Three of Forge’s fastest blasted over the flatlands of the Fens at the Tour of Cambridgeshire to qualify for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championship.
Lewis C (Great Britain), Byron K (South Africa) and Gareth S (Ireland) hammered across the 160km course to finish in the top 20% of their respective age groups to earn the right to represent their nations – and Forge – at the World Grand Fondo Championships in Trento, Italy in September 2022.
Bursting with pride, we asked our speedy trio how the race unfolded, the thrills, the spills, the training and what it all means to them.
Powerfully built Lewis C tried to shape the race: “It was a cagey start before a very strong Onyx rider (the eventual winner) got away with a Kingston Wheeler”, he explained.
“I tried to get the group working together and eventually a small group got a bit of a gap. I just about managed to bridge to them, but we were soon caught”
It was a different tactic from whippet climber, Byron K: “I opted to ride quite strategically. I did a few turns on the front, particularly on one or two little rises, but then mostly sat in the bunch.”
Meanwhile all-rounder and ex rowing champ Gareth S managed to get a good position close to the start line to avoid any early mishaps in an accelerating bunch: “The race began fairly conservatively”, he notes.
“The surprises came anytime there was a sharp turn when there were big accelerations. I just said to myself, stay with the boys at the front and you’ll be grand.
“I also remembered the good words of a club compatriot,” he recalls. “‘Minimal effort to stay in the group’, so that was my mantra.”
And in the blustery pan-flat course, all three had some tough moments: “I really hit a wall around the 90km mark feeling very sick due to heat, dehydration and gels,” admitted Lewis C.“I managed to eat a bar and take a good drink and felt better, but just sat in wheels recovering and sheltering from the brutal winds.”
Similar sensations hit Byron K: “I also started to feel the heat and wind at around 100km,” he said. “And unfortunately, didn’t feel amazing for the rest of the ride. I, like Lewis, sat in the wheels for the final stretch.”
And there was a hairy moment for Gareth S. “I reached for my bottle just before going around a sharp bend, managed to get the bottle back in the cage just in time, but I rubbed wheels with the rider in front and was a whisker from going over the bars.”
And then it was down to the finishing sprint.
Lewis C was in a good position: “I tried to move up as best as I could which was tricky as it was quite technical and sketchy. I managed to pass quite a few riders by pushing all the way to the line, finishing 11th overall.”
Gareth S had to strain every sinew: “My goal was to stay with the main peloton and sprint for the line.“I was right at the front but there was a bad collision between two riders which forced me to slow. This pushed me towards the back of the group, so I had a bit of work to do in the last 500m. The boot was put down and I managed to pass about five riders.”
Gareth finished 21st out of the 27 qualifying spots available. “I’m very glad I sprinted for the line… thank you Hurst Road sprints!” he joked, referencing the Forge Thursday night finishing dash.
Finishing 20th, a relieved Byron K said: “I’m just so pleased to have qualified. A real highlight.”
Gareth S praised all the Forge rides: “No way would I have qualified without having done all the training rides with Forge.”
For Lewis C it was a milestone personal achievement: “The race was my big target for the season. I’m delighted to have qualified for the World Championships, and promptly ordered my GB kit that evening.”
That’s even before a well-deserved sit down and the chance to book their tickets to Italy.
Molto veloce – everyone at Forge is so proud.
Huge congratulations also go to Forge riders, Josh K, Darcio F and Melissa B who also rode the Tour of Cambridgeshire course.
Forge has some racy, fast riders but the majority of our club are made up of riders of all abilities and experience. There’s a ride, a group and fun for all.