Monday, 23 September 2013

Westminster GP, Scottish Crit & Scratch Champs

Haven't updated in a few weeks, mainly because I haven't been racing that much! After Stafford I had the British Track Champs, it went about as well as it could I guess. It's pretty hard when you're up against Junior Girls fresh from the World Champs, I finished 8th in the points race, 18th in the scratch race and 7th in the pursuit with a new PB. After that I had a bit of a break for a week because I was feeling pretty tired. When I started up training again the end of the season was insight and I knew my last race would be the Westminster GP, to be held before the last stage of the Tour of Britain in London. This was really good motivation and in the lead up to the race I also raced the Scottish Crit and Scratch Champs.

In the crit champs there was a very low entry, with only 10 starters I think, but me and Katie Archibald attacked pretty much from the start and managed to get away. From then on it pretty much turned into a 2 up TT till 1 lap to go when Katie put in a bit of an effort which I followed and decided to counter. I got away but Katie chased me down on the back straight and I had nothing left for the sprint to the line. So second, but one place higher than last year so I was happy with that!

Comedy moment on the podium as the banner nearly takes me out!
The next weekend was the Scottish Scratch Champs up at Dundee, after a fair amount of waiting around for the track to dry we finally got up to race. It was an even smaller turn out for this one with just 5 starters. I attacked and attacked until I got away on my own half way through the 25 laps, this however meant nearly 5km out front on my own, in the wind. I got a good half lap gap though and held it to the end, but it wasn't easy! So I won the race and was awarded the Junior Womens Championship.

That brings me up to my final race of the season. The Westminster GP. Me and my Dad travelled down on the Saturday so the drive on Sunday morning to central London was relatively easy. It was pretty crazy driving up towards Big Ben and knowing I was going to be racing past it later, very exciting! So I signed on, warmed up and started doing some prelaps of the course. This ended up being quite a lot of prelaps because of a delay to the start. Eventually we were lined up and it was great to see there was already pretty big crowds round the course. I started quite far back but managed to move up in the neutralised section and was in 2nd wheel as the motorbike pulled away and the first attack went, which I decided to follow. There was four of us away and we worked well but I could tell we weren't going to stay away. The course was longer than most crit courses we race on and with less corners too, this meant it was much easier for a big bunch to pull back a break away. I tried to get away a few more times but it just wasn't working, so I sat in. This isn't something I usually do and I knew it meant I was pinning all my hopes on the sprint, but it was the best I could do. So heading into the last lap and the bunch was all together after a late breakaway had been brought back. Down the back half of the circuit I made my move up the outside, staying in the wheels for as long as possible before making a big effort up to the front before the final bends where I managed to get onto Hannah Barnes's wheel. I knew I just had to hold it for as long as I could, which is what I did and managed to hold off everyone behind to the line to take 2nd. I was really happy with that, it was great getting to go up on the podium in front of such big crowds and a brilliant way to finish off the season.

I'm having 2 weeks off the bike now before I start training for next year, where I hope to make as many improvements as I have this year. I'd like to thank everyone thats helped me out this year, including Alan Denman, my coach, and everyone at ERC, its been really nice to get so many congratulations from people in the club.

Thanks for reading, some photos below, thanks again to Huw Williams for most of them, and there was a brief bit of coverage at the start of the Tour of Britain highlights which you can get on ITV4  player here: Tour of Britain Highlights And a good article in the Evening News by Colin Renton here: Louise Borthwick likely to land pro offer

Monday, 12 August 2013

Stafford GP

The last round of the British Women's Series was held in Stafford last Friday. Me and my mum headed south to Preston on Thursday before going the rest of the way to Stafford on Friday. I had seen the course map and it looked very technical with lots of corners and barely any straights. Once I got onto the course for preride it was as technical as it had looked, with one really tight corner just after the finish where you just about had to come to a standstill and another one where the course narrowed to about 2 people wide. This suited me perfectly, I always like to attack round the corners so was really looking forward to the race.
Going round one of the tightest corners on the circuit
As the race was part of the national series the gridding was done on the series standings to that point. I was lying in 7th, but with none of 3rd - 6th being there and me being in striking distance of 5th on points there was a good opportunity for me to move up the overall standings. Soon we were off and with the tightest corner on the course coming first I decided to push on to get into it first, which I did. I then decided to just go for it and pushed on for a lap to see if I could split the race up a bit. I didn't manage to get away but I broke the group up a bit. After that the group gradually got narrowed down to 12 as the Matrix Fitness team continually attacked, with one rider after another going off the front. I followed a few of these attacks but most of them were chased down but national crit champion Hannah Barnes. There were 2 sprint laps in the race I managed to take 3rd in both of them and these gave me an indication of how important the final corner was going to be, in both of the sprints I came out the final corner in 3rd place and there really wasn't enough road to get past anyone in front of you. So effectively positioning was essential. Going into the last 4 laps the attacking had ceased as Matrix Fitness set up a lead out train on the front of the bunch. I had a plan to go on just about the only long straight bit on the course before about 6 tight corners to the finish and hope to hold everyone off through them. On that bit however Hannah Barnes, whose wheel I was on, decided to go so I followed but didn't quite get past everyone. On the next, shorter straight I got past a few more people before taking a corner nice and fast to bring myself up to second placed Jessie Walker's wheel, I then managed to move in front her so it was only Hannah Barnes in front of me. I got up to her wheel in the final few corners but as soon as we hit the finish straight she was away, just no chance of even getting near her! But I was still very happy to take second, my best result at a national series all season. And that did indeed moved me up to 5th in the series, making 4 Scots in the top 5!

