For those of you who don't know, the Pearl Izumi Tour Series is a series of criterium races that travels around the country visiting various cities and being televised on ITV4. The racing is fast and frantic on difficult and dangerous courses that seem designed to ensure an almost last-man-standing style of racing, with it being extremely rare that more than 5 riders are in contention for the win by the end of the event.
As such my mood and that of my teammates was one of nervous anticipation, as we spent the months in the buildup to the races thinking about how to ride up awful cobbled hills as fast as Olympic gold medalists. As a team based in the North East of England, we were lucky enough to have fairly local rounds of the Tour Series, with us competing in Durham and Edinburgh. Whilst this made it a fair bit easier than competing in Canary Wharf or Aberystwyth it is still remarkable how a 1 hour race in an evening takes up the entirety of a day. What with all the driving, riders meeting, signing on, warming up, racing, packing etc a trip to Edinburgh took us twelve hours, of which an hour was racing. Certainly the logistical challenge of attending all the rounds cannot be underestimated, and then being able to compete as well, it's impressive to say the least how well some riders cope with it.
By the time we lined up ready to race however it felt as though half the battle was won. We'd got the team car and support (provided by Skinnergate Cycles and Dean Reeve) through the road closures, found someway of warming up, made it to the various briefings in time and I personally felt happy to just be about to race and so did my teammates. That's what we were there for after all. As a guest team though the challenge is uphill from the start (and cobbled in our two rounds) due to the fact you have to start at the back.
In an unpleasant reverse handicapping system if you don't ride the full Tour Series and are just a guest team you get to stand there thinking, oh look that guy in front of me is both faster than me already and he has a head start. The narrow and twisty nature of the circuits also makes moving up the bunch extremely difficult and as for the 'neutralised lap'; well there's very little neutralised about trying to ride on the back of a bunch getting slingshotted round corners whilst the best cyclists in the country sit behind a motorbike at 28mph. In spite of this challenge, it's fair to say the whole team rode well at both Durham and Edinburgh. We were able to ride strongly and often in groups containing national champions, olympians and full time professional riders. Not bad when some of our riders such as Will spent the wednesday between Durham on Tuesday and Edinburgh on Thursday helping build houses at work. I can't imagine many of the riders present spent their time between rounds doing that! In summary then the Pearl Izumi Tour Series was quite an experience.
Whilst I'm glad I can actually now just ride my bike instead of spending my time wondering how I'm meant to recover in under two days between races, I'm looking forward to riding some rounds again next year with Achieve-Skinnergate Racing. It was also great to be able to give our sponsors some exposure. There are too many sponsors to list here, but all of them provide us with much needed support throughout the year and it's always good to be able to repay them with a bit of national TV coverage (a list of sponsors can be found at http://www.achievecyclecoaching.co.uk/racing-team.html ). Hopefully that's given you a little bit of an insight into what last week was like for me and the team so thanks for reading and keep an eye on our website or social media for more updates in the future!