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Time Trialling Tales

Image ©Ken Norbury

Image ©Ken Norbury

Ever since I came back into cycling in 2011, I have had two goals which will no doubt seem a bit rubbish to many – the first was to ride a 25 minute 10 mile time trial on Cheshire and the second was to ride a 25 mile time trial on my local course in less than 1:06:00 (i.e. 1:05:something).

I have never done much time trialling – years ago you either did time trials or you did road racing, and I followed the road racing/track path.  I wasn’t a natural when it came to time trialling, I found it really boring and I wasn’t very good, so I did the usual thing of steering clear.  Nowadays, there are less road events and therefore more opportunities to ride time trials and road races, and I felt that time trialling was something that I wanted to get better at, as by doing so it would make me a stronger rider.

Having said that, I still haven’t ridden as many time trials as people might think (yesterday was probably my fifth or sixth solo “25” ever) and so I still consider myself to be in the “learning” phase.  Last season, it took me all year to get my position right, but I am finally at a position where I like the bike that I ride and I have felt stronger this year.

Unfortunately, there have been loads of road works on our local course (for those of you into time trialling it is the J2/9) so I have only actually ridden the local course three times now, although it feels like I have ridden it more than that!

I don’t have a power meter so I have to go off heart rate, and it is only recently that I have taken to analysing how I am riding the events.  The problem with riding on heart rate is that there is a lag before your heart rate goes to the level which it stays at, so you run the risk of going off too hard and not pacing it correctly, because you think you should be going harder than you need to.  Luckily, I am aware of this, so I know that I need to keep my head at the start and, to be fair, I seem to be okay at pacing it now, although I think that is partly to do with the fact that my heart is fitter than my legs are strong, so I can’t go much faster!

Yesterday’s event, hosted by Janus RC, was no exception.  When I rode the course last year (in admittedly sweltering conditions) I completed it in 1:08:40, and was around eight minutes off the winner.  I had achieved my PB of 1:07:17 on the faster Blythe Bridge course in 2011 when I was quite a bit heavier (about 15 kg or 2 ½ stone) but winter training was beginning to pay off as I completed the course earlier this year in 1:07:19, despite still feeling the after effects of the crash three weeks before.  This year, I have also had the benefit of a long-sleeved skin suit (I didn’t have one last year but I absolutely love my Bioracer one), a helmet that fits properly (I swapped my Giro Selector, which kept falling over my eyes so I couldn’t see, to a Kask Bambino which is just brill) and a much comfier position on my time trial bike (a Halfords-bought Boardman bike adapted for time trialling).

Heather TT - Image ©Ken Norbury

Heather TT – Image ©Ken Norbury

I knew I was starting to get faster as I was nearer to the winner on the short course a few weeks ago, around five minutes, so Fred decided that I should the disc wheel for yesterday’s event, which I haven’t used before.  Before the last “25” (or the short one), I hadn’t really done a warm up, so this time I took the turbo and a wheel for it and actually did a warm up (first time for everything!).  I wanted to keep my cadence higher this time as it was slightly too low for the last (short) “25” at around 83 rpm, when it needs to be around 90 – 95 rpm instead, so that was another thing on my list to concentrate on.

As Fred (my husband) was off about 40 minutes before me, I enlisted the help of Simon Bridge to get my disc wheel in otherwise I wouldn’t have managed it.  I set off for the start, hoping that the black clouds looming would stay away.  The disc wheel felt great, but I just hoped that I would do it justice, with it being the first time I had used it.  I set off and felt like I was going really well, my heart rate was where I wanted it to be and my legs felt fine too (benefits of a warm up I suppose!).  I got caught up in traffic (our local course is pretty narrow in places meaning that cars can’t overtake) but I quickly caught the guy who was two minutes in front of me and I could see the guy a minute in front of me too.  Fred went past me and told me to keep going, which I did.  I seemed to be riding at about 2 – 3mph over what I usually did on the harder parts of the circuit, so coming into the technical section of the circuit I felt like I was going okay.  Unfortunately, it then decided to rain, which meant the temperature dropped, as did my speed, and it took me a further five miles before I was out of the rain and the temperature was back up before I got going again.

Image ©Ken Norbury

Image ©Ken Norbury

However, as I approached the finish, I knew I was on for a good time (for me) and I realised that I had beaten my PB.  I was a bit disappointed that I only did a 1:04:56 but I got over it pretty quickly because I still had beaten my PB by over two minutes on a course that isn’t as fast as others and I had got stuck in traffic, so all in all, I had to be satisfied with that.