Leading off the start line
Podium with Hannah Barnes in 1st and Jessie Walker 3rd
Next up for me is the British Junior Track champs at Manchester this week where I'll be racing the points, scratch and pursuit.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

British Junior RR Champs

This weekend I travelled back to Yorkshire for the Rydale GP which incorporated the British Junior Road Race Champs. The race started at Ampleforth Abbey and was on a challenging course to say the least. Our race consisted of 2 big laps and 1 small lap and with 3 climbs on the big lap and 2 on the small lap.. it was gonna be a lot of climbing! This was exactly what I'd expected though and had prepared for it in the build up to the race. Over the previous weeks I had seen my climbing improve, I was very happy with it at Essex especially and was looking forward to the champs, hopeful of a good result.

In preride the day before my legs didn't feel great, they felt very heavy and not "pinging" as I was hoping they would be. When the legs feel that way it either means you've had too much rest and your legs need waking up or you've done too much training and you're just tired. Seen as theres nothing can be done about being tired the day before the race I just had to hope the legs would wake up after a bit of hard riding and some sprints.

So to race morning, I'd done all I could do, all that was left was to ride my hardest. After a bit of a strange roll out and long neutralised section we were racing and pretty much immediately into the first hill, I followed the other juniors and managed to hold position all the way up, not without a bit of suffering though. Riding to the next hill I just felt terrible, literally my whole body just felt tired and weak, I knew it wasn't my day but I still tired my best to hang on up the next hill. This one was steeper and I got distanced, I managed to chase back on on the descent but lost the wheels again up the next hill. After this one I benefited from the chasing of Matrix Fitness as they tried to pace Mel Lowther back to the bunch, again we made it back but only just before the next climb. This climb was one too many, the gap was too big and although I could see the bunch for quite a while I just didn't have the power to get across. This left me in a small bunch behind with 3 other juniors, knowing that the front bunch was pretty much out of reach I concentrated on getting the best position I could from the bunch I was in. This meant I attacked over the top of the last climb on the last lap, on the flat I put the power down, managing to open up a gap with 2 other senior women. I was happy to do a lot of the work to keep away from the bunch behind which we managed to do for me to take 4th Junior.

Yup that hurt.

It has to be one of the hardest races I've done and I know I gave it my best shot, but equally I know my legs were nothing like at their best. This was confirmed the next morning when I woke up feeling like I'd been hit by a train, my body was a bit of a wreck so I think that confirms the reason my legs were feeling rubbish was because they were tired. But looking ahead a few days off and I'll be recovered and we now know my limits and what kind of taper doesn't work for me in the lead up to a big race. I've now got the Stafford GP to look forward to next Friday and then the British Junior Track Champs from the 14th - 17th August, but currently I'm enjoying a few days off and eating what I want for once! Thanks again to Huw Williams for the photos.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

British Crit Champs

Last weekend I headed to York for the British Crit Champs, I was quite looking forward to the race, there was no pressure or expectations and I was very up for just attacking the race. After preriding the course I had very little hopes of actually managing to get a break away to stick, it was very flat and although there was some cobbles I didn't think they were enough to force a split. But anyway that didn't change the game plan, I was going to try my best to get away.

From the start I was up near the front just eager to attack, but I knew it was better to wait a few laps, soon Louise Mahe of Mulebar girls attacked and with no one taking up the chase for about half a lap I decided to go after her, unfortunately just as I got close we rounded a corner to find the race had been stopped due to a crash on the previous lap. This meant we all rolled round to the start for a restart. From the restart I found myself much further back than I would've liked but I worked my way up to the front and got there just before the tightest corner on the circuit which I knew I could go round well, so I decided to go for it, I knew it was super early in the race but worth a shot. I very, very nearly came off at the corner, just managing to save it before I went into the barriers. But it worked and I nailed myself for a whole lap, luckily Hayley Edwards of MG-Maxifuel had come with me and worked together for a few laps till Amy Hill of Abergavenny came across. Amy was really strong and put the power down when she hit the front which had me hanging on and meant Hayley got distanced. Then it was just me and Amy for a bit, I had no idea how close the bunch was behind us but watching it on the TV they actually came pretty close to catching. What really helped us away though was first Eileen Roe and Katie Archibald coming across and really upping the speed then Hannah Barnes making it across too. This meant some serious speed and at points I was suffering to just hang on, I think the initial effort to get away took a lot out of me! Soon it was 10 laps to go and we were still working well together, I still had no idea of the gap but at 5 to go the commentator said that it was 58 seconds. We were away and clear, baring disaster I was guaranteed 5th! And in the end I just didn't have the legs at the end and had to settle for 5th, but still really happy in my first Senior Championships on the road. A very hard day out on the bike though with effectively flat out for an hour!

Attacking to start the winning break
Had my new Oakleys on for the first time in the race as well and would like to say a big thanks to The Tri Centre, Field and Lawn Marqees and Edinburgh RC for them.

Highlights of the race were on ITV4 during the week and you can watch them on ITV player here:

This weekend I'm off to Yorkshire again for the British Junior Road Race cha
mps at Ampleforth, its a very hilly course but I will be giving it my best shot.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Oakley Village Races, Guildford Crits and Essex Giro

I was writing my last post on the road south for a 10 day trip down south. I'm now home so heres an update of how I got on in all the races, I've also added a load of photos from the past few weeks at the bottom, thanks very much to Huw Williams for taking most of them!

