After the demanding races at Lancaster and the Mendips the previous two Sundays, on the weekend of 22nd & 23rd June the contestants were in for a double-dose of sweat and toil at round five of the National Road Series, the renowned Tour of the Reservoir located on the border of County Durham and Northumberland.
The two stages were based on a figure of eight course linked at Edmundbyers with the northern loop on a moderately hilly 20km circuit around the Derwent Reservoir and the southern 24km Blanchland loop which climbs up onto the typically windswept moors of the North Pennines.
The Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes team up for this challenge were: Matt Bostock, Callum Macleod, Dan Pearson, Louis Rose-Davies, Max Stedman, Charlie Tanfield and Ollie Wood.
The shorter 127km stage one consisted of two reservoir loops, two Blanchand loops and a further two reservoir loops with a short finishing power-climb to the reservoir dam wall.
A ten-rider group including Macleod formed an early breakaway and as all the major teams were represented, it went away rapidly and largely unchallenged on the opening reservoir loops.
By the time the group had reached the cross-winds on the deceivingly named Meadows Edge at the top of the moors after 50km, it had established a gap of almost seven minutes!
At this point the alarm bells went off in the peloton and the Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes team led the charge to reduce this deficit and in doing so formed a second split of 16 riders which included Bostock, Pearson, Stedman and Wood. A lap later at the top of the moors the time gap had been reduced down to two minutes and back on the Reservoir circuit these two groups came together leaving 26 riders to contest the final couple of hundred metres blast up to the dam wall.
Wood unleashed immense reserves of power to take the win from Jacob Scott (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling) with Tom Moses (Madison Genesis) in third place. Stedman and Pearson finished in the same time as the leader in 10th and 11th places with Bostock in 13th place just five seconds down.
Full respect goes to young Macleod who had been in the break of the day and finished in 24th place only 18 seconds adrift.
So Wood would take the leader’s yellow jersey into stage two with the team in a strong position on General Classification (GC) standings.
Stage two was a daunting 176km with over 3000 metres of climbing consisting of a descent out of the old mining town of Consett to a climb up to the increasingly windswept Meadows Edge on the moors, then two loops of the reservoir, three loops of Blanchand, another two loops of the reservoir, back up over the moors and finishing with a town-centre uphill sprint in Front Street, Consett.
An awesome battle for GC honours was highly anticipated!
As soon as the peloton reached the initial climb up to the moors, the attacks commenced resulting in multiple echelons having to reform on the descent into Edmundbyers.
A small group of four riders went away on the reservoir loops but the lead never really rose much above one minute.
After the announcement of the demise of their team at the close of the 2019 season, Madison Genesis might have been expected to be a little subdued, but they were far from despondent and it was they who touched the blue paper which exploded the race.
As the peloton climbed up onto the moors on the first Blanchard loop, the whole Madison Genesis team got onto the front and drove hard into the headwinds which then decimated the field into echelons as it turned leftwards into cross-winds on Meadows Edge.
The peloton broke into three distinct groups and a bunch of stragglers with Pearson and Stedman in the first group of 17 riders which also included six riders from Madison Genesis.
By the half-way mark the leading groups had coalesced into a larger group of about 40 riders with Bostock, Macleod, Tanfield and Wood balancing the team representation for Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes.
There were smaller skirmishes off the front of this group while the total size was slowly whittled away as the kilometres ticked over.
The front of this group exploded again on the final climb back over the moors to Consett under pressure from eventual stage two and GC winner James Shaw (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling), Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis, 2nd on stage and GC) and Mark Christian (Team Wiggins Le Col, 5th on stage and 3rd on GC) in particular.
Over the top of this climb these leaders were in the first group of five riders, with Pearson and Stedman in a second group of five about 30 seconds down. Through intense effort from the Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes riders, these two groups came together for a final tussle into Consett.
Stedman took 6th place in the finishing sprint with Pearson 28 seconds adrift 10th and Bostock at one minute 48 seconds in 13th place.
These three team points scoring riders took 4th, 7th and 11th on GC respectively.
Comments from team riders immediately after the finish included…
“In the gutter a lot of the day, it was pretty horrid. It went hard up that last climb.
Me and Dan were in a group behind and we had to work hard to bridge the gap. At the end I had nothing left”
“Too much cross-winds”
“It’s a shame gravity exists, that’s all I can say”
At the half way point in the National Road Series individual standings, Stedman, Rory Townsend and Pearson hold 5th, 8th and 9th places respectively.
In the team standings Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes have a 38 point lead over Madison Genesis with SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling moving up into 3rd place a further 61 points in arrears.
Written by Paul and Marina Stedman.
Photo credits: Images 1,2, 4-9 – Paul Stedman
Image 3 – British Cycling