It has taken me nearly three years to achieve those goals but at the moment, I can’t help but feel a bit of a sense of anti-climax, possibly because I have been chasing those times for so long and now I’ve achieved them I’m a bit at a loss.  I definitely underestimated how much power I had lost by losing 20% of my body weight, and how long it would take to start from scratch, effectively.  Having said that, I definitely feel better for being lighter as I can get up hills much easier!  I have adjusted my focus somewhat this season – I now know that I have too many other hurdles that I have to get over (whether that be work, health conditions or just getting older) to know that I don’t have the time or the inclination to compete in National Series level events and therefore they won’t be on my agenda next year.  In the short term though, I have some more time trials lined up, including my first ever “50” and the remaining CDNW women’s events, including Oakenclough and Great Budworth, so no doubt I will have enough to keep me focused, I suppose I better do some training then!

 

Mid-Season Training in Spain

 

After riding the Milk Race last year, it was on my list of events to enter this year.  But they were late finalising the date and, by the time it was announced, I had already agreed to play the role of Team Manager for the Masters Vuelta Santa Susanna and the flights had been booked.

Unfortunately, the race was cancelled but as the flights and hotel were already sorted and the guys behind the race had negotiated with the hotel to offer reduced rates for those of us who were still going.  Fred and I had never ridden in Northern Spain before, so we took the offer up, along with two of Fred’s team mates for the race, Simon Bridge of Manchester Wheelers and Duncan Orme from Kent Valley RC.

We arrived in Barcelona and after dragging two twenty kilo bags for what seemed like an eternity we eventually found our transfer bus which took us to Santa Susanna Resort, near Magrat de Mar in Catalonia.

When we arrived at the hotel, the skies were overcast – the weather forecast had been dodgy and looked like it was going to rain for the first couple of days, but we managed to get a quick spin in before our evening meal, albeit in arm warmers and leg warmers!

Total for day one – 17.6 miles in 1 hour 10, with 419 ft elevation

Day two was overcast but the clouds seemed to be hovering over the hills above the resort, due to the wind blowing the clouds towards the mainland.  We set off after breakfast, after having first had a look at the map that we had borrowed.  We decided that a two to three hour loop would be a good warm up, so we headed to Lloret de Mar before turning north and heading inland.  We continued in this vein for a while until we realised that we actually didn’t know where we were.  Cue Magical Mystery Tour stage 1.  In the end, we turned westwards, having decided that we didn’t want to go to Girona, and eventually we came upon a quaint town on a hill called Hostalric.  A quick bite to eat and a cafe con leche later, and we were off again, having had another look at the map.  We headed for Tordera as there appeared to be a short cut that took us away from the main road.  Unfortunately (and this became a theme for the week), just because there was a “road” on the map didn’t actually mean that it existed, so after some random navigating (which included a brief stop at a nice castle), we ended up on the main road, which took us back to Blanes, and then Santa Susanna.

Total for day two – 47.6 miles in 3 hours, with 2,339 ft of climbing

Montseny climbing

Day three showed us that it wasn’t just at home where they get the weather wrong!  Thursday morning the weather wasn’t particularly great, so we decided to leave it a while and wait to see if the nasty rain clouds blew over.  By lunchtime, the clouds were making way for sunshine and after a spot of lunch we hit the road.  I thought that we’d be doing another three hour ride maximum, as the training camp proper was due to start the following day.  This time we decided to head back towards Barcelona, before turning off the main road and heading towards the Montseny National Park.  Within the National Park there is a climb of around 4,000 ft but Duncan thought that there was a turn off the climb about a third of the way up, which you could see on the map.  We arrived at the bottom of the climb and at this point we had already been over one climb and had been out for around 1 hour 30.  I was happy to do a third of the climb as I don’t mind climbing however after having first seen the 10km mark, then the 15 km mark (when I knew the climb was a maximum of 25 km), I began to panic somewhat, especially given at this point we had been out for over two and a half hours and I had run out of food and drink and there was absolutely no sign anywhere of a cafe to stop at!  We continued uphill as I realised that whichever way we went it would be another two hours to get home, and we eventually came across Simon and Duncan who had stopped at the top of the climb.  Apart from the fact that there was still another 5km of climbing before we started the descent back!  I think it was safe to say that I wasn’t impressed!