After Otley I had a day off as we were travelling south to the Travel Lodge at Gatwick Airport which was my new home for the next week and a bit, then on Saturday we head north to Oakley for the Womens Team Series where I would be guesting for Team ASL360 again. It was a boiling hot day and it only got hotter throughout the race, the race was 6 laps of a very flat course, with primes at the end of laps 2 and 4. There was plenty of attacks but the nature of the course didn't make it very easy to get away, I tried myself after the first prime lap but got nowhere so decided it was better to bide my time in the bunch. When we came round for the second prime I made sure to stay up in a good position and as 4 women came round the side of the bunch I managed to accelerate onto their wheels and come round them at just the right time to take the prime, I was pretty surprised at that seen as I don't consider myself that good a sprinter! So it all came down to the final sprint after a tense last 2 laps where I was more concerned about staying on my bike than anything else at there was at least 2 crashes. At the end my team mate Dani attacked with about 1km to go and was looking really strong just in front of the bunch. At this point I was on the wheel of Hannah Barnes, perfectly positioned, or so I thought, however due to Dani being out front Hannah decided to start her sprint very early. I couldn't quite hold her wheel in the initial acceleration leaving me between the front 2 and the bunch just burying myself to get to the line, 2 girls from Matrix Fitness came past me but I managed to stay ahead of the rest of the bunch for 5th. I also picked up the prize for first junior which I was pretty happy with!

Straight after the race we were off to Birmingham for the Dudley track meet the next day. Having not raced the track in a good 2 months I was severely struggling to find my track legs. The fact that the first event in the omnium was a 400m TT didn't really help either, not something I'm very good at! So first event wasn't the best, then in the points race I got 3 points to finish 6th, in the sprint I wasn't last (happy with that!), pursuit I was 6th again. Then came the final event, the scratch, 20 laps to leave it all on the track and finish the day on a high. So I attacked and attacked till I got away, then I just put my head down. Seeing I still had 11 laps to go I knew this was not going to be the most fun! But the bunch had sat up and soon I had half a lap, then a bit more, every time the bunch swung up the track I got a bit closer and eventually managed to lap them. I then just sat in the bunch to take the win, very nice way to end the day!

On the cobbles at Guildford
We then had one easy day before racing Hillingdon weekly races on Tuesday night, we were racing with the 4th cat men so it was just for training effect but I got in a few moves but nothing stuck and I was out of it at the end. Anyway the next day was more important, we were off to Guildford for the town centre crits where Joanna Rowsell would be racing. The course included a uphill cobbles section which was just perfect for me, I really like the cobbles because you have to be really strong to get over them. From the off Jo Rowsell was away, I was straight onto her wheel and surprised myself managing to hold it. We were soon joined by Hannah Barnes and then Alexie Shaw, I was taking my turn and I knew we were getting away from the rest of the field which was just in pieces I think. I stuck with the 3 till about half way through when Jo Rowsell put in an attack on the cobbles which I just couldn't follow. So I was on my own but I just kept going and kept ahead of the small bunch behind me to take 4th, but it was very, very tough for a 25 minute race!

Start line at Guildford
On the climb at Essex

After this the road home was in sight, just 2 more nights at Gatwick Airport then I would move to Stansted Airport for the Essex Giro at the weekend. This started with an 11km TT which was on a rolling course, I struggled to find my rhythm for the first half but got into it and managed to catch the girl in front of me and take 9th place. Next up was a kermesse over 8 laps of a tough course with a hill on a single track road. I did my best to be at the front of the bunch for the start of the climb every lap and found I was climbing quite well. There was some breaks away but everything got brought back on the fast descent. It all came down to the last lap up the hill, I didn't quite have the legs to go for the win but I managed to stick with the front group which I was happy with. The next day was a long road race, the longest I've ever done at 128km. Luckily it was on a slightly flatter course so the race went quickly. An unfortunate crash meant the race had to be stopped for 40 minutes as ambulances were brought in, I think everyone involved was ok though. After this the race was shortened by a lap to 110km, there was a break away in the early part of the race but was brought back and the race was all together for the final lap. I managed to maintain a good position but was just on the wrong side for the final corner so couldn't find a way out and finished 6th. This left me in 9th overall which I was happy with.

Next up I've got the British Crit Champs this Sunday before the British Junior Road Race Champs the week after, will keep this updated with how I get on!
Ahead at Woking
Thanks for reading.
On the attack at Woking

Podium for most combative rider at Woking

London Nocturne
Aylsham in the pouring rain

Time Trial at Surf n Turf
Time Trial at Surf n Turf

Attacking in the crit at Surf n Turf

In a break at Surf n Turf
Off the start line at Otley
Front of the race at Otley
Front of the group at Surf n Turf

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Update on Past 2 Weeks

It's been a few weeks since I've got round to updating the blog so I thought I'd just do a quick summary of the past few weeks. Unfortunately I'm on the road again so no pictures for now! 

So my last post was after the Woking tour series, next up on the Thursday was the tour series at Aylsham and we were greeted with pouring rain, it had to be some of the worst rain I've raced in. When it was at its heaviest it was actually hard to see! Naturally the slippy roads made for a lot of crashes, including me unfortunately. I stuck with the main bunch for the whole race until I crashed with 3 to go, I was pretty gutted especially as I'd managed to score some points at both the sprint laps so I think I was going well for the sprint. But the crowds were amazing, cheering when I got up and then again on the last few laps when I was on my own.

The next day was a long drive over to Preston as I was racing the Surf and Turf stage race at the weekend. The race consisted of a 1 km TT, a crit and a road race. I did a good time in the TT coming in 9th. In the crit I was up the front the whole race and took 5th in the sprint, although I wasn't helped by a tail wind up the finishing straight which meant I was at the top of my junior gears.

Next day was the road race and despite attacking and riding across to attacks for most of the second half of the race nothing was sticking and it came down to a sprint where I unfortunately mistook the 200 m to go sign for the finish.. So blew up a bit! But managed to keep 9th on GC. 

