I’ve done a couple of weekends racing now this season and it’s going alright so far. I’m under no illusions that it’s early season and each rider’s form is pretty variable at the moment. I know myself that I’ve left higher intensity race specific training until much later this year, making the decision to use the local race scene to get some speed in the legs. My first race this year was the Winter Warrior criterium at Salt Ayre sponsored by Total Cycle Coach on 28th February. The early stages of the race were real negative. A very steady pace with attacks that were immediately brought back as the bunch had many fresh legs to do so. After around 10 minutes of this I was frustrated to say the least and I’m very sure a number of other riders were too. So when Gemma Sargent (The Racing Chance Foundation) attacked taking two ladies with her I jumped across the gap, sat fourth wheel round the bend up the top of the course and pulled away up the small rise. I didn’t expect to get a gap but kept the pace up. As soon as this gap grew I knew the desire to chase would deminish and I could ride round in the relatively nice situation of pacing myself rather than having someone else dish out the pain!
35 minutes of solo riding later and I’d won the prime and the race. I was a bit shocked to be honest. The next weekend I rode both the second Winter Warrior criterium on the 7th and Pimbo RR on 8th March. Incredibly Saturday’s race panned out in much the same way as the week before. Early on Pia de Quint (Velosure Starley Primal) attacked and strung out the bunch. I didn’t want to miss the move so chased it down, annoyingly bringing the rest of the bunch with me. So when I caught them, I attacked hard. It had to be much harder this time as I knew a few of the riders would be expecting it. I gave it beans for a couple of minutes and once I had a gap eased into a good tempo. I scooped up the prime again and with 10 minutes to go I eased off a little knowing I had Pimbo the next day. I was more than chuffed to roll in for my second win of the season.
Pimbo RR is a race that deosn’t particularly suit me. It is has no natural difficulties to break up the race and therefore usually concludes with a bunch sprint. The riders know this too which makes for a lot of sitting in. This course was great when I first started racing as I usually struggled to stay with the bunch and this race gave me the opportunity to stay with some riders for once! But now I feel comfortable in a women’s 2/3/4 bunch, it is not so fun. I cannot sit in the bunch and trundle round for 38 miles waiting for a sprint. It’s not my idea of racing or a fun way to spend a Sunday. Especially when it’s chucking it down and most the peloton are shivering so much they can barely function. I stayed up the front for the first few laps and kept a good position during and after the first prime as I thought a small group might be able to escape. I got away with Amy Gornall (Aspire HSS) for maybe half a lap a little later but even with both of us the Pimbo headwind was a sod. Amy was strong enough to try an attack immediately after we were brought back but again it didn’t last long.
I got away on my own later in the race to be brought back after only a lap. Rested in the bunch for 2 laps and then gave it a final shot. I attacked so hard to get a good gap that when I finally settled into a TT pace I struggled. Pushing through I thought if I get away with this, this is going to be the hardest effort yet. I couldn’t feel my legs due to the cold, so it wasn’t so much that it was painful, more that I couldn’t blooming well push the pedals. I stayed away 2 laps and am pretty grateful for the cheers from the sidelines but I was doomed (as ever it seems at Pimbo for most) to be caught and rolled in with the bunch a couple of laps later to finish 24th.
The scenes after the race were not pretty. So many friends I race with looking hypothermic. My team mate Victoria Hood possibily one of the worst. I found her later on with about 6 jackets on riding the rollers to try in vain to warm up. It was so nice to get home and have a bath! Honestly the best bath ever. So warm and bubbly. Then I sat with brew after brew and Malteaser bunnies for company. A positive weekend but I really cannot wait for a race where the sun shines 🙂
It has been an exciting and hectic few months since joining Team Jadan… I was lucky enough to have been selected to compete in the Revolution series Hoy Future Stars events which began in October 2014 with the final round taking place on Saturday, 14th March 2015. I am laying 7th overall in the series going into the last round and whilst I have ridden strongly in most rounds it has been difficult to maintain ‘top form’ as I have been taking part in other track events. It is very exciting to race in front of big crowds and to share the track centre with cycling greats!
The Icebreaker Series down in Newport, South Wales, is an Omnium style event over 3 rounds which have been held in between the Revolution rounds. I am leading the Endurance competition after 2 rounds which I am very pleased about. There hasn’t been as many competitors taking part as I am used to but it has still be a valuable experience.
Most recently I have competed in Sprint Fest over 2 days at Manchester velodrome and this was a very successful event for me. I qualified fastest in the ‘Girls’ competition Flying 200 with a new personal best and won all of my heats on the Saturday. Sunday morning racing started at 08.00 hrs!! And my legs were feeling the battering they had taken the day before. Unfortunately I ‘switched off’ in the first heat and this cost me dearly as I was out of the gold/silver ride with bronze being the best I could achieve! I made sure in the ‘Ride Off’ that I stayed focused and in control and won the bronze in 2 straight heats. After getting over my initial disappointment I am very pleased with my performance and result as I had done no specific sprint training up to the event
Today I received a call from a British Cycling coach I know inviting me to compete with the Olympic Development Programme Sprinters at an event in Switzerland next weekend!!!
