First-year under-23 Mattie Dodd is one of our journal contributors in 2023. Riding for the UCI Continental Tirol-KTM development team, his main focus for the first part of his year was studying for his A-level exams. Now, exams done, he is free to focus full-time on racing…
Well, that’s it. After 14 years of school, I’m finally done with formal education. As I stepped out of a French literature exam at 11.30, there wasn’t much time to let that soak in though. It was straight back home to pack the car and start the trek up the M1 to National Champs. Six and a half hours later, we stepped through the door of our Airbnb in Marske-by-the-Sea. Oh, we also decided to bring our two dogs. Don’t ask why, we just felt two 35-kilo labradors would ‘add’ to the week.
First up was the TT on Wednesday morning. Two laps of an almost pan-flat course, starting and finishing on the silky smooth Croft Circuit. The main obstacle on the course being the gravel-strewn and highly technical entry and exit to the racing circuit to and from the bigger lap on public roads. It was nice to do a TT on closed roads in the UK for a change, as opposed to slogging up and down a poorly surfaced A-road at 7 o’clock in the morning while dodging freight trucks.
The result of the TT was personally really disappointing in the end. It was well below what I’d been targeting and left me very much feeling like I’d let myself down. Nevertheless, lessons were learned so the same mistakes won’t get made again. Onwards and upwards.
I decided not to take to the start of the crit, those short ‘sprinty’ races aren’t what tend to suit me, so a decent result was unlikely. On top of that, I didn’t feel the need to risk making structural adjustments to any of my bones in my upper body. That did give me the chance to do a longer ride the day after the TT. My first time in the North York Moors did not disappoint, what a place.
The race went out at a decent lick, and very quickly there were bodies everywhere, including a large number of high-profile names going backwards early on
The road race was… interesting. For anyone who hasn’t seen, around 145 riders started, and 20 finished on what was a brutal course. With over 4000m of climbing in 189km, there were always going to be riders all over the place. The race went out at a decent lick, and very quickly there were bodies everywhere, including a large number of high-profile names going backwards early on. I was one of the circa 125 got caught behind the relatively short time cut-off, ending my race much earlier than I would have liked.
When I got back to the car park after having done another short ride up in the Moors (did I say it’s superb, even in horizontal rain?), there were multiple whisperings from people saying the course was too hard. “Too hard!?”, I hear you cry.
The unique nature of National Champs is that you can have riders who have won Grand Tours racing against others who have to be at work the next day
You see, the unique nature of National Champs is that you can have riders who have won Grand Tours racing against others who have to be at work the next day. Don’t get me wrong, all are great riders, but there is a definite gap between those in the WorldTour and high-level amateurs, as you’d expect. When combined with a tough course and a relatively short time cut, it means that there are a lot of DNFs. When people may be taking time off work and making the long journey up, not to mention the financial cost of the trip, racing for half an hour simply isn’t worth it.
I’d agree that it was a hard course, but I’d just like to play devil’s advocate for a moment. At the core of it, the function of sport to wider society is as entertainment. To misquote Russell Crowe, “Were you not entertained?”. The answer to that is yes. It was a superb race to watch on TV that resulted in a rightful (Wright-ful?) winner. Arguably it was that brutal course that added to the quality of the entertainment.
I’m not going to take either side, I’d just like to point that argument out. Feel free to completely ignore me and my youthful naivety.
It was then back at home for a few days before a late call up to the Tour of Austria. After that, I head out to live in Italy for the rest of the season. I’ll be up in the mountains about two hours away from the team service course in Innsbruck, I can’t wait. I’ll write more about it when I get there. Ci vediamo!
Featured image: Emma Wilcock/The British Continental
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