After being away for so long and a lot of racing I had a really easy week, with just a few days on the bike. After this I was really looking forward to getting back into some good, hard training. So that brings me to last weekend where I was doing the Curlew Cup race, near to Newcastle. It was my first race in 2 weeks so I was pretty excited and ready to go. My legs were suffering a bit but I tried to get in a few moves, unfortunately completely missed the one that stuck but you can't go with every attack! So I was in the bunch and would be contesting for 6th place.. I knew if I waited for the sprint I wasn't going to get 6th, there was quite a few good sprinters in the bunch, so I went for it with 1km to go, I got a gap and basically nailed myself to try and hold off the bunch.. Unfortunately it didn't work and I got caught with 200m to go, of course my legs were now dead so I rolled in 37th, but worth a shot!

Finally I was in Otley last night for the crit racing, this is the first year they've run a women's race and it was a great atmosphere with big crowds, so thanks very much to the organisers for putting the women's race on! I had raced the youth race on the same course 2 years ago and had horrible memories of the hill, having done a few practice laps it didn't seem so bad though. Throughout the race I kept up near the front and kept an eye on Elinor Barker and Hannah Barnes who were probably the 2 strongest riders, a couple of times they would open a gap that I managed to bridge only for the bunch to follow a few seconds later which was a bit gutting! In the end it came down to a sprint, I was in a good position coming into the descent but lost a few places before the final corner and ended up 5th. I am happy with that but I do have this constant feeling of wanting to do better!

So now I'm on the road south for a 10 day trip starting with the women's team series at Oakley on Saturday followed by the Dudley women's omnium round on Sunday and town centre crits in Guildford on Wednesday before the Essex Giro 2 day next weekend. Lots of racing, I will try to do a bit of an update between races!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Crit Racing 2 - Redditch, London Nocturne, Hillingdon GP & Woking

First up last Tuesday was a 5 hour drive to Redditch to race in the 3rd round of the Johnson Health Tech Series, after this and a bit of running around trying to find sign on I managed to warm up and get a ride round the circuit. It was a pretty tough course, with a fast descent and a gradual incline before a tight turn after which the road just rose up in front of you, I heard it being described as a mini world champs course. Anyway to the race and the pace was fast from the off, my legs were seriously suffering, every time up the hill I was just in a whole new world of pain. For one reason or another it just wasn't my day and I dropped off the front group 20 minutes in, I then rode round very slowly because I'd completely emptied the tank trying to hang onto the front group and I think I was a bit out of it because when the second group on the road came past me I thought it was the front group lapping me and didn't jump in with them.. Oh well a 25th place finish wasn't exactly what I wanted but onto the next one.

After Redditch we headed back to Edinburgh and I had a few easy days at home to try and recover for Saturday when I was racing the London Nocturne. Early on Friday morning I was on my way south and met with Scottish Cycling Junior coach Alan Denman at Abington as he was taking me and some other Scots south for the weekend. The long journey went quickly seen as it was so early and we got to London early afternoon, after a quick spin on the rollers we were just relaxing till our race which wasn't till ten to 9 on Saturday night.

We set off on Saturday and made our way to Smithfield market in London, already there was lots of people about with the racing starting at 4. We chilled in the van till we could sign on then got ready as we could hear over the loud speaker the commentator continuously reminding us of the level of talent in the womens race with Laura Trott, Dani King and Jo Rowsell along with the rest of their Wiggle Honda Team Mates as well as the top domestic teams all taking to the start. I was guesting for the ASL360 team at this race so me and the other ASL girls warmed up and headed to the circuit, we managed to get on and round to the start finish line before being stopped and all going out on a practice lap behind the motorbike. After that we were stopped again and the Olympic champions were called forward and then all the rest of us lined up. Then we were off and luckily I managed to get my foot clipped in and was straight up into 5th position. The back half of the circuit was quite technical before a slight drag up and a bit of a headwind before turning onto the start/finish straight. On the second lap I got a bit excited and attacked through the corners, I managed to get quite a gap and pushed on into the headwind but there was a Wiggle Honda rider on the front and my advantage was gone before we got back round to the finish line! After that it was just about hanging on for as long as possible and I was on the rivet for a good 4 laps just hanging as the fast girls drilled out the pace at the front. Eventually I couldn't hang on any longer and dropped back to the second group which still had some of the top riders racing in the UK in it. I stuck up near the front of that group and we just avoided getting lapped but unfortunately I had no idea when the last lap was, probably due to the insane noise from the crowd. But yeah meant I ended up 23rd when our group was sprinting for 16th so maybe could have done a bit better but was happy with the race other than that.

The next day we were off to Hillingdon, thankfully not till 11, for the next round of the British Womens Series. The race was 50km so that was 33 laps of the circuit at Hillindgon which was pretty flat and fast but with a headwind up the finish straight. I kept up near the front of the bunch for most of the race following attacks and making a few of my own, I managed to get a fair gap at one point, but everything was just getting brought back and on such a fast circuit the bunch stayed mostly together and with 3 laps to go it was looking like a bunch sprint. I was determined not to lose position in the final lap and I managed it much better than at the Milk Race to come out the final corner into the finishing straight in 2nd wheel. Unfortunately I can't sprint and I finished up 11th but happy with positioning throughout the race.