I will be travelling out Thursday 19th March, competing on Friday and travelling home on Saturday 21st March. This is a wonderful opportunity and I am so excited to be racing alongside the ODP cyclists and to ride on the UCI velodrome.
Then it’s a quick unpack, kit wash and then off to Malta on Monday 23rd March with some of my lovely Jadan Teamies to compete in the Tour Ta Malta.
Until next time…..
UPDATE: I came 9th overll in the Revolution Series… A great experience!
Snake Pass is a climb I know well as it’s pretty much in the heart of last year’s training roads. Those roads that, when I lived close by, were so much fun to ride. It’s a deceptive climb, quite long and prone to excitable weather. It makes you think the experience is going to be harder than it is – until you do something so daft as a max effort up it.
It started steeper than I had remembered. I charged away from the start area, trying to settle into some kind of constant pace, but I was ‘settled’ at far too many watts in my cocky state of ‘yeah of course you can hold that’. Turns out I couldn’t. Of course I couldn’t. Half way in and I thought bloody hell I can’t sustain this, what I am doing? Idiot! I eased off providing a few seconds respite. But then thought, I can’t finish another TT thinking I’ve not given it my all. I looked down at my power and knew what I should be able to hold. Gritted my teeth and tried my very hardest.
This was not so easy. In reality I had worked on my feet all day for the few days leading up to the event. My warm up before was like dragging two bags of sand round the cranks (that would be my tired legs, maybe not even tired just that ‘full’ feeling). So I forced out a gruesome 45 minute warm up. If not, I would have just slumped into one of the inviting lay bys on the way up the climb and taken a nap.
Anyway, I kept riding thinking ‘keep pushing on’ ‘keep pushing on’, that inner voice I wanted to have stern words with. This just wasn’t a float day. I so wanted to fly up the climb. Not drag myself up it. Then I saw my minute lady. What?! How had this happened? Perhaps she was just having a tough day on the bike, but this was my motivation for the final 3 minutes or so. Not that I could do much more than hold on to the finish after huffing and puffing my way past her.
I saw my time when I reached the summit and thought, well that’s better than last year at least. Good job I’d taken my rain cape along for the ride too. It was blooming freezing up top! So I smugly donned the cape, all toasty and warm and trundled down the climb in my own world enjoying the beautiful view. Arriving back at HQ I saw that I had actually come 3rd. Goes to show, even if the legs feel hideous, you can usually push through it. At least more so than you think. Obviously being fresh would have been ideal but it’s a mental game this cycling lark and I’m just beginning to understand really how much.
Sunday 6th July saw the VC Norwich women’s road race as the next round of the Women’s Eastern Road Race league. Similar to the Yorkshire league supported by Jadan Press, this has helped create a new range of regional road races for women. It was held on a lovely undulating 7.5 mile circuit which the organiser had very helpfully provided a YouTube video of so you could familiarise yourself with it in advance of the race! A mix of 23 girls lined up for the start; some relatively new to racing and some much more experienced. The commissaire expected it to split, but I think due to the lack of steep hills and the way women’s racing is really strengthening, we stayed as a bunch. Frequent attacks came from Elizabeth Malins (Fusion RT) and Hayley Simmonds (Velosport – Pasta Montegrappa) , but nothing stuck so it was a bunch sprint for the uphill stretch to the finish. I was unfortunately trapped in the final sprint but happy to take 9th. It was a fantastic race with a great atmosphere and huge thanks to VC Norwich and all who made the event possible.
I headed down to the Olympic Velopark at Stratford on Wednesday evening for the first round of crit races on the circuit there. This runs right past the Olympic velodrome and is probably the best circuit I’ve ridden in terms of layout and surface. There was a decent field of 20 girls and a huge number of E/1/2 and 3/4 men. A windy night split the fields and I was in the leading group of 7 girls with 1 girl away. Unfortunately one of the larger men’s groups caught us at around 200m to go which made the sprint a little bit nerve wracking!
With no races planned for the weekend of 12th/13th July I somehow managed to be persuaded to ride the Dunwich Dynamo with 2 guys that I train with in Welwyn Wheelers. This is semi-organised (and free) 120 mile night ride that happens each year. You don’t register anywhere, it’s just a case of turn up at London Fields in Hackney, collect a route map if you want one and set off around 8pm. So each year thousands take up this challenge of riding mostly through darkness, arriving at Dunwich on the Suffolk coastline some time in morning. It is a rather surreal experience, with our route following some of the route of stage 3 of the Tour de France (“Where’s Wiggo?“ being a popular chalk-scribed question on the roads) tealights indicating turnings, people out cheering in their pyjamas and roads deserted except for streams of red rear bike lights ahead of you. We were following big storms most of the way which made for wet roads and some spectacular lightning. We made in to Dunwich for 3.45am, and after a group selfie on the beach in the dark and refuelling on bacon and egg sandwiches, we set off for an extra 30 miles to Ipswich to make it on the first train back.
