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Ian Wilkinson's Blog
by superman

Eddie Soens & GP Lillers

Saturday 3rd March was the World Olympic North West Championships at The Eddie Soens Memorial race at Aintree horse racing course near Liverpool. Whilst another contingent of UK racers are in Singapore, racing around a formula 1 race track, the rest of us are here trying to stop our horses falling at Becher's Brook!

 

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Heavy rain showers in the first hour made it a bit grim but soon the layers were off and the racing was on. The group made sure the juniors were not going to catch us and as we caught back the handicap groups, kept the speed on mostly with one of us driving the front race at all times. Raleigh and Metaltek were also very active as groups came and went. With the whole field together - an impressive 250 riders- attacks were soon nullified. Into the last two, the 100% Me team took it up, but it was too early and onto the last lap Endura formed up at the front. Easier said than done, but training camp work paid off as Bibbs then Robbie P, Jack Ando then myself kept the pace right up into the final bend leaving Russ to lead home an incredible Endura 1-2-3.

Top job by all in a very unpredictable event. The drive to Calais will be a little sweeter. Bring on Lillers!

 

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Then we headed for France and the GP de la Ville de Lillers, just north of Calais on Sunday. A not so cold feeling morning but rain in the air threatening. No sooner had the flag dropped then attacks went and Thwaitsy was 1st to be in the action, joined moments later by Blain and Russ. Last across was Bibbs from just in front of me, go on son get over there! Four in a big split was pretty cool though Glud & Marstrand had five!

So the race went on, teams chased and brought the gap down to under one minute, then it would go back up. All the time the wind was keeping us on our toes watching for splits and generally staying up front. In the break it was always a case of applying some pressure and under this they split down to 12 - still with four Endura. Nice.

Towards the finale, Bibbs covered any moves while Blain did a great long lead out with Russ and Scott ready to pounce. Russ did so in fine style for an incredible double header win weekend. Scott rolled 4th with a still impressive ride.

Cold - cold - cold, wet and windy was how the bunch finished, shivering wrecks. Six of us squeezed in the Sprinter trying to get warm. BRRRRR!

Long drive home again made a lot easier with a win to talk about. Great job chaps.

 

Photos by Larry Hickmott | www.VeloUK.net & Joolze Dymond | www.joolzedymond.com

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Tour of Britain - stages 7 & 8a

Stage 7 - Right royal finish...

Well today is the longest stage of the tour, 199.9km from Bury St Edmunds to the Sandringham Estate in northern East Anglia. From the van at the start I could see the flags on top of the town hall blowing quite a bit and in my mind I could see a grim day ahead with cross winds and the like. My job for today was to keep an eye on Iker again then take a look at a good sprint finish. Best laid plans and all that...

 

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A nice roll out in warm conditions, then attacks from the gun. I could see Vossi getting well stuck in and a move looked like it was going with him but Sky thought better and pulled it back. I was rolling up the outside and just after a left turn I followed onto a couple of guys going pretty rapido. All seemed easy and oddly quiet behind so a quick glance and to my surprise the elastic had snapped and we were away, easy as that! It is always the case, you try and try and try and eventually you make the break when not really trying. Oh well perfect! Only 120 miles to go lads!!

So the group of 6 of us worked really really well together, it was nice to see two other UK teams, Sigma and Raleigh with me along with Europcar, An Post and Topsport. To be honest there is not a whole lot to say from now till the end other than we powered on covering 28 miles in the first hour... Pretty fast indeed. Crowds were once more incredible and helped us onwards. I had a little something to keep me interested at the 2nd sprint as it is where my sister and family lives and they were out watching somewhere... I didn't manage to spot them but a text later said they saw me.

Down came the rain next, and a grim hour or so through mid distance and the feed. We actually had to ease up a little for a while to keep the gap back to the bunch, something around 6 mins, stable and stop them chasing so hard. Further on still and with 40km to go it was becoming a possibility that we could go all the way. The chase was revving up behind and at this point it was vital that we in the break did the same. The next 20 km we really gave it everything, flat out, to break the chase. once again the speed always in the high 20s.

