Thursday, 22 June 2017
Monday, 12 September 2016
Another adventure in the Ford EcoSport - its amazing how much kit you can fit in it!
Numbers pinned ready for Stage 1
The only photo I've seen of me at Ardeche (probably a good thing!!) - having just crossed the finish line at the summit of Ventoux
Assuming the horizontal position as part of my recovery - ably assisted by my buddy Soo
Monday, 11 July 2016
Last month we had a pretty full on race block with 8 races in 15 days. Yes 5 of these were under an hour duration but at "eyeballs out" intensity they do take a lot out of you! June is Tour Series month and up to now I'd never ridden a Tour Series race and only every raced one crit before. So when I lined up on the start in Motherwell, safe to say I was more than a bit nervous!! The atmosphere was buzzing though and it was like no race I'd ever experienced before. Music pumping from speakers on the start/finish line, commentator getting the crowd fired up and riders packed in on the start line waiting for the clock to tick down. My Mum and Dad had traveled down for the race and I really love it when they come to watch. I could see them smiling and clapping on the boarding in time with the music and that helped me to relax a wee bit and maybe try to look forward to what was to come....
Getting a good start in crit racing is key! It's fast and furious right from the gun and you need to be up there at the front. The flag drops and everyone surges forward trying to get the best line possible into the first corner. I wasn't too badly positioned and just focused on going as hard as I could, hold the wheel in front and move up. There were a couple of quite fast corners on the circuit and not being the most confident cornerer (apologies for any made up words here!) I was slipping back and then having to put in big efforts to get back to the front bunch. Yo-yo-ing around like this in a race is not energy efficient at all and it only took a couple of laps before my legs had blown and my lungs were burning. As riders behind passed me I wasn't able to get on their wheel and was completely gutted as I saw the head of the race cruise on ahead. I ended up in a smaller group and just tried to stay at the front and work on my cornering technique. I'd said before the race that I just didn't want to get lapped but when the inevitable happened and the small breakaway group caught and lapped us, my heart kind of just sank. In crit races, lapped riders are usually pulled from the race with 3 laps to go. I contested our wee bunch sprint and then made my way back to the pits to see how the finale of the race unfolded. As a rider you hate to see crashes in races, but there was quite a bad one just after the corner turning on to the finishing straight. Mel came down hard, but is thankfully on the mend now and we all wish her well and hope to see her back real soon!
I felt like I had let the team down at Motherwell, but after some positive chats with a few good people whose opinions really matter to me, I turned around my thinking into really working on getting better at crit racing. As is only fair, while the team wanted to put in the strongest possible line up, they also wanted to give everyone a chance to ride what would be their "local" Tour Series race. Next up in the series was Redditch, where I went along as support crew. As a rider you don't often get the chance to see things from the other side, so it was a fairly new experience to me. I tried to be as helpful as I could without being too intrusive as everyone on the team has their own preparation routine before a race. Standing in the pits has to be verging on as nerve wracking as racing itself, in a different kind of way! You feel all the emotions of being a rider but stood on the sidelines you know that you are not able to do anything. To say I enjoyed it would be a bit far from the truth. It wasn't a terrible experience but I did witness a crash and Nikki having to get a bike change and then chase back on to a very fast moving bunch. How she did that I will never know, but it was an incredible effort to get back up there! I ended up a wee bit hoarse afterwards from shouting each and every lap, especially when Charlotte attacked off the front and got away solo and each time Nikki came round having closed the gap significantly more each time! I think after that night I knew for sure that I much prefer being on the bike racing but it just gave me even greater respect for our support crew who do it race in, race out!
There were four more rounds in the Tour Series - Stoke, Stevenage, Croydon and Portsmouth and it was really great to be able to race them all and get more experience of crit racing. Each race I was able to work on my weaknesses - getting a fast start and digging in with the eyeballs out effort (even though I was a little bit sick in my mouth in one race and felt my lungs were going to explode out of my chest pretty much most of the time). It really helped me to follow some good wheels in the corners and improve my technique and confidence. I won't give an in-depth account of each race but thought I'd just highlight a few of the memories I have from each one:
Stoke: After Motherwell I never thought I would be able to say I had fun in a crit race but at Stoke it was like I'd turned a corner (yes there are a few corners to negotiate in a crit...) and can honestly say I had so much fun. No I wasn't up there at the head of the race but I just felt so much better on the bike, taking the corners at speed and staying up the front.