So last up was last night (Tuesday) in Woking for the 4th round of the Johnson Health Tech Series. Legs were feeling pretty good in warm up and once we started I kept a good position and when Louise Mahe and Hannah Barnes got a bit of a gap I managed to bridge across. I went through to take my turn just before the tight turn at the top of the course and as I went round the corner I heard a clatter behind me as Hannah came down.. I had a slight moment of indecision, it is bad practice to attack when someone crashes but seen as Hannah would get a lap out and the bunch was behind chasing I decided to push on, this meant I was out front on my own. Next time past the pits and I saw Hannah waiting to be put back into the race, the commissaries had decided to put her in with Louise Mahe, I think, who was just behind me. So I was still out on my own, I knew I had to push really hard for a few laps to establish a gap which I managed to do and was still out when the klaxon sounded for the first sprint lap, I took the points and kept going. I could see the bunch at the point where the course doubled back on itself and I was holding my gap. The klaxon sounded for the second sprint lap and I was still out although they were getting closer now so I dug deep to stay ahead for the sprint points, which I managed, before being caught the lap after that. From then to the finish I was really suffering from the effort and just hanging on at points as the pace was really being pushed but I managed to stay in contention and finished 8th overall. My exploits out front meant I had picked up the most combatitive rider prize as well as the prize for the sprints on the night. Happy with that! Meant I got to go up on the podium twice, pretty exciting! Congrats to Hannah for crashing and then getting up and winning.

Next up I'm racing the 5th and final round of the series in Aylsham tomorrow. Then up to Blackpool for the Surf n Turf 2 day this weekend which is the next round of the British Womens Series. The nocturne is going to be on channel 4 at 7:35am this Sunday and on 4oD after, you might be able to catch me and the Johnson Health Tech Series from Woking will be on at 10pm on ITV4 tonight and then tomorrow nights race will be on at the same time on Friday.

I've now finished school and am spending this year focussing on my cycling, hoping to get a bit of a job at some point and then to head to New Zealand for a month in January. Plans for next year are yet to be formed but will hopefully involve going to Holland for a bit. I would really appreciate if anyone had any contacts they could pass on if they could email me at that would be great!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Crit Racing 1 - The Milk Race & Peebles Tweedlove Crit

Last weekend I headed south to race in the reincarnation of the Milk Race, which was being run as a crit in Nottingham town centre. I was feeling pretty good about my form, having won the Ingliston Crit on the tuesday and come 3rd behind a very strong Natalie Milne and Katie Archibald on the Saturday. However this race was going to be at the next level with Olympic Champion Dani King racing as well as Olympian Lucy Martin and a number of other pro women from the Wiggle Honda and Boels Doleman squads.

Dani King,  Lucy Martin.. and me! Bit surreal..
We drove to Doncaster the night before, and it felt like a very long drive, not getting to the hotel till 8pm so I was very glad the race wasn't till 2:15 on the Sunday. We headed into Nottingham town centre hoping we would find somewhere to park the car, after a bit of driving in circles we eventually did. We had plenty of time so headed to the event village to have a look, my first thought was wow this is going to be a spectacle! There was so many people there, probably helped by the beautiful sunny weather and I couldn't wait to get racing in front of those crowds!

So after dealing with the strange sticky numbers that were just falling off and having a ceremonial sign on I warmed up and headed out for a few laps of the course. Even just going round in practice there was loads of people clapping and cheering, it was great! My luck was in as they stopped us for the start just as I was coming round to the start/finish line so I was right on the front row which was going to be important as there was almost 50 women entered and the tight technical course meant the race would probably split up quickly.

The pace was fast from the off and I found myself near the front at the slight rise before the start/finish straight which was probably going to force any splits in the bunch so I went to the front to push on a bit and catch out any people who had had bad starts. This meant I was on the front going over the finish line on the first lap and got my name announced! The crowds were insane, just so many people, but you kind of forgot about it because the course demanded so much attention. I kept up near the front of the bunch and was 3rd wheel going into the first sprint lap, I was in a good place but when Hannah Barnes decided to go for it.. wow no one was following that, the gap she got from one acceleration was insane! After that it was full on for a few laps as breaks tried to go, I found myself just not having the kick to get on the tails of people attacking and trying to work with people in the bunch to pull them back but there was so many teams it was hard to know who was going to help chase and who was going to just sit on the front and slow the bunch down. Eventually, about 30 minutes into the 50 minutes, Dani King was away on her own and there was a group of about 17 behind which I was in. At this point I started to loose my concentration, I was still feeling good but just kept slipping back in the bunch. It was really hot but I was struggling to find a good place to take a drink because it was just corner after corner after corner..

Eventually we hit 5 laps to go, I was glad I'm not gonna lie! I forced myself to concentrate and move up, I managed to get into 2nd wheel with 3 laps to go and was on the front with 2 laps to go before trying to get back into the line as Emma Trott upped the pace a bit. I was about 4th going into the last lap but just couldn't hold it going up the rise on the final lap as people attacked either side of me and I was just pushed wide going into the last corner and almost went into the barriers, I pushed as hard as I could going up to the finish line and finished in 11th, just behind Lucy Martin. I was pretty happy to be up in that select group but annoyed I'd messed up the finish, but it was much improved from other crits of that level I've done.

So after the mega drive home I was straight into another crit on Tuesday evening in Peebles, this was part of the tweedlove festival and because there was a family ride before the womens race there was again big crowds out to watch. After finishing 4th in this race last year and being extremely gutted watching the podium take place I was determined to do better this year. There was a small field, to say the least, with only 9 I think. The race was only 30 minutes and I decided to just put the pressure on from the start up the short but steep hill on the course and pushing on over the top of it into the finish straight for the first few laps meant Maddy Robinson and I established a bit of a lead but with Flora not far behind we had to work to open up the gap, which we did well. About 15 minutes in I squeezed it on again and got away on my own, from there on it was just about keeping the pressure on and once my sister finally started giving me time checks (she thought I was saying "climb" instead of "time"..) I knew I was away. I got into the last 3 laps with a good lead but kept pushing just because I was so worried about falling or puncturing or something! Finally I got my moment to put my arms in the air for the first time this year.. Its a good feeling!
On the attack in Peebles

Podium in Peebles
Think I need a bit more practice with the arms in the air thing..
Thanks to my sister for the photos at Peebles, theres loads more really good ones of the mens and womens race, as well as from other races on her flickr page here:

 Full Results from the Milk Race are here:

Thanks very much to the organisers of both races and all the spectators for coming to support them. Also a quick apology to my Geography teacher Mr Pyper, if the time spent travelling to and from the races had been spent studying instead I probably would have done much better in my exam on Thursday..

