Apologies for the long post, you might want to get a coffee before you read on…
With a rare 3 week gap between races, I’ve been settling into my new training plan, and put in 20 hours of training over 4 days in Majorca in 30deg sunshine!
I came home to find that I’d got a start at the Cheshire Classic RR – over 120 riders entered and the field size is limited to 70. I’m not yet sure if I was more nervous or excited to get a start – it will be my first ever National Series race and I have butterflies already!
Last weekend I was racing at the Glasgow Wheelers RR and the 3rd CDNW RR in the series. Both were about as far apart as you could get, the first in Garelochhead, the other in Knutsford.
This is the first time I’ve done two road races back to back, and my coach was keen to get a benchmark of where I am after racing two days in a row with travel in between as we move towards my main goal of the season.
Saturday’s race kicked off with a 15% climb to reach the race briefing and a chance to see where the finish was at the top of this. Evil!! After a long delay, the field of 50 got going. The neutralised start (all uphill) blew the race apart, and the lead car stopped the race for everyone to come together again.
When we stopped, I started to feel really sick and was coughing lots, it like something was stuck in my lungs. At one point had to swap places with Alexa as I thought I was actually going to be sick standing waiting for the race to start again! Thankfully I wasn’t, and I later discovered this was down to my energy bars containing wheat (I’ve recently discovered that I have a wheat intolerance).
Eventually we got going again, and I was glad I wasn’t feeling as sick anymore. After the climbs, we went into a fast descent with a sharp left hander at the bottom and gravel on the side of the road. I think we were pretty much still together along the shore road which was interesting with pot holes and fairly big ruts in the road. The pace took its toil on some of the bunch, with people starting to go backwards.
After a while I decided to move into the middle of the bunch to shelter from the wind, but soon came to regret this move because as we turned a corner into a climb, someone attacked off the front and I couldn’t go with them as I was boxed in. I managed to move out of the bunch to begin chasing, getting to within 2 bike lengths of the 5 leaders (pretty good going given I was boxed in and lost a lot of time getting out of the bunch to chase) but I couldn’t close that gap. As we turned into the next descent, I hit 70kph trying to catch them, tucking myself into the most aero position I could get. But that 2 bike length gap may as well have been 10miles as I just couldn’t close down the gap, and eventually they got further away from me. Then I was on my own.
TT’ing my way round solo with the wind and the hills wasn’t part of the plan as I was keen to keep my legs fresh for Sunday’s race, so I was quite glad when a chasing rider caught me. We worked together for a while, before a chasing bunch of 6 – which included Evgenia – working well in a chaingang and caught us.
We worked well until we turned the corner into the 15% hill. I was feeling really strong and the pace was too easy for me, but I didn’t attack knowing it would be better to stay with the group and get some shelter rather than solo it round. We re-grouped and started to work until we reached the long climb, which again disrupted the chaingang, with only 3 or 4 of us working. I was still feeling good so took my fair share of work on the front. However when I tried to eat, I felt sick again so stopped eating in case I was actually sick but wasn’t overly happy with this decision as I knew I needed to fuel well today for tomorrow’s race.
We caught 3 other riders, but despite an increased group for the chaingang, we still didn’t manage to catch the lead group of 5. Coming into the last climb – the 15% – Laura attacked and got a gap, then Sarah went. I tried to go but went too hard too soon and had to recover, sitting on Fiona and Jay’s wheel. Ready to go again, I decided to go left at the same time as Jay wobbled left. There wasn’t enough room between her and the grass so I had to ease off, then drop back and go right….which eventually lead to 10th place.
So close – if only i’d gone right the first time.
Initially more annoyed than pleased with my result, I’ve slowly come round to being happy with my performance, and 10th in the company of 3 Breast Cancer Care riders, 1 MG Maxifuel rider and Fiona Duncan from the GB team is pretty good going. Its also driven home the fact that no matter what the course – a hard hilly course or a flat crit/road race, I can consistently produce top 10 results so I am on the right track for this years goals and happy with that. Well done to Evgenia for 15th, Alexa for 22nd, and Peggy for 24th.
After that it was time to drive south to Knutsford for Sundays race. Alexa and I didn’t arrive until after 9pm, and I was starving. I knew I’d not eaten enough as I was struggling to find wheat free options for carbs. I was still wide awake at 1am, and woke up at 5.45am so hungry I had to get up to eat and then couldn’t get back to sleep.
Safe to say I was feeling pretty rubbish by warm up time, but my legs felt good and my HR was slow to rise during my warm up, so I knew despite the fatigue from lack of sleep, I was in (mostly) good shape.
Our race was delayed so there was a bit of hanging around in the hall after warming up. Alexa and I got a great position in the neutral start, both of us 2nd wheel back. It was fast enough to warm up again, but not fast enough to hurt.
My coach was watching the race, and we’d had a chat before I set off so his final words were ringing in my ears once the race began. I managed to never drop out of the top 10 for the first 50mins or so, opting to hold my line in the wind and suffer rather than drop back for shelter.
Annie Simpson (yes *the* Annie Simpson) attacked off the front and 4 riders re-acted and went with her. Typically this was the only time I wasn’t high enough up the bunch and by the time I realised the gap that they had got, combined with who was in the break, well…it was game over! I was gutted when I realised I’d missed the break again, especially having been so good in March at getting into breaks, but its impossible to be in the right place in the peloton at every single second.
The remaining bunch was quite small – maybe around 20 – after a nasty crash had splintered it and no-one was really wanting to work to chase the lead group. We chainganged a little but never enough to up the pace enough to cut down the time gap on the lead group.
On the front with my moves being covered by the Maxgear team
At about 1 hour 20 in I was in a bad way. My legs were great but every muscle in my body hurt (and I mean hurt) and my head went down. It was an odd feeling for my legs to feel great but to be so weary with fatigue from lack of sleep. I took on board more gels but realised what I actually needed was to fuel every 30mins as I was so tired from lack of sleep, but I didn’t have enough with me as I don’t usually need that much fuel.
Soon all my gels were gone and I was concerned but there was nothing I could do. It’s a good job I am happy to suffer because the last 20mins of the race was torture! I’ve never been so sore from head to toe coming into the finish, but worked hard to maintain (and not be squeezed out of) my position, second wheel from the front, despite thinking we were further ahead than we really were! So it was elbows out and bars ahead of the riders on either side of me, as I kept my focus. A maxgear girl went really early and got a gap, then I tried to go but it because i was running on empty, i wasn’t as mentally sharp as i needed to be to find my way through the riders in front of me and in the end, it wasn’t much of a sprint, crossing the line in 10th, with Alexa in 11th. If I’d have had more fuel, I’m sure I could have fought harder for 6th place from the remaining bunch. However, it was good enough to retain my 3rd place ranking in the series so I’m happy with that.
Another good days work, lots of lessons learned over the weekend, a few tactical mistakes, and lots of positives – with a very hilly race in my legs the day before, lack of sleep and despite running out of fuel, I can still be there for the sprint finish at the end, and place top 10.
A big thanks to my coach Colin from http://www.totalcyclecoach.com/ and to the race squad sponsors – Bolland and Burke, Field and Lawn, Tri Centre and Bicycle Works.