Stevenage: I finished in the bunch with my best result of the Tour Series. This wasn't a technical circuit at all, but it was fast! In bike racing you should never give up, especially in a crit when you never know what is going to happen. So after being in a group just off the back of the main bunch, we eventually caught back on to the front group and were in the mix for the bunch sprint at the end of the race.
Croydon: Another step up in my crit racing learning curve. After Stevenage the night before my legs weren't really feeling the freshest..... Everyone was feeling the same though I think. I couldn't quite hold on to the front group as attacks went off very early on and my legs had other ideas, but I worked in a group of 5 or 6 just behind the main bunch and didn't get lapped!! Oh and again I had fun. This was also a great night for the team too!
Portsmouth: the down side to bike racing. That night my legs were feeling great and I really thought I could have helped out the team. Unfortunately there was a crash just behind me and a rider behind rode into my rear mech. At first I thought (hoped...) it was just the chain had come off but the rear mech was pretty mangled and there was no way the bike was rideable. So I got in a bit of early cyclocross practice and had a wee jog back to the pits (if you've ever tried to run in cleats you'll know this is easier said than done!!). I got on the spare bike and smashed out some of the frustration into the pedals. After a few laps of riding solo, the front of the race caught me so I just stayed at the back of the bunch not wanting to interfere with the race. Three laps to go and I was pulled, race over, a night of lows for me but highs for the team with Nikki and Charlotte on the podium for second and third overall so that made up for my personal disappointment!
And there it is my first ever Tour Series. I feel like a completely different bike rider to the one who lined up on the start line in Motherwell. I love a challenge and this is certainly that! Next year the aim is to be up there in the mix putting everything I've learned this year into practice!
Thanks for reading,
Friday, 11 March 2016
Saturday, 12 December 2015
Wednesday, 19 August 2015
Monday, 13 April 2015
The start of the race followed the same route as the previous day, but wasn't quite as manic. Either that or I was more prepared and made it my sole focus to stay near the front of the bunch, especially as we went into the grounds of the Reservoir as the first testing climb was not long after and positioning would be key if you didn't want to get shelled early on! I'm not quite sure when the rain started, or the snow, but I think this race is up there as one of the hardest races I've ever done, purely for the brutal conditions!!! I thought racing in 37 degrees heat in France was bad. This was the polar opposite (pardon the pun!) and most definitely worse!! The pace was high in the first lap and the bunch had thinned out by the time we started the second lap. There were a few attacks but nothing was really sticking until Joanna Rowsell's attack, that was to prove the race winning move. Nikki Juniper jumped away and bridged solo to Jo and the two of them stayed away for the rest of the race, big kudos to both!! As we descended from the village of Edmundbyers there was a big crash that took out about half the bunch. I'd been playing it a bit canny on this descent each time. It wasn't massively technical but it was wet and I knew that I could move up again as we turned left into the grounds of the Reservoir. This meant that I saw the crash unfold before me and very luckily managed to avoid coming down in the mass of bodies and bikes strewn across the road. The sound of carbon and bodies hitting tarmac is pretty horrendous and you just have to block out the screams from fellow riders. As hard and unethical as it sounds, you just have to ride away. All I remember seeing is a white bike flying up in the air and instinctively following the wheel in front as we dodged past it and began the chase to the riders up the road who had been ahead of the crash. It took a pretty big effort and used up a few more beans than I would've liked to catch the group in front and I owe a big thanks to my team mate Bex for helping me out in the chase!
As we rode along the top of the Reservoir in the most exposed section of the course the cold really started to sink in and I realised just how wet and absolutely freezing it was. I think it had even started to snow at this point. Sometimes in a race, I can be quite oblivious to the rain, but not then. I remember looking down at my hand after struggling to feel my right shifter and seeing my fingers all curled up. See the relevance of the clip above now! At least those 5 seconds of thinking I had a claw hand to rival Jim Carey's took my mind off the searing cold. Every time I tried to change gear all I succeeded in doing was pulling on the brake as I couldn't feel anything at all. I came up with a bit of an unorthodox way of changing gear, but needs must, and I knew that if I could just make it to the final lap then it would be ok as there was no way I was getting that far and not finishing. So that's when it became a psychological battle as well as a physical one to keep turning the pedals and remain focused when the cold just sapped every bit of energy you had.