all come to expect he jumped straight back on and gave chase but having been held up so long he had a lot of work.  I was fortunate moving up the left hand side of the road when the first riders came down and seeing the wave coming my way squeezed past on the verge before chasing back onto the group.

The bunch was now down to around 40 riders and as we took to the drag for the last time nobody wanted to take on the work at the front.  The further we moved up the road the twitchier things appeared to become with people wanting to hold there position but not wanting to be too near the front.  In the last 2kms I upped the pace myself, but knowing it would not be easy from that distance I found myself a good position 3 or 4 wheels back after the group came round.  In the last 500m as the forest approached the waiting game began and if you’ve ever ridden with me on the Moira Road I’m not usually very good at the waiting game…I went first and thought I’d opened up a gap however as the line drew closer and closer my legs began to tie up and all credit to Peter Kennedy from East Antrim CC he took the win for his second of the weekend and making him the first rider to be upgraded this season.  I held on for what is a tighter second place in the photo than it was in my head but all in all a good race and experience gained for the next one.

Speaking to Colin afterwards he wasn’t too badly injured and not put off at all as the brothers McElderry, as of this morning, are now signed up for the John Moore Memorial race in Carryduff next weekend.  Watch this space for hopefully more Maryland results.

Andy Morrison 27-2-12

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