UK Road Race Championships 2002
Port Tabolt, Wales
The Championship was staged in sunny and warm conditions this year. Those who lined up to start knew that this was going to be a day where keeping hydrated was going to be important, since the start was at 12noon with an estimated finish time of 15:15hrs, they were going to be racing in the hottest part of the day. The thermometer was still reading over 25'C on the journey home!
The race rolled out through the neutralised zone and onto a large, 26 mile circuit before passing through the finish line at the start of 5, smaller laps which all together provided the full, Championship distance. With only 2 miles covered, Caroline Cook (Scotland) punctured. A quick wheel change and she was able to make her way safely through the convoy of cars back into the bunch.
The course rose for approximately the first 10 miles. However, it was a steady slog and too much for some riders, who dropped off the pace as the road steepened at around 5 miles covered. Initial casualties were Hamilton (Team Letchworth), Toone (Loughborough Students), although Jeffries (HisCox Insurance), Silversides (Cheltenham & County) followed within a couple of miles.
At 10 miles covered, Boyd (Team Letchworth), Padley (SP Systems), ?? (Gloucester RC) and Smith (SP Systems) all lost contact with the bunch, just before the top of the climb.
The crucial break came at 12 miles - 6 riders went away - Cooke (Deia), Symington (GS Strada), Hopkinson (Deesside Olympic), Moss (SP Systems), Sears (Team Powerbar) and Heal (Team Powerbar) went away. They gained time on the bunch over the miles which followed. The gaps were:
15 miles - 37 secs
18 miles - 52 seccs
20 miles - 47 secs
25 miles - 45 secs
30 miles - 1min07 secs
35 miles - 1min05 secs
40 miles - 1min10secs
50 miles - 1min06secs
However at this point, Sara Symington sat up and decided to 'call it a day'. Her team-mates may not have been too impressed, sitting in the bunch instead of chasing the leaders for most of the race, only to see her riding back to HQ in the other direction......
Anyway, it was as this happened that Heal and Cooke went away from the remaining breakaway riders - Moss, Hopkinson and Sears. As they crossed the line for 2 to go, the leaders had 10 seconds on the chasers and 2min13secs to the bunch.
They managed to stay away for the next lap and had added to their lead by the time they crossed the line to take the bell (Actually, it wasn't a bell - there wasn't one - it was a shout of "one to go") - 1 minute to the chasers and 4min03sec to the bunch.
With 2km to go, Cooke left Heal and went for a 'long one'. She stayed away and crossed the line to retain her National Championship jersey, 8sec ahead of Rachel Heal. Melanie Sears led out with 200m to go and sprinted in ahead of Hopkinson and then Moss for the bronze medal - 2min20 behind the winner. The bunch sprinted across the line 4mins back. The judge had some work to do to separate the placings from 6 backwards - there was no photofinish in evidence.
1 Nicole Cooke Deia 2-53-35
2 Rachel Heal Team PowerBar @8sec
3 Melanie Sears Team PowerBar @2min20sec
4 Charlotte Hopkinson Deesside Olympic " "
5 Dianne Moss SP Systems " "
Afterwards, Nicole Cooke said that it had been an accident that she and Heal found themselves away tpgether. They worked well and shared the work at the front. She "had to think hard" about going with 2km to go "because Rachel was doing a good ride". For her part, Rachel was smiling but "second is never really good enough, but if you have to lose to anybody, Nicole is a very good person to lose to".
Sears felt that the course was "very time-trially" and that she "felt good today and with Rachel and Nicole being off the front, (she) got a little bit of an easier ride and luckily had a little bit left at hte end." She is "never confident of hte sprint was pleased to come in third".
Upon taking her 3rd Championship in 4 years, Cooke reflected that "the first is always speacial but every one is important adn I've got some good memories from today".
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