My first closed circuit cycling race. 30 minutes + 3 laps. Av pace 19.1 mph. Position 10/10. Times lapped = 0. Win.
I feel like I’ve just been baptised into cycling. Oh my goodness.
Why is it that there is always – just always, something to learn. Lessons are like kit, just as you think you have all you need, turns out theres a whole new world of kit you hadn’t even heard of that you require imminently. I’ve raced countless running races, around 15 triathlons and an Ironman, but nothing could’ve prepared me for my first cycle race on a circuit except for just doing it.
|Today’s loop (roughly 1 mile)|
I was blasé about it. It wasn’t a big deal, it was just practise for the Women’s 50 mile race in March, I told myself. But on the practise loops, I found that I was already feeling puffed. And with only 10 women racing in total (in Category 2, 3 and 4), the odds were high for getting dropped, or worse, lapped – and I didn’t fancy either of those.
My warm up was far from rollers, consisting mostly of faffing around with kit, squeezing overshoes on and hiding bits of orange sock on my left leg that were irritatingly peeping above my overshoe. Just as I tucked the offending bit of sock away the race steward said, “right, off you go then.”
Before we started, I’d decided to reveal my rookie status by announcing loudly that I had no idea where the best starting position was. I discovered five seconds later why the only spot that was available was on the inside when I rocked up.
Turns out it’s entirely different from running on a track, where inside is king. On the first corner I got squeezed in – I tried my best to hold the group and turn, but came within half an inch of another wheel – I wobbled hard and mentally prepared for my first crash. Miraculously it didn’t happen, but the peloton slipped away and I had to pump my thighs hard to keep them close.
In an investigation into an increasing numbers of race crashes, Cycling Weekly commented that the problem is new cyclists ‘very fit from triathlon with an apparent lack of bike handling ability.’ I have no idea what they mean.
On the second lap I caught the peloton at the windy corner. They slowed, it felt as though the lead riders were playing with us. I was back in the group, well technically – at the back of the group, a mistake. This was my only opportunity to get a position again. They slipped away, and that was the last point today that I felt like I was in Le Tour.
|Odd Down Winter Series earlier in the season.|
The coach yelled to me to work as a team with fellow BSCC rider Christina, who had also found the peloton eluded her after the near-crash at the start. I shouted to her and we took it in turns to lead and provide relief for one another from the headwind on the climb back up the loop. Keeping a team mate motivated provided me in turn with motivation.
Working together, we kept a steady pace throughout, held it right to the end. We averaged 19.1mph across 13 miles. I occasionally whooped, and imparted some new phrases that surprised me such as ‘come on doll!’ and hilariously, ‘we can have them!’
‘I just want to hear the bell already!’ I said, just as it went ding-a-ling, almost on cue – inviting us to push through our final lap. I grimaced through the final incline, into the head wind – and together we went in for a photo finish.
We high-fived heartily after sailing across the line together. I could taste blood after that for about 15 minutes. My chest felt raw from the wind and heavy breathing. I couldn’t stop smiling.
The more women who enter, the more fun it’ll be for Cat 4’s (the category you start off in). The Bristol South CC Women’s (open) Road Race for Cat 2, 3 and 4 is on Sunday 20th March 2016. It’s 50 miles and it’s going to be fun, fun, fun. (Mostly.)