Ciclos Uno Spring Road Race

Report by Matt Pumo

Sunday 18th March saw the Verulam Racing Team in action for the first time this season, with 4 of the 10 member squad oiling up their (proudly unshaven) legs for action.  Matt “Raw Power” Reader, Big Johnnie “Nails” Hall, Paul “The Columbian” Cackett and Matt "Le Puncheur” Pumo lined up at the start of an undulating course in Essex.

Reader and Pumo set off at 10.00am with a field of 65 riders in the ABC race.  Similar to the early stages of the Tour de France, the riders were anxious and twitchy from the start of this early season race.  From the moment the riders exited the neutralised zone the attacks started and the pace was fierce.  Being the more experienced racer, Reader sat in towards the front of the bunch biding his time.  After about 30 minutes of sitting towards the back and being whipsawed around the bends and climbs, Pumo moved up and made the mistake of covering many of the early breaks, thinking one might get away.  This was an early, energy sapping mistake.  On lap 3, Reader used his tactical genius and got into a 6 man break which got about 500 meters off the front and looked like it might stay away.  Wanting to support his team mate, Pumo sprinted off the front, ensuring that no one was on his wheel, and bridged the gap after a tortuous few minutes that seemed like hours.  Verulam RT was now in a perfect position with both riders in the break.  But sadly they didn’t have the legs to stay away and were reeled in a few minutes later.  As Reader commented post race, “after Pumo bridged the gap he was completely useless and couldn’t contribute anything to our breakaway”.  After another 45 minutes of failed attacks and fierce racing the bunch settled into a more relaxed pace, knowing it would end in a bunch sprint.  The cowbells and cheering crowds indicated the last 8 mile lap had started - this is where things heated up and the pace of the bunch shelled out half the remaining riders.  With one kilometre to go the race went into overdrive.  Pumo moved up the outside, passing fading riders in an effort to reach Reader.  With Reader in sight Pumo shifted up a gear and as he passed Reader shouted “jump on”.  The experienced Reader quickly saw the opportunity and grabbed his team mate’s wheel.  The pair then moved up the bunch towards the front and put the hammer down.  At this point, riders started to blow.  A gap opened up through the middle and Reader, using his raw power, jumped off Pumo’s wheel and drove towards the finish line earning a well deserved 9th place, with Pumo finishing just behind in 10th.  Sadly, unbeknownst to Reader and Pumo, a 7 man break had got away on the 6th lap and came in about 25 seconds ahead of the bunch – moving the Verulam rider placings to 16th and 17th.  Confirmed results tbc.   Lessons have been learned. 

Meanwhile, in the DEFG race that began 5 minutes later, Big Johnnie and Cackett had their hands full with some classy ex pro riders and a field of 45 seasoned racers.  According to Paul’s wife he was the pre race favourite and accordingly Cackett went bagging off the front as soon as the bunch left the neutralised zone.  Big Johnnie was too far back at this stage or no doubt would have been there next to his team mate.  It’s this sort of attitude that has earned him the reputation as one of the most selfless riders on the peleton.  Cackett’s break didn't last too long and was soon reeled in.  But a short while later Cackett’s breakaway companion went again with another rider, who Big Johnnie knew was a good TT rider.  Ever astute, Big Johnnie knew this was a dangerous break. The other riders did not recognise this and did not seem prepared to react.  Big Johnnie tried to talk the front riders into action but most of them seemed happy to sit in.  So he had a couple of pops along with two other riders and no one chased them down.  The three of them buried themselves in a precision through and off for 2 or 3 laps of exquisite agony.  The only thing that kept Big Johnnie from letting his burning legs get the best of him was the prospect of a top 5 or better placing.  It took 2 1/2 laps to catch the front two and the prospect of more rest and less pain as duties were to be divided between more riders.  But the pace seemed to quicken and Big Johnnie had been "cooked" (well done, burnt to a crisp, frazzled) for some time and after a spell on the front followed by a slight climb the big man popped.  So for a lap and a half he tried to TT to avoid getting caught by the bunch who were said to be 1 1/2 minutes back.  But it was not to be - when the motorbike flew past he knew it was over.  He kept quite a good position on the last couple of kilometres into the finish but once it wound up for the gallop he simply went backwards.  Considering the work the big Verulam rider had done, it was not surprising.  Cackett was, as ever, the consummate team mate and when it became clear that Big Johnnie’s break was away he spent the rest of the race policing the front of the bunch for any attacks. 

The pre race goal was to simply start the race and have a good time.  With the team getting into a few breaks (one that nearly won it for Big Johnnie) and mixing it up throughout it was a tremendous success for all involved.  With a few more races and a full complement of Verulam RT riders on the start line the results will no doubt come to this young but ambitious team that is already punching above its weight out there.

It was a great day out and the other riders were all extremely welcoming and friendly.  The racing was hard and competitive to be sure (having done one BC race before, my limited experience supports the widely held view that the LVRC races are certainly at a higher standard than the average BC race) - but there was also a real sense of camaraderie throughout.  Lining up at the start one competitor noticed my race number wasn't clipped on properly and he got off his bike to pin it on for me.  Riders called out any obstacles during the race and looked after each other and kept it all safe.  When people were passing and it was tight there was always a sharp but polite "on your right" called out.  And of course it was all smiles and handshakes at the finish. 

I highly recommend trying a race - the league encourages all abilities so if you are unsure about your fitness level they even encourage you to race in a higher age band to start with.  If you're interested in racing please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information.