The Tour of Sussex is fast becoming one of the premier cycling events within the south of England. In its 5th year the event now attracts some of the best teams in the south.
The team going into this year’s Tour of Sussex was Jason, Josh, Rod and Stu. We were supported by Jody and Alex – it is worth quickly saying how much we appreciated having the support provided, it makes a real difference and you can certainly here the shouts of encouragement as we go past.
After Josh’s 3rd place overall at this event last year the team went in hopeful of a good result. The aim of the weekend was to race hard and enjoy ourselves – we didn’t go in with a designated leader knowing that we would all muck in to support where necessary. Wayne was on hand to give us encouragement and keep us focused on the bigger picture – from last year we knew that the last day would be key.
The first stage was a prologue up Ditchling Beacon, we arrived early in the day to check out the climb and we were certainly glad that we did – it was an absolute brute. There was a bit of confusion about the actual length of the event and with conflicting reports between the organisers and the riders hand book – little did we know the organisation would be questioned numerous times over the weekend. Anyway, come the actual prologue, from our point of view it was a horrific 7 minutes of suffering which we were all glad to get past. Josh led the team home in 21st – 25 seconds back on the leader, an early indication that the standard was higher than the previous year!
The second day was a split stage with a TTT in the morning around the Goodwood Estate and a Criterium around the Goodwood Motor Circuit in the evening. After a good recce in the morning we were one of the first teams off. This event was contested on open roads and unfortunately, we suffered some bad luck encountering a bus on the first junction, shortly followed by a Bentley pulling out in front of us disrupting our flow. Nevertheless, Josh and Stu rode like machines driving the pace hard after that and we really started to get going, however, yet again luck was not on our side and on the quick run to the finish we were caught behind a car who was stuck behind a fellow cyclist out for his Friday morning pootle. We were outside the top ten and had to draw a line under the result and move on.
The Crit around Goodwood looked spectacular on paper but, in reality, it was a snore fest as riders struggled to get away on a fast circuit with few technical sections. Following Wayne’s advice, we had decided to sit in the bunch and save ourselves for the coming days but this didn’t stop Josh riding off the front for half a lap or so. Jason led the team home in 18th in a frantic bunch kick.
Onto day three and the forth stage. This was the first road stage proper. The Ladies mile circuit is a tough day with a short sharp climb and a longer drag before the circuit turns onto a long finish climb. Fellow local team Bowlfish had picked this stage as one to attack and they put two riders in the early break and drove the pace, unfortunately for them the bunch was motivated and organised and they were never allowed a decent gap. When they were caught a small group rolled off the front in a classic move and they stayed away to contest the finish. Back in the bunch, the uphill finish to the Ashdown Forest was pretty hairy with several crashes. Luckily all of our riders came through unscathed with Josh again leading us home in 21st. Still without a result to our name we were hoping to secure something on the final day on the brutal Beachy head circuit.
The Beachy Head circuit can only be associated with one word – PAIN. After a thorough warm up we were all ready to go – we knew that the race would be de-neutralised from the gun before the hill up to Beachy Head. However, the organisers proceeded to sit us down in a hotel for nearly an hour rendering the whole point of a warm up irrelevant. The pace up the first climb was well and truly on as the front of the bunch were able to slip stream the lead car and everyone else was suffering the consequences as the elastic stretched on the hairpins. Josh managed to make the lead group and Rod was rudely ejected within sight of the top of the climb. He was joined in the second group on the road by Stu and between them they got everyone organised. After over an hour of hard chasing the two groups came together but by then a lot of matches had been burnt we were feeling pretty cooked. Up front, Josh had managed to keep himself out of trouble as the race was marked more by people going out the back rather than riders going off the front.
As a quick aside – the Beachy Head circuit is brutal because after the climb out of Eastbourne onto the circuit it features 9 ascents of the Beachy Head climb of 150m a time. The hard bit comes at the top where cross winds rip across forcing everyone into the gutter before a quick descent where we do it all again!
Stu faded after a massive amount of work early in the stage leaving Josh and Rod – however, coming into the penultimate lap fatigue led to Rod being caught the wrong side of a split in the bunch. Unfortunately, Josh faded going into the final ascent coming home 22nd on the stage with Rod in 30th.
Out of the 80 starters only 44 riders finishing the final stage, Josh was 21st overall and Rod was 29th. Although the team were disappointed that we were unable to influence the racing as we had in the previous year the standard was on a different level and we felt that we had given our all.
Jason – “Very talented riders in the field made for tough racing, there was never an easy moment throughout the weekend. We gave it our all. Thanks to all our support and sponsors.”
Josh – “It was a lot tougher playing field this year with strong moves from teams, made it a challenging weekend but a really good stage race. We worked well together as a team and kept it an enjoyable weekend, would like to thank you to the sponsors and support from everyone involved.”
Rod – “Wow, that was some weekend. I think my enduring thoughts on the weekend were of how quick some of the boys went up Ditchling Beacon and how tough the start of the last day was. I remember knowing that I needed to be close to the front at the start but not being able to get anywhere near it! Oh, and that elastic effect – ouch that’s nasty! These kinds of weekends always bring us closer as a team and despite not getting a result I felt we gave our all. Big thanks to Jody and Alex for their support on the roadside, and to Wayne for giving guidance, advice and encouragement remotely.”
Stu – “Strong field and a few hard stages made the racing tough, not to mention all the travelling. Legs gave out on final day after chasing the peloton back for three laps. We gave it our all. Always good to race with team mates and big thanks to the help and support.”
The team would like to thank its sponsors Herberts Cycles and Burgess Hodgson for all the support offered throughout the season. We are hugely grateful for the support and you help to make our racing possible!
Finally, a little anecdote of the weekend – not cycling related… On the Saturday night, the boys headed into Eastbourne to find a Pizza Express for a big feed ahead of the big day on Sunday. On returning to the car park where we had parked the cars we were greeted by a rude sight. The multi-story was closed and the shutters were down – at 20.30 on a Saturday night. The issue wasn’t the cars, it was our bikes which were inside the cars. We quickly discovered that the multi-story wasn’t due to open again until Monday morning. After moments of blind panic, we found the out of hours number – of course there was no answer initially but thankfully our persistence paid off and a car park operative emerged from the nearest pub. Panic over and back to the hotel for a 6am start!