Apologies for the missed report; there is a brief one one the forum.
The penultimate stage of this 2010 addition included two 'categorized' climbs before an uphill finish.
Riders were attacking from the gun; after covering the early moves, I tucked in to the bunch while Tom took over at the front of the first climb with Basil safely tucked in. Tim an I were both briefly gapped on this hill when the strong climbers kicked for the KOM prime, but we chased back on without too much difficulty.
However, the pace was frantic leading up until the next climb, and while Tom and Basil managed to safely hold their position up front, Tim and I were struggling to work our way up with riders going backwards, forwards and every which way in between.
At the base of the very first climb, disaster struck me once again when two riders came together and dropped directly in front of me. I went into them and landed awkwardly on my knee, breaking open a wound from last weeks crash on the track.
As the bunch disappeared into the distance, I desperately got my bike back into running order and set off in pursuit - it was not too be though, with a minute already between them. To be honest, the onset of yet another setback more or less broke me, and I considered 'Wiggins-ing' my bike off a convenient Welsh hillside. When a large 'laughing group' of 20 odd riders caught me up, however, I tucked in with them instead and rolled round the course.
Meanwhile, back at the pointy end:
Tom & Basil continued to climb well, and easily settled in with the lead group, which whittled down to only around 20 riders at one point. Several joined back in on the descent, however, leaving a group of around 45 to finish. A small break of several riders out of GC contention did slip away and gain a couple of minutes on the bunch.
Basil rode well at the finish, tagging on to the sprint, and managed to gain several seconds on the rider immediately above him on GC. Tom rolled in with the rest of the GC bunch. Tim was gapped on the second climb, and his group rolled in around 8 minutes down on the winner, while my laughing group came in a minute later. I took some satisfaction from sprinting to second out of my group and gaining a few seconds - but not very much as the knee I banged in the crash seized up quite badly immediately afterward.
Our GC picture:
1st Mike Smith (Team Corley Cycles) 7:33:58
4th Basil Moss @ 39 Seconds
34th Tom Vickery @ 6:38
64th Tim Williams @ 19:57
74th Eric Gowland @ 30:58
Team GC: 5th @ 10:38
Tomorrow brings the finale: 43 odd miles of 'Welsh flat' racing, with a 4 mile climb to top it all off. Basil is well positioned, and Tom is climbing really well and should be able to help him up the climb. I'm hoping the freshly banged up knee I've currently got a pack of frozen peas on stays limber enough for me to provide some domestique support leading up to the finish.
One day to go.