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Dengie Marshes tour: One riderís report.

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I think one of the great things about racing is that in the space of only a few hours you can tell the story of a race in 120 ways from 120 perspectives, you can spend much longer discussing a race afterwards than riding it. A race like Dengie is a perfect example of this, every rider had a different experience of the race. No rider entered every off road sector at the same time, took the same lines, some punctured once, twice or multiple times, some didnít, some crashed, some took ages to catch up with the race again, some didnít, others never made it and had to abandon. Some riders finished in the front group, some just finished, some escaped out of the front, some escaped out of the back, all at different times and all in different places, every sequence is unique.

So without further ado here is my story of the race:

It started fast, it was actually OK in the peloton but the average speed initially was high and so all attacks seemed to come to nothing, there was however enough hesitation to allow two riders to get away and hit the first sector in front. In races like this it is the despite that decides if a rider a escapes, not the riders themselves. The roads started wide but for the last 10 kilometres or so before the first off road section they were nice and narrow. This was actually a blessing if you were at the front because it made it harder for others to take your place, which meant we could ride slower into it. The front was basically blocked and some of us were lucky enough to enter the first sector near the front. For me that first sector went the best of all of them: I wasnít dropped. I rode slowly and lost some places but at least I made it and remained in the peloton.

The next sector was another matter, I didnít like it. In fact I didnít enjoy any of the sectors, I was uncomfortable riding on other riderís wheels and so always let a gap open up in front of me. Meanwhile riders would crash and puncture around me but mostly overtake. At times I just coasted around and through the bumps and gravel. For the second section (like all subsequent sections) I had to work hard to get back to the rapidly reforming peloton each time. The only time I managed to follow a wheel for a section was behind a puncture victim who was rolling along to his support crew to get a spare. After the second sector of the race getting back to the front was difficult and required a big effort, had it not been for the peloton slowing down for a while perhaps we would not have got back on at all. These off road sections were not my cup of tea, at least when I got to the end of each one I was fresh enough to do a long effort to get back on again. After a while it wasnít so difficult to do this but it always reduced my chance of getting into a successful breakaway. The less time spent on the front the less time I had to try and get away

So a message to anyone that was riding behind me on those sections: my humblest apologies, I was terrible on them and got in the way .. but at least I got us back on again didnít I? Canít say fairer than that! I seemed to get to the end of each sector with plenty of energy for a pursuit type effort to get back into the race again.

It was shortly after returning to the peloton after one of these sections that the winning break got away. It was a soft break, I think any of 60 or 70 riders in the peloton at the time could have been in it because of the way it formed, in fact I had been a short speculative move myself before it happened. Fortunately for Meridiana we managed to get one rider in there: Roberto. Enrico and I both missed it, it was unluckier for Enrico than me (because of my lack of skills on the dirt) but in the end there were only 3 of us in the race and so getting one in the break had to do.

From that point on the race became steadier for us and Enrico began to train by pulling long turns on the front along with others. At times it was uncertain as to whether we were racing or just getting to the finish or not and I think attitudes and energy levels within our group were mixed. The group got smaller as the kilometres wore on. As each sector came along the racing started again, the group split up and I had to chase to get back on afterwards. For the last 3 sections, all close to the finish, the group became even smaller. With only 15 riders away a top 20 was still on the cards. Whilst not exactly a great result for some I was a bit torn, I wanted to get something out of this race even if it was just a lesser result. The attitude in the group was to just roll into the finish since the race was essentially over. On the other hand it might be the only premier calendar I do this year and it is definitely the most local one to me. It was a strange finish, I started my sprint really early and came in about 6th I think, many didnít bother but I felt it was wrong to just roll in when spectators are expecting spectacle. Strangely I was listed only as 41st on the results sheet, later I heard that a group had been sent in the wrong direction and basically made a shortcut to arrive in front. So basically all of results after the 1st group of 15 are gibberish, I may be mistaken though.

Meanwhile Roberto was riding in to come 4th in a 5 man sprint, I think he was pretty tired and got slightly pressured into closing down gaps and things towards the finish. I think my Italian team mates enjoyed their time in the UK and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of a race that they thought would be easy, it wasnít UCI categorised after all. On the other hand Roberto only rode his bike for the first time the day before and drank and smoked quite a lot on the Friday night in Cambridge! Who knows? We may bring a bigger team back for another premier, I think the team would quite like to ride the Tour of Britain and so would perhaps need to show their face a little more in the UK beforehand in order to get an invite.

All in all it was a great few days and I am really tired still on Tuesday, no regrets and we had some fun. Iím very happy with how I felt despite being so awful on the gravel. Next weekend is a Nat B in Kent and a TT before heading back for a 1.1 in Genoa on the 15th.

Here is a video of the race:

A massive thanks to Alan Rosner for organising the race, it was clearly an extremely complex affair and I think he did an excellent job. Long may it continue.

There are also plenty of photos here from Dave Hayward: .

p.s. Massive thanks to Basil Moss for lending me his Paris Roubaix wheels, not a single puncture.

Updated 03-04-2012 at 09:17 PM by David Mclean

2012 - Meridiana Kamen


  1. whdeboer's Avatar
    Drank and smoked? I thought all top cyclists were T total?
  2. David Mclean's Avatar
    Very few Italian cyclists are T total, I was just as surprised as you are but I was given a long list of famous top Italian cyclists who like to unwind in this way.