Next up I've got the Junior Boys Scottish Champs tomorrow, which I got a wee mention in the preview of which you can read here:
Then I'm off to Redditch on Tuesday to do the next round of the Johnson Health Tech GP Series and then to London on Saturday to do the London Nocturne and the next round of the British Series at Hillingdon on Sunday. Will try and do some short updates while I'm on the road!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Scottish Road Race Champs

Last weekend I headed north to the small town of Alford for the Scottish Road Race Champs. The race was going to be demanding to say the least. I'd seen a preview of the course which included an ascent of the famous climb "The Suie" - You can read about it on Owen Philipson's Blog here:

So after reading that I think it was safe to say I was a little nervous about the race. Hills aren't usually my strongest point so I was just hoping to make it to the bottom of the climb with the main bunch. The climb came in the last 12km of the 87km race which was already on fairly rolling roads to that point.

I had planned to pre ride a bit of the course the day before but I missed the dry part of the day and, call me soft, but the torrential rain didn't seem too clever to go out in, so a pre race ride on the rollers to get the travel out my legs sufficed. I did however have a drive round the course, including the hill, which just seemed to rise up like a wall, yup it was gonna live up to expectations for sure!

So finally race day was here and it was really warm! Unusual for the north of Scotland but not unwelcome at all. I got a good warm up done on the rollers before assembling with all the other women behind the pipe band and Youth D racers on the circuit in the Grampian Transport Museum. What followed was a rather entertaining ride around the circuit as we all followed the pipe band round at walking pace trying not to fall off our bikes! I think it added to the event however and I think it was good for all the youngsters to see what they should be aspiring to in a few years time.

After that we headed out onto the road for a short neutralised section before we were racing. We had one long circuit before we were onto the shorter circuit with the climb on it. The racing on the big circuit was on the whole a bit uneventful, there were some slopes on the far side which the Breast Cancer Care team tried to get away on, pinging one rider after another away off the front, but nothing was sticking. After that it was mainly rolling and downhill for quite a while and the bunch just rolled along, slowly. Infact so slowly that the men, who had started half an hour behind us, caught us up and we had to stop to let them past. After that we had a bit of a climb before we hit the road leading up to the Suie, up here Jen Taylor attacked and the bunch was strung out with riders trying to pull her back, I was really struggling at this point. I had been feeling so nervous and sick before the race I don't think I had eaten enough, and it was telling on my legs, but I took a gel and that got me home. There was nearly a group of 6 of us got away up one of the hills on the road up to the Suie but it didn't stick and again the bunch just rolled along. I think everyone just knew how hard the last hill was going to be so wanted to save something effectively.

The bunch rolling along.

The Suie in the car on the Saturday, this photo
doesn't really show how steep it was!
Then we hit the climb, pretty much immediately Jen Taylor and Julie Erskine rode off into the distance, seriously impressive riding from those two, I really wish I could climb like that! I tried to hold onto the wheels in front but was really really struggling, about half way up I was in 10th position, with everyone fairly spaced out, but going backwards. Luckily though Fiona Duncan came up beside me and offered a few words of encouragement, she paced me up the last bit of the climb, we managed to limit our losses and had the group of 6 in front of us insight. We pushed on down the descent and worked really well on the next part to make it up to the group in front. We were now competing for the final spot on the podium but my legs were seriously feeling it by now. Up the finishing straight and Eileen Roe went on the left hand side and I knew the sprint was about to start but it was just like screaming pain in my legs so I only managed 5th in our group and 7th overall. But wow was I happy with that. To finish that demanding a race in that company was really incredible, all the women in that group of 8 were super strong, no one could just hide away and get a free ride to the finish, you had to be strong to get there. So yeah it felt a bit like finishing a stage of the tour de france with the favourites. Buzzing, as Gavin would say.

Finishing in 7th meant I took the Junior Womens Title, and it was really nice to get presented with a jersey and medal with the other winners and receive a prize, because I feel sometimes people forget that junior women are having to compete with elite women from the moment they move out of youth categories and rarely is a junior prize awarded, so I would really like to thank the organiser for leading the way in that respect and putting on a great race. Also big congrats to Jen Taylor for taking the win in what I hear was a very close sprint with Julie Erskine. Thanks very much to Fiona Duncan for getting me up the last bit of the climb and working hard to get back on the group in front.

Medal Winners, me on the left with the jersey for Junior Womens Champion

Thanks for reading, next up I've got about 3 weeks of solid crit racing, which should be fun! Going to be racing some big names so will hopefully get my name up on the results sheet alongside theirs.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Cheshire Classic

Bit late with this post but just a wee update on how I got on at the 2nd round of the British Series, the Cheshire Classic, which took place last weekend. I travelled south with my mum and team mate Claire on Saturday and had a quick preride of the course, which included a hill named 'The Cliff' as you can imagine, it was pretty steep. It felt okay in practise but I knew after a few times up it, it was going to start to sting a bit.

