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!