Balsall Common’s Matt Clinton beat off a number of professional cyclists to claim a remarkable 2nd place after an 8-month road racing hiatus to an end at the West Midlands Road Race Championships in Bridgnorth.
The Mike Vaughan Cycles found himself lining up for 5 laps of the 17 mile circuit with several professional riders topping the start-sheet. The 86 mile contest was more than double the length of any races Matt had done this year in his first foray away from time-trial racing for some time.
A strong group of 10 riders pulled away during the first lap, including all the favourites, but the attack lacked the impetus to stay away and within two laps the main bunch had pulled the group back.
Taking this point as a good time to move, Kieran Frend (Node4) jumped away up the road with several riders trying to pull him back. After a couple of miles the bunch had closed the gap, where Matt jumped across to Kieran’s wheel taking another rider with him. The three then pushed hard to create a gap between themselves and the main field.
The pace set by Kieran and Matt would be too hot for the younger 3rd rider, who dropped off the back while the two continued to push on hard. Working well together, Kieran was obviously the stronger of the two, leaving Matt on each climb of the tough undulating circuit, but with Matt clawing back over the top of each. Coming into the final lap there was little reason for the pair to spit up in their bid to stay ahead of the competition, so they toughed it out together until Kieran jumped away with just 2 miles to go on the steep “Rabbit Run” climb.
Both riders fearing they were going to get caught by the bunch behind kept looking over their shoulders as they hit the last draggy half a mile. Kieran had pulled away, but only by about 5s ahead of Matt. The West Midlands title would go to Kieran – a repeat of 2009.
Matt however was more than happy with 2nd:
“We worked hard together, I didn’t think we’d stay away. I came here today as my first road race of the season while others have 3 months under their belts, I didn’t have any expectations, I just wanted to finish, so getting 2nd is fantastic. I’ve really struggled in the race in the past, twice I’ve not finished as I’ve tried to ride too hard, too early. Last year I started with a cold, so again no expectations, and got 6th, this tops that!”
After crossing the line, the two looked a bit confused that the bunch had not appeared, in 30miles they’d forged a 4-minute gap over a 6-man group racing for 3rd.
Matt competes in the 4th Round of the Rudy Project National TT series today near Doncaster.