Rounds four five and six of the Matrix Fitness GP series all took place over a four day period with a mix of circuit styles taking in Stevenage, Croydon and Portsmouth. The fast pace was matched on track with Team WNT putting in some terrific performances to consolidate its position in the overall series results.
First up was Stevenage with Natalie Grinczer maintaining her place in the team, the only roster change was Becca Carter coming in to replace Sam Burman. So with a relatively unchanged team the aim was to continue the improvements seen at the last round. While all Matrix races are fast, this was something else, with no hills to climb all that energy was put in to out and out pace with the race flat out from the start! The layout of the course and the pace of racing had an effect on the peleton, with a small group being detached while the main group stuck together.
Things started to heat up on lap three when a short-lived break formed with Team WNT’s Jo Tindley a part of it, along with series individual leader Nikki Juniper and five other leading riders. Having been caught several more, unsuccessful breakaways occurred, but with the race reaching the first of the sprint laps it was Team WNT’s Irish Road Race Champion, Lydia Boylan, leading the way, taking the first two sprint laps and scoring maximum points. Now at the halfway stage the pressure started to mount with Alice Barnes of the Drops team putting in a stinging attack and she wasn’t to be caught after that. However the chase was hard and a resulting touch of wheels caused a crash that split the bunch, with Team WNT’s Hannah Walker and Natalie Grinczer on the wrong side of it, leaving them with a 10 second gap to bridge, a challenge that seemed insurmountable by the pit crew. However, Hannah and Natalie had other ideas! Along with a couple of riders from Drops and Podium Ambition they halved the gap by the next lap and had managed to make contact with the lead group by the lap after, disaster averted! By now Alice Barnes had her unassailable lead, so the peloton was racing for 2nd place, this was still a big bunch though, meaning a big sprint finish was on the cards. In among all of the mayhem of the spring Lydia Boylan came home in 9th position for Team WNT, not quite what the team had hoped for after what had been a very positive race.
"The team rode really well tonight, we managed to keep four riders in the front group, which was great. The team was unlucky in the sprint, but this is something for us to work on now and we get a chance to put those lessons to good use at Croydon!" says Team Manager, Marcus Nainby.
On to Croydon!
With barely time to draw breath all of the team’s moved on to Croydon where once again they were faced with a totally different style of circuit with lots of technical corners and elevation changes, as the course made its way around the town and under its flyover. Compounding the challenge was the fact that in typically British fashion, the weather had changed from glorious sunshine to a cloudburst and lightning for good measure! Therefore, it was with mixed feelings Team WNT inspected the technical, wet course. Jo Tindley was very much hoping it would stay wet, with everyone else hoping it would dry, luckily for the bulk of the team the rain stopped and the course dried out in time for the race start.
Due to the nature of the course, and unlike the previous night in Stevenage, the race started splitting to pieces from the first lap and on lap three disaster struck for Jo, when she had a puncture that saw her complete almost a full lap on deflated front tubular tyre. Unlike most criterium races there are no laps out in the Matrix fitness GP for punctures, or crashes, so Jo got back round to the pits as quickly as she possibly could and jumped onto a spare bike. Her efforts meant that she was in the second chase group on the road and still in a points scoring position. So all was not lost.
Come half race distance Team WNT had Lydia Boylan and Natalie Grinczer in the thick of the front group, supported by Hannah Walker, with Jo in the second group. As the second sprint lap approached the race pace picked up considerably, causing further splits in the front group. While Lydia managed to be in the right place, Natalie got distanced, but she is still at the early stage of her learning curve in this type of event, so still a good experience for her. When the leaders took the bell Lydia was still well positioned and looking confident, she then made her move exiting one of the tightest corners on the circuit getting a gap! Coming out of the last corner with only the run up to the finish line she still had a slight advantage but the race win just wasn’t to be as Grace Garner of Podium Ambition took the win with Lydia holding on to take 4th place, a great effort!
The result of Team WNT’s strong performance was to put them in 4th place on the night, maintaining 5th place overall in the series, with just 10 points difference between them and 4th place. So all to ride for in the final round in Portsmouth.
The countdown ends at Portsmouth
All good things come to an end and so it was with the Matrix Fitness GP Series which held its final round in Portsmouth. The organiser had designed a fast, flat, technical course with double points up for grabs… so very much everything was still to play for!
Team WNT’s starting line-up was Lydia, Jo, Natalie, Hannah and Sam, with all of them up for the race to come. Conditions were good with the temperature dropping, but with the sun shining it made for perfect racing conditions. In typical Matrix GP style the start was super-fast, but all five Team WNT riders were well placed in the early stages, Sam especially was having a good ride, relishing the fast corners.
In no time, though, disaster then struck when Hannah was brought down in a crash on the final corner before the finish line, with that her race was over as later X-Rays revealed a broken wrist and elbow, a real blow for the team, get well soon Hannah. The same incident almost brought Sam down as well, but she just managed to avoid it. The result was a split in the front group with Sam left on the wrong side of it. Further up the field Team WNT still had Lydia, Jo and Natalie out front, with Jo especially pushing the pace and attacking off the front to try and get a gap, which she achieved for three laps before being reeled in as the first sprint lap approached.
Lydia took third place in the opening sprint and then continued that effort to push on in front of the group with another rider. Due to Lydia’s position in the overall standings this attack was reined in as other teams chased this move down.
Taking advantage of this was 17 year-old Jess Roberts, as she wasn't a threat overall the team's let her go, she managed to build up a huge lead going on to win by the finish, a real talent for the future.
With four laps to go Jo once again attacked taking two other riders with her and building a 10 second lead, as they entered the final lap this lead was pulled back to five seconds, with Jo doing all she could to hang on for the final two podium positions. Jo was eventually caught, but immediately attacked again, this time holding out to claim fourth place on the night. The excitement wasn’t over though, as Drops rider Rebecca Durell crashed on the penultimate corner, also taking down her team-mate, and worse for Team WNT ruining Lydia’s chances of a top 10 finish, she would come over the line in 15th.
The team effort ensured that Team WNT was classified third on the night and fourth in the overall standings in the team classification. Individually Lydia and Jo finished fourth and ninth overall in the general classification with the pair also taking fifth and eighth respectively in the sprints competition.
"It's been a very tough series this year with many, many ups and downs. It was great to see so many teams fully committing to the series. Hopefully this will keep building for the future. It was also great to see so many WNT customers attending and enjoying the racing," says Marcus Nainby.