Scottish National Road Race Series, round 1.
It has been almost a month since I last raced on the road having opted for a solid block of training over racing on my winter bike whilst Trek repaired the damage to my race bike and wheel.
This race was my first road race this season on home ground and the first of the Scottish National Road Race series.
I had an early start, up at 6am, arriving at HQ at 8.30 to sign on and praying the rain would hold off long enough for me to warm up on my rollers outside. The race organisation was brilliant with full neutral service, and even better not only did we have timing chips, but our race numbers were small. This meant they didn’t take up my whole lower back and make pocket access tricky!
As I was warming up, one of the many helpers came round to say we’d all roll out to the start, some 6 miles away so I was able to catch up with a few people I’d not seen for a while.
There was a very short neutralised section – maybe 500m or so – and then the flag went down.
The course itself wasn’t exciting with a straight section into the wind and a very slight incline, round a roundabout, back down to the straight section with a tailwind to turn at the next roundabout and repeat 8 times.
The few first laps were broken up by a few attacks but the peloton was largely together. Around lap 3 an attack was enough to break up the field and a break went which included all the race favourites although it was a bigger break that I’d anticipated.
We worked well together, the pace of the chaingang going up as the rain came down even harder. At some points the rain was so heavy that I could hardly see, just able to make out the outline of the wheel in front. At this stage I was quite thankful that the course wasn’t challenging and there was very little in the way of potholes to avoid – all good points when the rain is so heavy you can’t see! I was also glad there was a lap board letting us know how many laid we had to go because (as usual I lost count) but also because it was so wet I wasn’t really focusing on anything other than trying to see through the rain.
Love this photo – it shows just how wet it was! Photo credit MikeBinfocus.com
I swallowed so much rain and road spray from the wheels in front of me. Definitely don’t recommend this as energy drink! I could feel the grit on my teeth. I pondering throwing my sunglasses at the marshalls but decided I’d be better with them on.
The break carried on working well until 1 lap to go when there was several attacks but the break weren’t letting anything go so it came down to a sprint finish.
I knew my position going into and out of the last roundabout would be crucial but…I mucked it up. Argh! Finding myself going really wide, this was the worst line I’d taken going round the roundabouts and to make matters worse, I was almost last. It was a case of damage limitation now and I got myself back on a wheel, only to realise the rider wasn’t going anywhere. The front 4 were ramping up the pace and I was blocked in with nowhere to go other than wait for the rider to my right to pass me and then move out (the comm had warned us that even in the sprint finish we weren’t allowed to cross the white line). Finally I got a chance to sprint but by now 5 riders had a gap so I was racing for 6th place which I took with a comfortable gap behind me. Not bad given I’m not a sprinter!
1 – Dani Christmas
2 – Chloe Fraser
3 – Rebecca Nixon
4 – Julie Erskine
5 – Jane Barr
6 – Claire Martin
7 – Gabriella Nordin
8 – Evgenia Ilyinskaya
9 – Anne Ewing
10 – Gillian Palmer
From here it was another 6 mile ride back to HQ to get dry and warmed up before heading home to recover for training the next day. My top tip for a race in these conditions is have your recovery shake already made up (make it Osmo Nutrition acute recovery with almond milk for the tastiest shake out there), have some baby wipes in your kit back to get the worst of the grim off and put on some of Natural Hero Hot ginger rub to warm up your legs and help them recover.
Next up was the Scottish Road Race Championships, held in Alford, Aberdeen, on a hilly 86km course with a sting in it – almost at the end, was the infamous Suie, a climb that is over 2km long and reaches almost 20% in parts.
The field was small but contained top quality riders and an early attack on a hill saw a group of 9 form and I was thankful I’d made this group. There was a lot of attacks, with only one attack gaining a big enough gap to make the 7 of us in the chasing group get organised enough to chaingang to catch them.
I’m still struggling to come back from injury, I am on the road to recovery but short term, I’m going backwards to go forwards and I’m not as strong as I have been in my last 2 seasons. This is incredibly frustrating and heartbreaking when I know aerobically I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, but my lower back, glutes and hamstrings are all still healing and building muscle.
Around the 2 hour mark, Jane Barr from Velocity 44 attacked and this turned out to be the winning move. It was also the time when my suffering lower back and hamstrings decided they’d had enough of a hilly windy race and I lost contact with them. Despite my best effort on the descent to close the gap and get back on, I couldn’t. I was caught by Rebecca Nixon who had been dropped a little before me and we worked together, frustratingly able to see the bunch in front for most of the time.
Phpto credit Denise Raikkonen
Turning a corner Suie came into sight. Oh dear! I knew Rebecca and I were racing for 8th place and was confident we had a big enough gap on those who had been dropped earlier to pace myself up the climb. Falling into my own rhythm I opened up a sizeable gap on Rebecca, and coming over the top I knew I had to keep going so I forced my legs to turn to get me up to speed and tried to recover on the descent. I’d been expecting a long descent and then a short flat run into the finish, but no. At the bottom of the descent the terrain was undualting and into a headwind. Having not ridden the course before I had no idea where the finish line was from the bottom of the descent and I knew Rebecca was behind me so I pressed on, praying for the finish line. Thankfully it wasn’t too far and I took 8th place comfortably but rather disappointed.
Congratulations to Jane Barr for 1st, Julie Erskine for 2nd and Gen Whitson for 3rd.
Huge thanks to Total Cycle Coach, Osmo Nutrition, Natural Hero & 2pure for the support so far this season.