Anyway, we eventually turned for home but I still had no drink or food.  We stopped first at a petrol station where I drank have a litre of water and filled my bottle with lemon Fanta and Fred bought me a Mars bar too, which I ate once we set off.  We descended into Aruncies, averaging around 25 mph, where Duncan and Simon stopped at the cake shop and Fred and I continued on a bit further to find some toilets and a supermarket, where more food and Coca Cola were consumed.  By this point, I wasn’t looking at the time as I knew it was getting late and I figured that it was best not to panic myself by looking at the clock!

The majority of the route back from Aruncies to Santa Susanna was downhill (apart from the uphill bits) and I struggled to hold the wheels in the cross winds, although I knew I had to keep going as it would have been even worse on my own.  Simon later said that he was averaging 250 watts at that point (I’m not rich enough to be able to afford a power meter yet so I have no idea what my power output was).  By the time we got back it was 7:55pm but I was really pleased that I had kept up with the blokes on the way back and still got the final sprint for the sign!

Day 3 total – 78.4 miles, in 5 hours 5 mins, with 6,804 ft of climbing

Day 4 training campDay four was due to be the start of the training camp that the guys behind the race were hosting.  First up was 95km.  We headed out towards Lloret de Mar and for once the sun was shining.  The road out to Lloret was fairly flat but as we headed through Lloret de Mar and towards Tossa de Mar, the coast road started to go upwards.  I decided that there was no point trying to keep up with the guys so I just kept my own steady pace and it wasn’t long before I started catching up the older ones.

Soon after came the first main descent of the day.  Given that I had done nearly 80 hilly miles the evening before, I wasn’t about to bust a gut on the descents, as the long descents are opportunities to recover on long rides.  Fred had waited for me and we rode down the descent into Tossa de Mar without pushing it, and we eventually regrouped at the bottom, before starting the next main climb.

Again, I stuck to my guns and rode at my own pace and sure enough, I rode past people who were getting tired.  There was also a sixteen year old riding who was spinning excessively for a long climb so as I caught him up (the energy expended from riding in too low a gear means that you tire quicker) I suggested that he might want to ride a slightly Climbingbigger gear.  His father had dropped back to see where he was and gave me some smart comment about how his son liked to spin.  I replied with a “so do I, but there’s a time and a place” and then rode past them both.  Needless to say, this guy obviously didn’t like the fact that a woman was dropping his son or telling his son what to do, so they both thought it appropriate to cut me up on the descent, with the father doing what can only be described as a kamikaze mission, cutting a bend and missing a lorry by about 6 inches, right in front of his son.  I knew then that he was an idiot but he really irritated me when I caught his son up again (yes, for the third time) overtook him then he waited until I had gone past the left hand junction where we were apparently turning so that his son could turn ahead of me!  I mean, that’s really mature!  Anyway, said son lasted literally 100 metres before announcing that he couldn’t possibly ride another metre, and climbed off to get in the van that was following us!

 

Fred and I continued together up the Alt de Sant Grau, which got really steep towards the end (15% gradient!).  I had been told that I would need a 28 sprocket but I refused to use it and managed to get up the majority of the climb on 39 x 23 and 39 x 25.  It is hard work having a standard chainset sometimes, but I have definitely benefitted since swapping from compact chainsets!

The descent was a bit narrow and the road surface was a bit “loose” but we just followed the road and eventually got to the bottom.  There were hardly any cars which made the climb and subsequent descent brilliant.  When we got to the bottom, there was no sign of anyone else so we just followed our noses and headed towards Llagostera, where the first guys were sat in the sun enjoying a cafe con leche.

That cafe stop proved to be my undoing.  It was really windy so they hadn’t put any of the parasols up however the sun was really strong and I didn’t have anything to put on my head.  When we hit the road after the stop, I could see the telltale jagged lines starting in my vision, which signalled the start of a migraine.  I kept going to the top of the climb but my vision was getting more and more blurred, which meant that I was feeling really sick, and I decided that descending on roads I didn’t know when I couldn’t see properly wasn’t the best idea!

Luckily, the van was behind so I was able to get in the van for the descent, before I was able to get out at the bottom, near to Lloret de Mar, and I rolled back with Fred.  Slightly gutted that I didn’t get to do the whole ride as my legs felt fine, but knowing that the right thing to do was to stop whilst my vision repaired itself.

