I’m always excited to head down to Chorley, it’s the closest race to me and therefore marks the unofficial start of (my) season, writes Robyn Davidson.
Even though the weather is always the same – grey skies, rain and some wind – it always produces good cycling to watch.
After writing for Canyon Eisberg last season, I always keep an eye out for them at races, so I was looking forward to see how they would fare in the Spring Cup opener.
A day consisting of punctures and bike changes befell Tim Elverson’s squad at the Chorley Grand Prix but a sixth-place finish awaited Max Stedman, who admits it could be his best national result.
Confessing after the finish the Spring Cup curtain-raiser did not get off to the best of starts, the 22-year-old had nothing but praise for his team-mates.
“The plan was for Rory, Matt and Dex to get in the break. Rory ended up changing bikes in the neutral zone, which none of us really knew about. Matt got in the break of 14 but it ended up having four Madison riders in it.
“The gap was about three minutes and Opie, Andy, Hank, Rory did an unbelievable job. They shut three minutes down in a lap, lap-and-a-half, and then Rory and Hank finished up the job with two-and-a-half laps to go.
“Then it was down to me and Pullar to try to get across to the front of the race. The fourth time up the climb we managed to bridge across with a few others but then it was five ONE Pro riders, three Madison Genesis, one Holdsworth and me and Steve Lampier.
“It was a case of trying to hang on as best you could, marking everything we could. It got to the fifth time up and I literally had nothing left.
“We caught Steve, so we were still racing for third but we had Rich Handley and Pete Williams sitting on, so it was just me and Lampier chugging away for 25km at the end. At that point my legs were done in.”
However, not one to dwell on the negatives, the spent Canyon Eisberg rider noted that sixth place was actually “the best of a bad situation”, with the team learning from the experience.
“I’m happy with it. First under-23, the legs were good, it’s not the end of the world. It shows the strength and depth we have. We rode hard, closed the gap and caused devastation in the peloton. So if you’re going to ride like that, you might as well put other people in the pain locker as well.
“But we won’t be making the same mistake again. We don’t want to burn through five guys like we did just then. It didn’t help when Dex punctured, it left just me and Pullar at that point. But yeah, it was a hard day out. Welcome to Chorley!”
Stedman’s team-mate Rory Townsend had a bike change in the neutral zone to contend with, which was disappointing after his sixth place last season.
“It was a bit of a rollercoaster. Right from the line, in the neutral zone, I had to get a bike change. I got to the front and then went straight off it with what was actually the second move. I’d missed the original break, and went chasing in a group of five.
“The race had shut down at that stage, everyone was happy with that group. We realised it was going to be up to us to ride, so right from then we were on the back foot, that was quite a critical moment.
“But we did ride well. Chris did a big turn up the climb and we had them within sight. Over the top, as we were trying to push on, Chris got distanced and Andy had already been distanced on the climb as well.
“We were a bit short on numbers. As we came down the other side, unfortunately Dex punctured, which was a shame.”
The 2016 Spring Cup champion spoke of the bad luck that had impacted the team’s race, yet despite expectations of the day falling slightly short for some, it’s obvious the team remained determined.
The breakaways were tenacious; Matt Nowell had made it into the first group and claimed the first KOM points of the day, while Stedman broke away with a chasing group and held on for a top-six finish.
Their team-mates in the groups behind acknowledged the back foot they were on and worked hard on the front for the team to fix this.
They also noted the positives to take from Chorley – as well as it being a learning experience, Nowell almost won the overall KOM, while Stedman gained one of his best results.
Chorley had lived up to my expectations once again and I’m ready for cycling season to get into full swing. One thing is for sure – keep an eye out for Canyon Eisberg.
Want to read more from Robyn? Click here to check out her blog Gruppettos & Stilettos.