Racing Through the Winter

“Racing outside in the winter? Nahh you won’t catch me doing that.”

Well here I am eating my words, two road crits down, a number of points up, and the next race a couple of weeks away. So what changed? Six months ago at my first ever road crit I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, got dropped and did an extra lap to make sure I didn’t end up with a DNF (I never did like climbing and now I know everyone finishes on the same lap). Since then I’ve knuckled down with training on the track, road and wattbike. I figured going into 2018 it would be nice to have a marker of where I was at.

Christmas Belles Road Crit (30/12/17)

I did actually consider racing this when it was first advertised so that I would have motivation to keep training over Christmas. Then I realised I was due to do a threshold test four days later and the race was off the cards. Two days before I found myself umming and ahhing about it, then put my entry in before I could change my mind. How bad could it be? Strong headwind on the home straight. Oh yes. The sprint to the finish line was going to be, well more of a crawl.

Realising this and having not raced a crit for three months I decided I didn’t want to be there. Finally Jess managed to not so gently persuade me to head out onto the circuit to warm up. The start of the race soon arrived and we lined up, fourth cats in front to be set off with a half lap gap.

Off we went and we eventually formed a pace line, each rider taking a turn at the front. We made it about 20 minutes in (halfway) when the rest of the group reached us. I knew I wanted to be in a good position and going at a reasonable speed when this happened so I moved away from the other fourth cats and then was able to slot myself onto a wheel at the back of the main bunch. In the confusion, I think this is where Twickenham CC’s Claire Hammond decided to make a break for it, time trialing her way to 1st place (kudos).

(Photo: David Smith\@counterpuncheur)

After that the race was pretty uneventful until just before we were given five laps to go, one of the riders decided to attack. I wondered why no one was chasing her down, so I did. I even caught up but my body decided that I was done pushing, and were both reeled back in by the bunch. Somehow managed to hang on. Five laps soon became one, and before I knew it, we were heading up the ramp into the back straight. I heard a shout. Was that someone telling their teammate to go? Whatever it was, I decided I didn’t want to get left behind or leave sprinting til the home straight because of the wind. So I found space on the inside and halfway down the back straight I went. A quick glance behind – I was on my own. Maybe I went too early. But I couldn’t change my mind, I had to carry on. Onto the drops, into the home straight and out of the saddle, something I had practiced many times. Whether or not I could hold everyone off, I didn’t know, but I had to at least try, willing the finish line to be closer.

Ah, there it was! I crossed it, had I just won the bunch sprint? It seemed I had. I couldn’t believe it. Fastest 4th cat and 2nd overall, I was over the moon. Maybe winter racing wasn’t that bad.

(Photo: Jess Geen \@jessgeen)

LVVP Winter Series (13/01/2018)

Two weeks later and I was at it again. Panicking. What if I can’t keep up with the bunch? Everyone knows what I did last time, I put it on Instagram! They’ll mark me!

14 riders started; five 4th cats including myself and Rosi were set off half a lap ahead once again. The remaining riders came around and caught us more quickly but this time I struggled to join them as I hadn’t sorted out my positioning and there was a big change in pace. A few times I tried to move up but everytime I soon found myself at the back.

Suddenly Claire was making her move, another rider going with her. Shouts emerged from the bunch to chase but no one went. Except me. By the time I decided to do this the gap was pretty big, but I worked hard to close it. A few metres away and the breakaways picked up the pace. Damn. I couldn’t sustain mine and eased off, struggling for breath. I’d be lucky to join the bunch again as it came past. Luck was on my side – I’d wasted some energy but couldn’t knock the fact that I’d tried something everyone else hadn’t.

Soon we were down to the last five laps. The bunch was bigger this time so I actually had to think about my positioning. Going into the last lap I managed to get myself on the outside but the bunch was very jumpy, with people cutting across and I was almost pushed off the circuit. We headed up the ramp into the back straight and I worked my way to the front. I looked across to see people edging forwards, when were they going to go? Who was going to initiate the sprint? Apparently me again. This time I didn’t dare look back.

(Photo: Jess Geen)

The finish line was drawing nearer, but this time I could see someone alongside me. It was Honor – having picked up on what I did last time, she had jumped on my wheel and I had unknowingly led her out. I tried to edge my wheel out in front but she had that little bit more energy left and took the bunch sprint win.

Was I upset? Not at all! I had given it everything, been the fastest 4th cat again and come 3rd overall! Rosi also finished in a strong 7th after spending the morning smashing it out on the track.

(Photo: Jess Geen)

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So here I am now, halfway through January, the proud owner of a 3rd cat licence and more money to spend on bike stuff. My next challenge will be my first ever road race – Newchapel Kermis, just under five weeks away. Watch this space!

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