So onto race day and we arrived at the HQ in plenty of time to get warmed up and ready for the start at 10. With a big field of 71 riders I knew I wanted to be at the front for the neutralised section, which was about 4km long before we hit the course for 10 laps of the 7.7km course. I was right on the lead car as it pulled away, which was perfect because it meant I didn't have to worry about holding my position or moving up or anything. Soon the lead car pulled away and we were off, I got in the wheels and just tried to move up into the top 10 for the hill every lap, which seemed to work because I would slide back a bit but only found myself at the back of the bunch once. I had one scary moment when there was a crash just in front of me going up the hill but I managed to get round it an chase back on.

After much pain every time up the hill it was finally the last lap, the finish was half way up the hill so there was technically still a bit to go but for some reason I just totally lost my racing mentality, I think I had been so focused on sticking in the bunch to the finish that I just forgot what to do at the finish of the race, so ended up way too far back to be competitive at all and came in 26th. I think I just need more experience of the finish of races in bunches but I'm sure it'll come with practise.

Congrats to Karla Boddy on a great win! There is a good wee video of the race on the website at

Thanks for reading, got a few quiet weekends before the Scottish Road Race Champs up in Aberdeen in 2 weeks time

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Omloop Van Borsele - Holland

Last weekend I travelled to Holland for my first international Junior Womens stage race. The race was 3 stages over 3 days, a 13.2 km time trial and 2 72 km road stages. Because it was such a big race all the riders had to enter in teams, unfortunately I didn't have a team to enter with so we wrote to the organiser and he wrote to some dutch teams to ask if they would let me ride with them. Luckily some came back saying they would and I chose to ride with the RWC Ahoy team from Rotterdam.

So me and my mum set off on Thursday to get the ferry from Hull, this bit all went smoothly, the issues started when we got off the ferry in Belgium to get lost almost immediately. The Belgian road signs made things more difficult than they should've been but after a few detours and a tour of a town we didn't need to do we final made it into Holland. The drive seemed much easier after this and we made it to the place we were staying. Just as we were arriving a team car with RWC Ahoy written on it pulled up and I got my first chance to meet the girls I would be riding with for the weekend. They all seemed very nice and invited me to stay in their room with them. This was quite an experience, 6 of us in quite a small room with bunk beds, safe to say there wasn't much floor space.

Once we'd unpacked a bit and had lunch we headed down to the time trial course for a ride round it. It was pan flat, with a good tail wind section but then, obviously, a hard head wind section and some good corners. I was happy with how my bike felt and settled nicely into my tt bars. We rode back to the place we were staying and changed before getting in the van and heading to the start of the TT. I pretty much went straight to warm up because I only had half an hour till my start time. I headed to the start and soon I was at the top of the start ramp ready to go. I had the count down in dutch (vaguely understood) and I was off and immediately being battered by the cross winds, I tried to get the bike into as big a gear I could manage and just hold it. Soon I made the turn into the tail wind section and a quick glance at my garmin showed I was going at nearly 50 km/h, at the top of my junior gears, and I could see the team car behind the girl in front. I found a nice rhythm and held it down the turn before I was into the head wind and just trying to keep a high enough gear turning over. My legs were seriously hurting by now but I could still see the girl in front so I kept pushing. I didn't quite manage to catch her but I finished in a time of 21.02.22, which was 2.24.16 down on the winner who was Nicky Zijlaard, whose team I was on! Nicky was over the moon with her win and it gave me a purpose on the team, I had to help keep the red jersey.

So onto the first road stage and after a mental ride out to the start behind the team car I was feeling a bit nervous. We lined up half an hour before the start but were still nearly at the back of the 92 girls in the race. I then got very confused as a commissar started telling us all to move back and everyone started turning their bikes around, I thought we were starting in the other direction or something but it turned out everyone was checking their gears. So after that and signing on I made it to the start line, quite near the back. I knew I would have to move up on the first bit of wide road before we turned onto the super narrow ones where the crashes would happen. Eventually we were off and almost immediately there was a crash to my left, I just managed to avoid it but had to come almost to a stop and sprint to get going again. This happened a few more times and sometimes I would just have to slam on my brakes for no reason and then go again. It was mental, but eventually it settled down a bit and I tried to move up, the issue was the bunch was covering the width of the road. I decided I had to do something so went up the bit of rough track just off the road, I got a few funny looks but it worked. I just kept trying to move up but always seemed to be nowhere near the front. It was really hard to be near the front and on the right side of the bunch in the cross winds, I often found myself struggling for shelter just getting battered, but we had 3 laps of the same course so I learnt where the wind was coming from in each bit of road and tried to move so i wouldn't be in it but it was really difficult! Coming into the final 2km stretch on the last lap I was way too far back and almost got dropped as the whole bunch strung out but luckily they eased up a bit and I got back on and finished somewhere towards the back of the bunch. Nicky still had the leaders jersey though so we were happy with that.

Think this gives some idea of the size of the bunch
The next day and the last stage, I was determined to do everything better today. So that started with getting to the start earlier, which I did meaning I was on the 2nd row. Going into the first tight corner I was in the top 10 and although I slipped back a bit on the big 40km loop we were doing as we came into the last 3 finishing loops I moved up and helped Nicky chase down some attacks. We were soon on the last lap and the girl who was in 2nd overall, only 14 seconds behind Nicky, had attacked. I did my best to try and pull her back but my legs were just giving in by that point. Luckily Nicky is an insanely strong rider and even though no one wanted to help her she managed to keep the gap down and take the overall win by 1 second. She was overjoyed by this, as was I and the rest of the team. It was a great feeling to know I'd contributed a bit and the whole team had our photos taken with Nicky in her red jersey and it was great!

4th in line with Eline from my team at the front

I ended up in 47th place overall but it didn't really matter, I'd learnt a lot and had a really good time with all the girls on the team. Really wish I could go back every weekend!