 

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And it worked, into the last 10 km it was apparent from time checks and team cars, that the chase had faded and it was going to be down to a 6 man sprint. At this point I had started to feel a little better after a 2/3rd distance bad patch. The Kms ticked past and no attacks. Everyone too gassed from the 120 mile through and off session! Into the last km I was at the front but managed to slide back to 4th wheel on my choosen Europcar wheel. Round the last corner at what must have been 500m, Raleigh attacked but weakly and negated by An Post. It was here I made my mistake, thinking it was a perfect counter, I went for the inside but soon found the strong wind not good, so stalled on the front looking for the finish gantry to gauge distance. wait wait, then balls, An Post jumped and I was on him but too slow. As the line approached I was flying at him but too late. 2nd! Argghh!

A great result - if someone had offered that at the start of the day, I would of taken it for sure, though I feel I could of had a good chance if I had made my sprint at the right time. C'est la vie...

On the plus side, I did win the Combativity prize, most agressive rider so got chance to mount the podium and get some flowers. A great day. Lots of autographs at the back of the podium. Excellent. Drive back to the hotel ringing and texting and tweeting the good news. Celebratory cake for tea. Lovely. Though sleep was a little hard to come by re-running the finish over and over..

Stage 8 and 8A - Split day finale...

Well the final day of the Tour of Britain. Here I am in central Londonville. On reflection, not my greatest day! Broke a spoke in the time trial and so coupled with using my road bike, it put me outside the 120% time cut and thus out the race and the final showpiece stage. Gutted is an under statement! But I will leave it at that. Yesterday will be my final stage memory so after a great tour it is brought to a close.

 

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 Some excellent TV time for Endura with my close 2nd and Iker 6th overall plus riders in most of the breakaways. Also extra motivation knowing that this level of competion is easily achievable.

Next year baby. Many thanks for all the support both on the road and digitally.

Cheers

wilks

 

Photos by Joolze Dymond | www.joolzedymond.com

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Tour of Britain - stage 6

Well after all the action yesterday I actually felt pretty good today.

A much needed flat, fast start which still included some little lanes and a 3rd cat KOM after 15km, got me warmed up nicely and following a few moves but nothing was going.

On towards the first sprint and scene of the first and I hope last crash of the Tour. It was all getting a bit hairy rattling along into the small village which was hosting the sprint, when the horrible noise arose in front and I hit the brakes just enough to slow and jump onto the pavement around the guys on the floor. spotted Bibbs sat not looking too good - helmet skewed & glasses on the end of his nose. Turned out bust collar bone. Something I feel for having done mine in March.

There was a short rider imposed neutral while everyone got themselves sorted and repaired. Then soon enough it was nose to the wheel again heading for the next KOM of Cheddar Gorge. Vossi had done a good job slotting into a move in the KMs before Cheddar and that kept the team represented at the fore while we climbed through enormous crowds in the rock walled gorge. There is no doubt, the crowd sure does lift you and I was happy to be near the front all the way up enjoying the atmosphere.
 
A quick 30km over the top down into Wells and the first passage of the finish line (crazy tightening last corner!) and onto the decisive moment of the day, Old Bristol Hill which again had crowds most the way up. I was shepherding Iker and Jack into the bottom so it placed me well too, though I slid back and crested the hill in the last group. No panic really as Iker and Jack did indeed make the front split and go on to make 7th and 10th on the stage. Great effort boys especially Iker who was away 'til 300m to go, only reeled in by the sprinter trains!

Back to the same digs for the night. Good food, good sleep.

Hills done. Time for some real action now!

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Tour of Britain - stage 5

Exeter to Exmouth - looping over Dartmoor and every other lump possible within the boundary of Devon.