29 June 2014 was not only the date of the National Road Race Championships it also marked the fourth round of the CDNW women’s league, returning for the second time to Pimbo Industrial Estate, Skelmersdale, Lancashire.
The Pimbo circuit is pretty flat, although the finish is on a slight incline, which seems to get harder the further you ride!
33 women took to the start line, which is about half the number that attended the first race at Pimbo in March, but this time at least it was slightly warmer and we had sun! The last few times that I’ve ridden at Pimbo I haven’t been able to do a proper warm up as there were other things that I needed to do before the start of the race, so this time I was determined to have a half decent warm up. I knew that my form had started to pick up, with some half decent time trial times and a win last week, so it was important for me that I did a proper warm up, especially isn’t my type of circuit.
After warming up at the HQ, I rode out to the circuit, trying to eat a pain au chocolat at the same time, which basically meant that I was riding along with half of it in my mouth – proper classy as always!
Before the race started, the Chief Commissaire read out the new #racesmart guidelines from British Cycling (basically reminding us that we are on the open road) and then we were off for 20 laps of the two mile circuit.
The two people most likely to benefit from current league leader Eve Dixon’s absence (on duty at the National Road Championships) were her Team 22 WRT team-mate, Jen Edwards (who had won the first two rounds of the league) and Ruth Taylor of Manchester Wheelers (who had come second to Eve at the previous round at Bickerstaffe in April). Due to the non-technical nature of the circuit, it is really difficult to make a breakaway stick, so I had decided to stay up near the front for the first 15 laps, but in the end, Sinead Burke from PH-MAS Cycling attacked with 7 laps to go and Jen followed her, so it wasn’t an attack that I was going to let go up the road. In the end, it brought home to me how strong the wind was on the top corner of the circuit and that there was no point trying to instigate an attack. With that in mind, I decided to sit in and wait for the sprint.
There was a few digs from RST Racing’s Amy Gornall and PH-MAS Cycling also tried to control the race early doors, but ultimately nothing stuck and as the bell lap came round, I tried to make my way up to the front and found myself on Jen’s wheel. The sprint started off okay but I ended up boxed in and managed to find a gap to get out, which is probably a first for me as I don’t tend to contest sprints. As we neared the line it seemed to go into slow motion and seemed like it was never going to finish, but Jen eventually took the win from Amy and Ruth. There was a crash in the finishing straight which saw Claire Offley from Chester Road Club taken out, with some damage to her bike and a bad cut to her knee (get well soon, Claire), a timely reminder to everyone about how important it is to hold your line, especially in a sprint.
I managed to bag 8th, which is my best placed finish in that event, which I was really pleased with. However, the best thing about today was seeing so many people who had been dropped at the first event in the league three months earlier actually digging in and staying with the bunch. There were so many smiles at the finish from those who had achieved a bunch finish for the first time that it makes all the hard work worthwhile. Hopefully, those riders will gain confidence from that race to continue developing and making progress. For someone who seems to spend a lot of their spare time trying to encourage women to take up competitive cycling, that is better than any top ten finish.
CDNW Women 2/3/4 – Pimbo (results provided by CDNW’s Facebook page)
29-Jun-14 CDNW Women’s League, Event 5 – Pimbo
Categories: W2 W3 W4
Chief commissaire: Peter Jack
Assistant commissaire: Len Woffindin Distance/Time
Moto commissaire: Gary Burns 65km/1:45:00
Judge: Simon Wilson
Race number Position Name Team/Club
25 1 Jennifer Edwards Team 22
22 2 Amy Gornall RST Racing Team
9 3 Ruth Taylor Manchester Whlrs Club
26 4 Sarah Rose Team 22
17 5 Natalie Hodson PH-MAS Cycling
2 6 Melanie Potter Bromsgrove Olympique CC
15 7 Sinead Burke PH-MAS Cycling
28 8 Heather Bamforth Team Jadan
14 9 Nikola Butler Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International
24 10 Flora Gillies Speg – Project 51
21 11 Charlotte Mckernon Rhos On Sea Cycling Club
1 12 Lindsay Atkinson-Wright Albarosa Cycling Club
18 13 Amy OHalloran PH-MAS Cycling
37 14 Clara Sandelina PH-MAS Cycling
31 15 Claire Rutherford Team Wheelguru
8 16 Joanne Street Manchester Whlrs Club
16 17 Martha Gill PH-MAS Cycling
23 18 Gabrielle Duckworth Salt Ayre Cog Set
12 19 Laura Morgan Merlin Cycles
10 20 Kim Walravens Manchester Whlrs Club
5 21 Nicola Fox Manchester Whlrs Club
34 22 Eirwen Williams Clwb Beicis Dwyfor
30 23 Frankie White Team Jadan
35 24 Lauren Brown Team Jadan
36 25 Leah Pheasy PH-MAS Cycling
19 26 Madeleine Scott PH-MAS Cycling
3 27 Claire Offley Chester RC
38 28 Jessica Taylor PH-MAS Cycling
32 29 Catherine Waters R.V. Juns
20 30 Rachel Mullard-Wilson Revolutions Racing
6 31 Cathy Murray Manchester Whlrs Club