Day 4 total – 47 miles, in 3 hours 10 minutes, with 3,678 ft of climbing

View from MontsenyDay 5 was destined to be the “long ride” for the camp, but there was no way I was going to do another 80 mile route in the hills, especially with having the migraine the day before, so Fred and I said that we would start with the guys but turn back to Hostalric, so that anyone who didn’t have the legs could come on the shorter option.

 

In the end, it was another sunny day, and we set off in the direction of the Montseny National Park.  It is definitely beautiful out there!  We went along the route that we had ridden on our five hour epic two days earlier, and when we got to Sant Celoni, Fred and I turned towards Hostalric, together with two other guys.

There were loads of club runs out, with in excess of 20 riders in each group, although hardly any people waved back!

Day 5 total – 44 miles, in 2 hours 36 minutes, with 2,375 ft of climbing

Day 6 of our holiday turned out to be our last day riding (although we didn’t know it at the time!).  Rather than going with the training camp ride, we decided to head back towards Tossa de Mar and try and see how far we could get before the rain arrived.

I was starving within 20 minutes of setting off and had to get a banana off Fred, but eventually I got my head together (I was more than a little tired at this point) and I really enjoyed the ride over to Sant Feliu de Guixols, after an early cafe stop in Tossa de Mar.  The road follows the coast from Tossa de Mar to Sant Feliu and it seemed like we were climbing forever, Sant Feliu Lunchwith the only issue being the thousands of motorbikes pretending that they were riding the Isle of Man TT!

 

When we eventually dropped down into Sant Feliu, we rode past two pros –one was from Orica Greenedge and the other was from Belkin – they waved hello, so all hope isn’t lost!  There seemed to be a village festival going on in Sant Feliu, with some weird dancing going on and a funfair (and lots of traffic) but we eventually found a nice little cafe, where the owner took our bikes and put them in his shop next door to keep them safe.

After a leisurely lunch, we set back on the road again and there was definitely less climbing on the way back!  Duncan and Simon turned off to do the Sant Grau climb again but the onset of very black clouds in the area saw them catch us up again within 10 minutes and we rode back together.

Day 6 total – 59.2 miles, 3 hours 57 minutes, 4,753 ft of climbing

Some people might not think that I have done a lot of riding, but given the weather and the migraine, I was quite pleased that my legs weren’t hurting and I felt that I could have done another ride.  Unfortunately, there was a downpour on Monday which meant that all riding was off.  I do love riding up the long climbs and the roads were such that it meant that you got loads of opportunity to practise descending without the fear of loads of traffic.  The achievement that I am most proud of though would have to be the fact that I was the fastest non-professional female cyclist up the Sant Grau climb on Strava – I don’t have a fancy Garmin so I have no idea where any segments are, but uploading the ride and finding that the six women faster than me are all full time professionals was quite pleasing!

My thanks to Fred, Simon and Duncan for putting up with me – I’m looking forward to the next one already!

CDNW Bickerstaffe Women’s RR

I’ve not been the best over the last six weeks – I was brought off at the second round of the CDNW Women’s League at Saighton on 9 March and I am still struggling with the after-effects.  So much so that I went to see my physio on Wednesday and he has told me that it will be another three weeks before I am properly healed.  To be honest, that’s probably right because my pelvis is still black from the bruising where I landed on my handlebars and my left hip is a similar colour.  So, as I am still healing I have been told to ride my bike but not “to do anything mental”.

I have to say that it has been a difficult period – I did a fair few miles over winter and whilst I am seeing benefits (I have knocked over a minute off my course best on the local “25” course) it has been frustrating knowing that I might be able to get some half decent results given the right circumstances.

Prior to the disaster that was Saighton (to me at least), I had earmarked this race as one that might suit me – I have ridden the course before and knew what I would need to do in order to put myself in the best possible position for the inevitable bunch sprint – everything centred on the final corner – get that right and you would give yourself a decent shout at a result.

I rode around the course twice as a warm up and everything was as I remembered it, the only difference was the wind, which was coming from the opposite direction to usual, meaning that it would be a tailwind finish, rather than the usual headwind, which also meant that the drag through the woods would be a tailwind.

