The whole team descended on Marrazes for the first round of the Taça de Portugal at the weekend. For new signing, Tom Bell, it was his premier competition in team colours. Hamish and Seb had been in action the previous weekend at the Coupe d’Alsace.
With Tom and the support crew flying in from the UK and Hamish and Seb from France, everyone met up on practice day to see what the Portuguese organisers had in store. In contrast to other Portuguese courses the first half of the lap was relatively flat before dramatically changing back to what the team has come to expect from the Southern European country – steep climbs and descends.
Tom – “It was great to finally start the season and kick off my first race with the team in Portugal, whose series always offers a challenging course and a great atmosphere.”
A field of 87 riders massed on the start line on Sunday afternoon to tackle a long 7 laps of the demanding course. Seb and Hamish had front row grids thanks to their World Rankings, whereas Tom was further back in the pack as he looks to build his ranking throughout the year.
Seb – “I wanted to get off to a good start to give myself the best possible chance of making the split for the lead group, although given the UCI commissaire opted for 7 laps it was obviously going to be a long one and there would be plenty of time to move through the pack.”
The Yorkshire brother duo both had great jumps off the line and immediately made their way in to the front few positions. Tom had to contend with the large volume of ‘traffic’ in front of him but didn’t take any unnecessary risks and moved his way through the field smoothly.
Tom – “Despite being gridded towards the back, I got off the line strongly and settled into a solid tempo, making sure not to do anything rash or go too hard too early in the race. It was then a case of making up as much time as possible on the climbs, and riding smoothly through the technical parts to maintain those gains.”
After two laps Seb and Hamish were together in 7th and 8th and closing in on 5th when Hamish took a corner too tight on one of the loamy descents and crashed hard. Unfortunately after bringing himself round he found his handlebar had snapped in the crash. It was an extremely frustrating end to Hamish’s race after he was in a great position to move on up to challenge for a top 5 position.
Hamish – “I was on Seb’s wheel on the first main descent of the lap when I just took one of the corners wrong and hit the deck pretty hard. I fell awkwardly and broke the bar between my leg and the ground. It’s obviously disappointing but I can take some positives away from the fact that I was riding strongly, and now just look forward to the next races.”
As the race progressed the length took its toll on a number of riders who started to pay the price for going off too hard and fast. Seb rode strongly to move in to a battle for 5th before dropping his competitors and consolidating 5th place at the finish. A top 5 in a high quality field early in year following his win the weekend before bodes well for the rest of his season.
Seb – “I came here for a top 5 position and I’ve come away with it so I can only be pleased with my performance. It’s a long season and I’m very happy with my shape and how things are looking for my major goals this year. The bike is working sweet, and despite Hamish’s misfortune it was a really good weekend all round.”
Tom rode a very clever race and continued to pick off riders in front of him, making up a colossal 50 positions from his gridding to take a fantastic 9th place on the line. A great start to his season and his first race for Fluid Fin Race Team.
Tom – “I was satisfied to finish inside the Top 10 and take some valuable World Ranking points into the season. Training is going well right now, so I’m really looking forward to lining up again soon.”