As a triathlete, and one that had completed an Ironman a month or so earlier, I probably wasn't in the kind of shape needed for this event. A stinky cold in the days leading up to it wasn't going to help either. However, the UCI Para road race held as part of the Yorkshire World Championships festival would be a unique opportunity and too good to turn down in my opinion.
David McGaw (Cambridge CC) agreed to pilot the tandem on the 109km point to point race from Beverly to Harrogate. Usually Para events are held on circuits covering multiple laps, so this would be different from start to finish.
David and I haven't raced together over the past few seasons. He got knocked off his bike last year whilst on a training camp and it has taken a while to fully recover from that unfortunate incident. He seems to be back on track though having just returned from a cycling holiday where he covered plenty of miles.
Beverly was all about the event on the morning of the race with the roads already closed, sportive events starting and inclusive activities for people with disabilities taking place. There was a nice feel to it with big crowds watching the riders sign on whilst the announcer had clearly done his research on each rider stepping up to scribble their name on a large board.
It wasn't too long and we rolling out of Beverly in the sunshine to huge cheers from the crowd. Sadly their was only 5 men's tandem pairs as several others hadn't turned up...it's a pity because it would have made for a better race if we'd had more tandems there. However there was some high quality teams present with World and Paralympic Champions Steve Bate and Adam Duggleby, fast teams from Holland and Ireland as well as Chris MacDonald and Neil Poulton who are no slouches given they are national circuit race champions and quick on the track too.
Before starting I said to David that the race would be on from the first climb after the 3km neutralised section and so it proved.
The lead car pulled over to signal the start of the race officially and BANG! the pace was definitely on straight away. David and I got dropped on the first hill, but chased back on only to get dropped again on the next incline. David said to me that the group was climbing at about 30mph!
Whilst getting shelled out that early wasn't the plan it would have likely just happened later on anyway. Both of us train more for steady-state type efforts these days - David for time trials and me for the long hours you have to pace yourself for Iron-distance races - and these guys are serious bike riders, so we weren't exactly surprised.
We decided to keep a solid effort going in the hope that others might get blown out sooner or later. We averaged about 41km/h by ourselves for the first 30km until we caught up with Chris and Neil who seemed pleased to see us. We worked well together for most of the way to the finish, taking turns to lead and chatting periodically. It all felt pretty chilled to be honest.
Once into the last 10-15km we started to think a bit more about the finish. David and I were unlikely to beat these guys in a sprint (even an uphill one as in Harrogate) given their track background so we decided to try and make things hard on each ascent (and there were a few). We kept the pressure on, occasionally gaining a small gap but they would get back on before the next uphill. As Harrogate got closer I realised we would need to beat them in the dash for the finish line and just hoped they had been softened up enough.
We led around the last corner into the bottom of the hill. I was already pushing hard before we got out of the saddle as the gradient steepened, but Chris and Neil were coming around us rapidly and powering towards the finish. We just didn't have the punch needed and had to accept our fate in finishing last of the 5 tandems.
Guess that's the way it goes sometimes!
Over-all this was a brilliant event. The organisation was second to none. Everything seemed easy from registration, bus transfers to the start to bag collection at the finish. The roads were fully closed and the crowds were huge - The biggest I've seen for a Paracyling event!
Well done Yorkshire 2019!