Frankie on the front

Frankie on the front – Image ©Nicky Hartle (PH MAS Cycling)

The race set off and RST Racing and Team 22 were keen to keep the pace high.  Ness Whitfield of VC St Raphael and Joanne Blakeley of GB Cycles (both of whom had ridden the Buxton Mountain Time Trial the day earlier) were also at the front and we as a team tried to help police it, with Frankie doing a fair few turns.  Having come off as a result of ending up near the back of the bunch, I was also keen to stay near the front and it seemed that there were about 10 of us trying to keep it tapping along in the early stages of the race.  There were a few attacks and I ended off the front at one point, but ultimately after three or four laps had passed by, the bunch had reduced to around 20 from the 32 that had started.

When five laps to go came around, my left leg was starting to scream at me, and I remember riding past Fred pulling a face, as I struggled to keep up as the pace stayed fairly quick going up the drag which took us back towards the headquarters (this is what happens when you aren’t physically prepared!).  I considered throwing the towel in at this point, but then I realised that we would only have to go up the difficult bit four more times and the race would be over, so I decided to cling on to the back of the bunch and sit in for a couple of laps.

Refreshments

Refreshments – Image ©Nicky Hartle (PH MAS Cycling)

I don’t tend to have gels during races, but today I did and the TORQ Raspberry Ripple gel proved to be my saviour!  I knew that the race would slow as we turned into the headwind, so I took on the gel and had a drink then sat near the back for a bit.  Ordinarily, I refuse to sit in the bunch and not do anything as I am a firm believer that you should always try and take the race to your competitors, but luckily my injuries acted as a regulator and I knew from experience that I didn’t have enough in the tank to ride away from the rest of the bunch for a couple of laps!

With two laps to go, Lauren O’Brien from RST Racing attacked and built up a small lead.  However, the head wind in the back straight meant that she was eventually reeled back in and the bunch stayed together for the final lap and a half.  As we came on to the last lap, I knew where I wanted to be and as Jo Blakeley went up the outside of the bunch, I followed her, knowing that it would put me as near to where I wanted to be as possible.  We were caught by the bunch just before the corner, but I had my own line and I just rode as fast as I could for the last half a mile, passing a couple of people and eventually coming in fifth, just behind my team mate Lauren.  That is my best finish on the road (not including closed circuit races) since coming back to racing, and I was over the moon that I had managed to pick up some British Cycling points too, as I hadn’t counted on being able to do that just yet.

Riding near the back

Riding near the back – Image ©Nicky Hartle (PH MAS Cycling)

It was great to see some of the riders who struggled last year doing so well today, and it was the result that Lauren needed after a bad crash at a race at the end of March – she seemed perfectly at ease in the bunch today, which is real progress from last week.  Special mention must also go to the girls from PH-MAS who all rode extremely well.

This race was a shining example of how positive and attacking a women’s race can be.  I just hope some of the riders have gained confidence in their own abilities and that they will continue to try attacking rather than sitting in the bunch.  It was an excellent win by Eve Dixon for Team 22 WRT, which she thoroughly deserved after orchestrating a number of moves throughout the race.  Ruth Taylor of Manchester Wheelers took second from Sinead Burke of PH-MAS Cycling, with Lauren taking fourth and me fifth.

Hopefully, we can all build on the confidence we gained today and get some more results in the near future!

Tour Ta Malta – Stage 4 TT

Stage 4 TT

Final morning of racing! Weather forecast was sunny but when we arrived outside the hotel at 7am it was raining! Again we were all knackered. We were then told that the start time had been changed and we didn’t need to meet until 8!  We could have really done with that extra hour in bed! Especially when all the international riders were apparently told the night before and nobody passed it on to us!

We sat in reception trying to stay awake but at least it would give the roads time to dry out. No such luck! 8am came and it was still raining, we were all nervous about setting off as the roads become like ice when they get wet. Frankie had decided to try and ride the final stage and was ready and waiting outside but when we set off in the rain, she made the sensible decision of turning back at the first corner as she didn’t want to risk coming off again.

