I swear this was the first Bank Holiday weekend when the weather was actually quite decent.
I was looking forward to this exciting time on my bike. First we made our way to Poole in Dorset for one of the most prestigious event in British calendar, the Ade Gale Laurels. Event as significant as a World or European final, definitely worthy a British Final status. Beautiful weather in the Dorset region meant that large crowds were guaranteed. Also the fact that different finals took place beforehand, and people stayed behind only increased the crowd and made it a thrill to be riding on the day. I have to say I have never had a number 3 in any major events yet. 2 grid fours, something I am used to in big games, made no difference whatsoever in the outcome. I have started with a lucky second of grid three in my first after two riders fell off in front of me, tricky track conditions made chasing very difficult, and Lee deservedly took 4 points. Second race was off the outside and I had a storming gate, went around the pack, not quite enough to get around Tom Reed who rode me cleverly and won the race, still two seconds from 3 and 4 wasn’t all bad.
Next race off 2 with Neil Hollebon on the inside, I knew I had to make a supper gate as I had Greg Gluchowski on my right hand side. We all know how quick he can gate, after all he gated around me from 4 to 1 in the last match of the season last year. I have managed to keep his challenges off and won the race after a storming ride around the outside. A grid one win in my fourth had put me in contention for an overall win. I knew that if I would have won my last race, I would be either an outright winner or have a run off for first. The problem was, I was on four… with Carmichael, Mould and Heardy on my left. Plus, Greg had managed to win his last one, which had already put him on what I could get if I managed a win, so run off was in order. All four of us were going for a win in this one. We were all tied on 14, with Paul one up on us. If he was to win, he’d snatch an overall victory. To be honest, grid four in these circumstances wasn’t such a bad option. When there is so much talent and so much to gain, you know there is going to be some gaps appearing. I don’t remember how, but I have managed to get myself to a comfortable second spot behind Carmichael, but had to make up some ground as was a little bit behind. Mark was kind of waiting and just rode middle of the track which made it tough to get any speed on him. I was running out of laps and to be fair, ideas too, so I waited for a moment and launched a dive on the last bend. Emotions were running high. I really believed that I pulled it off. You just don’t know when you do it whether you have crossed the line. I was so stoked I have actually went for a pass I was happy that I crossed the line first. Maybe I was hoping I’ll get a sympathy vote for being on four in that race? Referee saw me crossing the line with both wheels and I was excluded. The only thing I now find wrong with it, is that maybe I should have been given a second place instead of no points, as the incident did not influent the rest of the results and I hadn’t had a chance to let Mark go in front of me, when the referee found me guilty. I did accept it with grace and cheered both riders in the run off. Greg drew the inside grid and went on to win it, despite a strong challenge from Mark, which ended up with another exclusion.
With the meeting done and dusted, we had a nice time with the Davies family and some beers with some friendly locals :D
Next day was another day. We made our way to Southampton for the club’s 50th Anniversary Grand Prix. I knew I had two grid ones, which I believe made all the difference this time. I did have a good attitude and a positive approach. The track was surprisingly good. I remember Southampton always being slick and dry, but this time even though it was drying out fast, I liked it a lot. I had to make up for my gates not being as electric as in the past. My first race ended up being quite exciting, had to come from behind, and did all around the outside. Apparently it made my wife on her toes so had to be impressive. A good warm up for a little bit tired legs from previous day. Second race was better. Typical gate and go, although had to press on the pedals as Carmichael would not give up. Third race was just before interval and I was on four, with Ben on the inside. Had to slot in for second and then tried to prepare a quiet attack. Unfortunately I slipped in the process and had to settle for second. I knew I had two grid ones to come after the interval and the first one would probably seal my fate. Had Paul Heard on grid two, and knew if I would have take the win, the meeting would have been mine. Had a good gate in the first run only for Paul to slide off and re run being ordered, at that time I was full of confidence as I was half a wheel in front in the first attempt. Second time round was a copy of the first one. Now I had 4 laps to prove my class in front of this charging ever improving youngster.
He made an impressive charge on the inside and I saw it late, but somehow managed to close the door. Not sure how it happened but I managed to use his energy when we clashed and sped away around the outside for the win. It was very close. My last race was another grid one and after 4 laps I could finally take a deep breath. This is my first win this year, last one since Polish National Semi in September. I was craving it and I’m very happy (as Tomasz Gollob would say in his anglo spoken interviews).
So close from doing the double, but Laurels still elude me. Maybe next year?
Final words will go to somebody I owe my unexpected resurrection of form and the return of joy from racing. I am so happy with my bike at the moment and would like to praise Mr Wilkinson for letting me riding on his equipment. Archie is the reason behind that smile on my face every time I ride now. I feel like in 2010, when I was dominating the UK scene, and I feel very comfortable on my machine. There is some exciting news for the riders. New frame design is finally here and it’s going to be MTB wheels friendly. Looking forward for riders feedback, and certainly looking forward to see it in flesh.