CYCLING: Success for Ellis
Matt Ellis celebrated his first victory in the junior national series during a successful programme.
Following a solid block of training in Spain with the CT Soenens BOOOM team, he competed in the first UCI 1.1 ranked races in Belgium.
It’s taken me 10 years of trying to finally win a national race, and to do it starting from a solo breakaway was extra special.
The race at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (KBK) and the Guido Reybroeck classic in sub-zero temperatures led to the 200-strong field becoming much smaller very quickly with normally only around 50 riders allowed to finish.
Ellis said: “In both races I was unfortunate, with crashes and mistimed punctures ruining my chance to complete the race.
“At Guido Reybroeck, for example, I made it into the front split after around 15 miles but I cracked my front wheel. Race over.
“However, I was selected by the team to compete at the Tour of Flanders, noted as being one of the ‘monuments’ of cycling.
“To make it onto the start line was an amazing feeling, however the unique route made it a spectacular but crazy race.
“The first 20 miles were fairly flat but in a group of over 200 riders, crashes were littered all over the road. Luckily I avoided them all.
“With every change in direction, there seemed to be one or two riders on the ground, and the first cobbled road sector included a number of pile-ups.
“The character of the race was that before each cobbled climb or cobbled sector, the race would be full gas, with over 100 riders fighting to be at the front of the group leading into the sections. It would then be hard through the sections and then full gas after the sections to regroup.
“The bit that stood out during the race was running up the famous Muur de Geraardsberen as the soaking wet cobbles, mixed with 20% gradients, meant that some riders in front slid and forced everyone behind to stall.
“Amazingly I missed most of the drama throughout the race and ended up in the front group and did a lot of work blocking and bringing back breakaways so that my teammate up the road could finish second.
“However, after doing so much work, I finished in the group but I was proud to finish such a prestigious event, especially as 130 riders didn’t make it to the finish.
“This year I’ve also competed in a few rounds of the junior national series.
“I travelled down to Wales, to the Brecon Beacons for the first round of the national series.
“With around 35 miles to go I made my move off the front of the group, along with two team-mates and set off in pursuit of a group two minutes up the road.
“We caught the remains of the group quite quickly and worked well on the circuit.
“With five miles to go, we could see the front group around 30 seconds ahead – and coming onto the final climb we were very close to the back.
“I made my move halfway up the climb and caught a few riders. However there wasn’t enough time to catch them all and I finished fifth.
“The second round of the Junior National Series was the Tour of the Mendips two-day stage race.
“Stage one was a two-and-a-half mile time trial where I did not lose too much time on the leaders.
“Stage two was a 65-mile road race. With around 35 miles to go, I attacked and went solo for around nine miles – winning one of the intermediate sprints, but almost straight after I was caught by the main group again.
“I attacked but this time another rider came clear with me and we worked well, building up a gap of one minute 30 seconds.
“With 10 miles left, a group of three riders joined us and I was second in the next intermediate sprint but I felt myself cramping up in the sprint.
“This didn’t fill me with confidence but coming into the finish, I timed my sprint to perfection – taking the win!
“It’s taken me 10 years of trying to finally win a national race, and to do it starting from a solo breakaway was extra special.
“The final stage was very hilly, with some steep climbs up towards Cheddar Gorge.
“I made the front group again but coming up to the finishing climb, I was paying for the previous day’s effort, so lost a bit of time, finishing 25th.”