RISING Redditch Road & Path Cycling Club star Sullivan Berry clinched a superb 15th placed finish when he competed in the North West International Youth Tour – the premier racing event in the national calendar.
To be invited to ride is an achievement in itself and as the sole Redditch entrant he was up against the cream of the UK’s riders.
The tour consists of five stage races over three days and the overall winner is the rider recording the lowest average time over all the stages – in effect a mini Tour de France.
This was not only a test of fitness and skill, but staying power over long days and all weathers.
Stage one was held in Preston with a two-mile sprint race which was a baptism of fire and a real step up from the regional races. After trying to break away from the main bunch at the halfway mark, Berry finally finished in a creditable 16th in the ensuing sprint.
The second event of the day was a 5.5-mile race in the rain. Berry described it as like being in a wind tunnel whilst someone threw in muddy water. The harsh conditions were just to his liking though and again he chanced his arm, managing to break away from the main bunch in the twisting bends.
However, it was not to be as the bunch pulled him back before the final sprint. By making it a fast race he did, however, gain time on his closest rivals to finish the day 12th on GC.
Sunday’s venue was the picturesque Blackpool Promenade and a short sharp individual hill climb time trial. With short sharp bursts – not Berry’s strength – he was always going to lose time but he managed to limit his losses in dropping to 17th on GC before the day’s crucial circuit race.
Again Berry chanced his arm in the second race of the day but, with national points on offer every lap, the GC leaders were never going to let him get away and with no help from the bunch an early lead on the first technical downhill section was quickly reeled in.
Berry stuck at his task and again finished a very hard fought 11th, pulling himself back up to joint 15th on GC.
The last morning’s race was a 5.5-mile circuit on the fast Salt Ayre circuit in Lancaster. Berry was now just 12 seconds from a top ten finish and needed to push on and try to split the bunch to take advantage of his greater stamina.
With the main GC contenders all marking each other and tired legs all around, the group was keen for a slow pace. Berry had different ideas as he often forced the pace but it was inevitable the GC group kept reeling him in.
However, with an average pace of just shy of 21mph, you could see everyone was finding it difficult. Berry finally finished tenth in the race but, with 20 riders all recording the same time, his last chance of moving up the GC had gone.
Fifteenth in the country and just 12 seconds from a top ten placing was a great effort, especially as it was his first race at this level, as he showed with more experience he can be up there challenging for the overall title.