Good memories of Exeter crowds from the Tour Series and todays start lived right up to them.

With the tour teams set up pre-race right through the pedestrian shopping area in the heart of town, it was buzzing and importantly very close to a number of fine coffee establishments. Make mine a double please :-)

So we rolled out at 10.15, sun shinin', no gillet, no arms. All G.

The stage profile for sure looked liked shark teeth and I really felt them bite, from km 3 onwards! Must of taken me 10km to make the front and just in time as we cut into the tight, twisty, up an' down lanes. I kid you not it was like being in a video game - Star Wars or somethin! Using the force to follow the line blindly at 40mph+ down tree lined, hedge rowed, car width tarmac. Fly through villages curb to curb, ears brushing the spectator flags.

Then like being rudely woken from a good dream, we hit the main climb of dartmoor an' some rocks? Bam! Out the bum!

Got a nice group though - awesome crowds on top the KoM - chased back over the moors, only to catch the bunch easily as they had eased up with a break having gone. Alex Wetterhall bein' in it for Endura. Time to grab some bottles on way through the cars, hand 'em out and grab a bit of lunch!

So with 13 boys up the road, a bizzare situation unfolded which the TV managed to completly miss! Useless! That was that although 12 teams were represented up front it ended up that six of those teams began to chase behind to close the 6min 30sec gap!

Why you may ask?

Well it all comes down to pecking order of priority. Iker at 37secs was our best man on GC, but if we left it as it was, a good overall would be out the window. And similar the other teams. So me an' Jack rode with eight various others to get back to the front. 100km through an' off and mission complete. Rabobank would of lost the overall so they were happy and so were HTC as a very unexpected bunch sprint rolled out on Exmouth sea front. Renshaw & Cav - 1 & 2.

Very tired body for my part. Stares on 'til i got to sleep. The toughest stage done and turned out to be the one makin' it hard for others rather than getting my expected kickin!

Weird day. Sleep welcome...

 

Check out Ian's website - www.wilks-racing.com

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Tour of Britain - stage 4

Well rested now after the positional nightmare yesterday round Stoke. A nice hotel near Telford set us up for the Welsh leg of this ToB.
Starting at Powis Castle (a very nice estate to visit) Endura Racing's plan was to get someone in a break and then for me to look after Iker.
Not being a sprint stage it was a good job to keep me focused and indeed keep me in the mix till the finale.

As it was JackB forged into a 3 man break after the others had set it up in constant moves. Vossi makin' a move of note, that being the very first attack along side the lead car, all the while the rest of the bunch still being paced by the car, much to their amusement. #Pissininthewind! Ha.

Anyway job 1 done. Break made.

Following was the majority of the stage - pretty relaxed through some nice countryside 'til we hit the Brecon Beacons, a 8km cat 1 climb. And Sky decided to light it up a bit. Luckily I packed my good legs today and rode Iker to the front then closed a few moves down and even got myself some KoM points! Ha!

Shortly after was a big exposed horseshoe on the moors - Winnie (our DS) had warned up about it, and today we all were attentive and at the sharp end. Thankfully it was over soon with the field still together.

Off the mountains down towards the finish in Caerphilly. Jack's break still had a few minutes and had it not been for Sky chasin like mad for G, who's home finish it was, I reckon they would of stayed clear and JB would of likely taken out the win.

Not to be though, as the pace was hot in the run into Caerphilly mole hill just 6km from the finish. I kept movin' my main man Iker to the front and after watchin' back on TV, it was all worth it as he was 10th to crest the KoM, then after a frantic descent he rolled 9th keepin' a good GC alive.

The stage was won by world champ, Thor Hushovd which is awesome for the event.

A good day at the office. No win but sometimes tickin' boxes is winning enough!

You may see this blog a day late, well we had a big transfer after down to Exeter, so sleep an massage took priority. Anyway we're all fit and well so roll on the monster stage 5. Over an out.

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