The team at the end of the last stage

 On Tuesday I was straight back into the racing at the first ERC Ingliston crit, a 3rd place was all I could manage with my tired legs but I hope they have recovered by Sunday when I've got the next round of the British Series down in Cheshire.

Some more photos from the weekend..

Thanks for reading and thanks to the RWC Ahoy team for looking after me all weekend!

Monday, 8 April 2013

City of Perth GP

This weekend was the first round of the British Womens Road Race Series which took place up in Perthshire, so not too far to travel which was nice!
Accomodation and meals for the race were provided at Strathallan School so I headed up there on Friday night. Dinner was served in the large dinning hall and I made sure to eat at much as I could because I knew I had a hard day of racing ahead of me on Saturday. The tour consisted of 3 stages over 2 days. First off on Saturday morning there was a road stage, relatively short at 10 laps of a 6.6km circuit. Then on Saturday evening there was a very short TT around the grounds of the school. The final stage was a crit in the centre of Perth on the Sunday morning.

I had been up to the road race course a few times before the race so knew what to expect, there was a climb, which was steep in parts and then it flattened out a bit before climbing a bit more and then heading downwards on a long, straight descent. I was worried about the hill, before the race I was just hoping to stick in for 5 laps at the most.

We all lined up and there was a short neutralised section before we were set off racing on the descent, I tried to move up but was having a bit of an issue changing gear because my hands were so cold I actually couldn't push the lever properly! I eventually got it to work and managed to move up before the first accent of the hill, I managed to hold my position quite well and as we came over the top I was thinking "1 down 9 to go." and straight away I was focussing on moving up the bunch again on the descent. It was the easiest place to move up so I decided to make a bit more of an effort there rather than the flat bit before the hill which was very open with strong cross winds at points which was making it difficult. I made it up the hill the next few laps but soon the attacks started to come, I managed alright just keeping to my favourite line on the left and climbing as fast as I could which kept me up there. At one point I hit a bit of a bad spot and found myself right at the back of the bunch at the top of the climb, luckily I had started at the front or I would have been out the back. It was quite difficult to make sure I was getting enough water into me as well as trying to go as fast as I could down the descent on my junior gears and move up the bunch, but soon enough we were on the last lap. I was expecting it all to kick off on the last lap up the hill and just be flat out to the finish but in the end 2 girls from the Breast Cancer Care Team attacked and were let away and the bunch didn't respond too much up the hill so I managed to hang in. The finish was down at the bottom of the descent so it was a very, very nervous, fast and scary run down the hill. We hit the flat at about 750m to the line and I couldn't see a way round the wall of riders in front of me, I was worried about being boxed in and knew I had to commit to one side of the bunch and try and find a way out. I went left and managed to get into a gap and then a big space opened up on my left and Hannah Barnes, who was in front of me, went for the sprint through it. I tried to follow her but unfortunately didn't quite have the legs so got on some other wheels and finished 6th in the sprint, so 8th overall as the 2 girls out front had stayed away with Anne Ewing taking the win. I was really happy with this as it was my highest finish in a British Series race ever, but it was straight back to the room for a quick shower and as much recovery as possible before my time trial came round.

The TT course was really narrow, tight and technical and should have suited me perfectly but I didn't get myself round it enough times beforehand and could have gone round the corners faster. The start was straight up into a short but steep hill and I felt I could have got a bit more out there as well so all in all wasn't 100% happy with my ride, but I definitely need to practise my time trials anyway. I was quite worried about seeing the results because I thought I'd lost a lot of time but in the end it wasn't too bad, I was equal 16th on the stage which dropped me to 13th on the general classification.

Going into the crit I was hoping to maybe get into the top 10 but wasn't really sure how it would go. It turned out to be a horrible day, there was actually snow before the start and sleet/ rain throughout the race. It was very cold and this made the already technical course even harder. There were manhole covers and white lines all over the place which were just treacherous if hit. I was again having issues with my gears because my hands were so cold but this time they didn't warm up for the whole race. The total length was 50 minutes plus 5 laps and I can honestly say it was one of the hardest crit I think I've ever done. I literally couldn't relax for a second because I had to think so hard about every corner, about actually being able to change gear and break and get the right line and get on the wheels coming out the corner. It was really mentally tiring as well as being physically really hard and fast too. I kept up the front as much as possible, my legs weren't feeling great and I seemed to forget how to go round corners for the first half of the race but that improved and I was in a good position for the last few laps. I managed to move up a few places coming round the last few corners and couldn't quite come past the girl in front of me going up the finishing straight but finished in 6th place. I was really, really happy with that, again a best at a British Series. But I wasn't sure what it had done to the GC because I had no idea how many people were in the front group or anything. It turns out the race had split up quite a bit and due to this and some crashes (I hope everyone involved in crashes over the weekend is alright) I had moved into the top 10 on GC and actually finished 7th. Super happy with this result and hope I can maintain this kind of level of racing throughout the season!

Don't think this photo quite shows how cold and wet the crit was!

Full results for the weekends racing are here:
Congrats to Anne for a great win!

I'd like to say thanks to everyone in ERC who was out in Mallorca with me a week before the race, I think riding with you guys really made a difference and definitely helped me get the results I got so thanks for an awesome week with a great group of people!

Also to the Tri Centre who for all their help getting my new Scott Foil 15 bike with Bontrager Aura 5 wheels set up in time for the race, it felt amazing so thanks very much to the guys at the shop for sorting it out for me, really appreciate it!

Thanks for reading, next British Series is Cheshire Classic in 3 weeks time and I'm looking forward to seeing how I can get on!