It was a very steady ride out even the lead car sensed the danger and drove with caution, we all arrived at the dual carriageway in one piece and Annabel, Sam and myself set about doing a few laps of the course before it was closed off. The outside lane was beginning to dry out which made us more confident. It was a short TT today about 8 miles long but that may as well have been 25 for how my legs were feeling! We struggled for a decent warm up again but to be honest I just wanted to get out there and get it over with. I thought I set off quite well but I realised that was just because I had a backwind!! I headed down the first straight and could see the turn and the cones in the distance, however this is when I think the lack of sleep all week started to take effect and my brain just refused to work!! I got nearer to the cones but for some reason I just could not work out how to get around them! I seemed to be fixated on the outside cone and in a daze headed towards it until I was past it and half way round the roundabout (which we were not supposed to be on) with all the Marshalls shouting at me to come back! At this point it would have been quicker to just continue around the roundabout and re join the carriageway but in my sleep deprived state I decided to stop the bike, turn it round and try and get back inside the cones! It is as confusing as it sounds and I still can’t apply any logic to it what so ever! So with the Marshalls looking on in disbelief I came back inside the cones made the turn then set off again!! Into a block uphill headwind! Wonderful! The rest of the event passed without drama and I was so pleased to cross the line as I felt I was getting slower and slower which was a correct assumption as my time was certainly nothing to shout home about! I was just pleased to have finished. I jumped straight off my bike and went to cheer Sam on who was on her last lap, she clearly had more in her legs than me as was sprinting for the line and she came in with a good time as did Annabel who was not far behind. We were all pleased to have finished but were all freezing so set off rapidly back to the hotel (which in reality was very slow!) just our luck there was a massive climb on the way back and I can honestly say my legs were in pieces!

We arrived back at the hotel and after a massage got ready for the prize ceremony which was to be held at 8pm. We were all hoping that the results would have been sorted out by now and we would be given our correct positions.  We were early for dinner, as we had been told the dining room was to shut earlier than usual. The dinner at the Hotel Soreda had been great and I had thoroughly enjoyed piling my plate up all week! I think the amount of food I ate became a bit of a talking point with me eating my way through starters, 2 full plates and dessert every night! People are always amazed at how much I eat because I am small but I’ve always eaten a lot of food. Happy days!

Annabel collects her certificate.

Annabel collects her certificate.

Anyway we finished by 8 and went to try and find the presentation. This proved difficult, as nobody seemed to have any idea of what was going on? We waited in the bar for an hour and eventually realised that the dining room had shut early, as that’s where it was to be held. The Maltese officials were all in there eating and it certainly looked like we wouldn’t be having the presentation for quite a while so teams just milled around in the hope that it wouldn’t be too long. We went in and out of the dining room numerous times and then gave up hope and retired once again to the bar.  Teams were tired and started drifting off to bed, I think it was nearly 11pm when I suggested we go and have another look so Sam and Annabel went back through to the dining hall. It’s a good job they did as on the microphone “could a representative for Team Jadan please come up?” Sam ran across and was handed our certificates. We sat in there for a few more minutes but were only one of a couple of teams left as they had all gone off to bed. We left the officials to continue with their party and we also retired! Well most of us did! Sam and myself decided to go with Nicky and find a bar and have a couple of drinks! If anything I was hoping it might help me sleep!

By the time we were due to leave the next day the results had still not been amended but we were promised by the official that they would be altered.

The transport again was very good and took us all separately throughout the day to get on different flights. I did think this was very helpful of the organisers, as they could have just dropped us all at the airport together.

We did enjoy our time in Malta, it was great to get away in such good company and get a good block of racing in our legs. I would like to go back and compete again in the future but at the time of writing this blog they have still not amended the results and I feel this is bad organisation on their part. Annabel is still down as being lapped on stage 3 which affects her overall time, she should be somewhere around 19th place but is listed as 28th. I should be further down the results than I am as they messed up my placing on stage 3 but it is impossible to work out where as there are lots of other riders in wrong positions.

Overall if we go by the proper positions for the team then I think we all did really well. Sam was our highest placed finisher in 16th, Annabel in 20th and I think I should be somewhere around 25th? Frankie was sitting in 14th when she crashed. Considering this race did not suit me at all with the long climbs and TT efforts I wouldn’t have been too surprised if I’d come in last. So I was really pleased to have come in around the mid way mark.

We had a lot of help throughout the week from our tech guys Dave and Ewan, biking out each day with our spare kit and water bottles etc, helping sort our bikes out and generally running around after us, so huge thanks to them both, also to Nicky for coming out to help us at her own cost and sorting our bodies out!

Obviously without our sponsors we would not be able to race these events so a massive thanks to every one of them and a special mention to Hugh Rice Jewellers who paid for our entry into the race, it was a great experience and as long as the race positions are worked out we would like to go back again and be more competitive in the future. For now we live in hope that they finally get corrected and Annabel gets her rightful position!

 

Tour Ta Malta – Stage 3 Gozo RR

Stage 3 Gozo RR

6.30am START!! We all stood around looking like zombies! I’m sure this race was becoming more about who could tolerate fatigue the best! Frankie had, as we expected, seized up overnight and couldn’t race. Jon Miles very kindly offered her a lift and we set off on our coach to the ferry. It was freezing, very windy (nothing new there) and threatening rain. We placed our bikes up against the wall in the garage of the ferry (bit precarious) and headed off to find a seat. It was really rough and the majority of us spent the crossing staring out of the window trying to keep a focus on the horizon to

Knackered!

Knackered!

ward off seasickness. There was no such hope for poor Brit from GB Cycles, she had caught a sickness bug and spent the majority of the crossing in the toilet. (She then still went on to do an amazing effort in the race despite being miserably ill! Very impressive!)

We disembarked and rode our bikes up a long climb to the start of the race, we had got there very early so sat at the side of the road in a daze trying to somehow fight the accumulative fatigue. We were struggling to find the motivation to warm up but knew we had too as again the course had a long steep climb near the beginning and it was going to be very tough.

I did a couple of laps of the course and my legs were feeling very tired, again the descent was into a really strong head/cross wind as was the rolling straight towards the finish line.

We lined up at the start and at least I got my feet clipped in this time!

It again went right from the gun with riders vying for position for the climb and it was all I could do to hang on to the group. The front girls powered up the climb and riders started to get shelled out, I was struggling and nearly lasted until the top but started to fall back slightly, Annabel was in front of me and as we reached the top she came round the corner and just managed to catch them for the full on headwind descent. I couldn’t quite make it and without the shelter of the group I slowly slipped further and further back, I was disappointed but there were a lot of girls behind me so I eventually found a group of 5 to work with. Annabel and Sam then managed to stay in the lead group for the next 2 laps, getting distanced on the 3rd time up the climb with quite a few other girls; they then formed a chasing group. Both of them worked so hard and their positions in the race reflect this.

©Gin Sin Photo

©Gin Sin Photo

Meanwhile my group were working well for a while but then started to slow up.  We became fewer in number as a Maltese rider in our group came down and took a few girls with her. It was right in front of me and I was very lucky to narrowly avoid it, my reaction time obviously wasn’t that affected by the fact that I was tired out!

There were working groups of men in front of us and I thought if we could bridge across to them we’d have more chance of staying away from the leading girls. If we were lapped we had to come out and would all be given the same time. This was very unfair as some girls got lapped after 5 laps and went to sit out.  I desperately didn’t want to be lapped as our group deserved a better time so I shouted at the girls to pick it up, whenever I saw the men in front I put a huge effort in into the headwind and went after them to bridge across, I knew that if I could get us there we would have a bigger group to work into the wind. I came out of the line and onto the front and shouted at the girl to get on my wheel, it took me a while but I managed to get across to the guys, I was spent when I got there and sat on their wheels to recover but when I turned around the rest of my group had not come with me and were still quite a way back. I continued to work with the guys for a lap but when we reached the climb again they were too strong and left me.  The girls then caught up with me again and we worked together for a while. I was still concerned about getting caught so went again after some other guys and bridged across to them on my own. I worked with them for a while until I blew up on the last climb and the lead few girls caught me right at the top of the last climb! I was gutted, I only had one descent to go and I would have stayed away.

Sam in desperate need of energy after a tough stage!

Sam in desperate need of energy after a tough stage!

As it was I was given the same time as all the other lapped riders even though most had been lapped way before me and dropped out. It was the same for the girls I had been working with, they also got lapped right near the finish by the 3 leading riders so had to have the same time as the slower girls.  If there is anything that needs changing in the Tour of Malta it is these discrepancies with the times. They tend to get the top ten correct but do not seem concerned with the placing of the girls outside of that. This is disappointing as we have still paid to race and flown over from the UK and it would be nice to have verification of how we did in the race. I hope this is something that will change in the future as they are talking about bringing in timing chips. These would be very welcome especially as that night when the results came out for the stage they were quite a few mistakes. I for one was down as coming in 11th place which was obviously wrong and Annabel who came in with Sam in 14th place was down as being lapped and had been given a generic time.  It was upsetting for the team as Annabel had worked so hard in that stage to come in where she did. It was a kick in the teeth to be told you’d been lapped when you hadn’t. We went to the organisers and told them exactly where it was wrong and hoped that it would be changed.

 

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