EdinburghRC Alpine Bikes Round 3
I’ve slowly been getting the hang of crit racing, so standing on the start line - on the front (improvement number 1!) I was hoping to put into action everything I’d learnt over the previous two races. I knew I was also a bit more rested this week (the crits aren’t my priority races, so I’m fitting in training around them) and I’d been going well during the chaingang on the Tuesday night.
Alexa lead the group out for a neutralised lap and I jumped on the chance to get on her wheel, sitting in second position. This was a whole new position for me and I liked it! Alexa carried on the lead out for a few laps before I came through to the front to take a turn. I knew the other women were still behind us but I just focused on my breathing and staying close to Alexa's wheel. She came back through to the front and I got back on her wheel, still sitting in second place. I began to think about tactics and the possibility that the group would let Alexa and I do all the work and attack us when we began to tire.
I came to the front a little faster this time, opening up a gap between me and Alexa to test the water. Alexa was still on the front and the group didn't react so I stayed slightly off the front for a little while. I have no idea how long I was in this position for and I didn't look back to see what was going on. I didn't think I’d be lucky enough to hold this for the whole race so early on, and sure enough, Natalie from Alpine bikes attacked, taking two other women with her and splintering the rest of the bunch. She came past so fast with the two women on her wheel that I went from off the front, to 4th wheel in seconds!
Having had a taste of being on the front and dictating the lines to take round corners, I wasn't happy sitting in 4th place and after a brief rest, I put in an effort to get to 3rd position, behind Louise Haston (City ofEdinburgh) with Natalie on the front. The effort was a bit harder than I expected - especially having been off the front earlier - so I then had to sit in for a bit as Natalie and Louise worked together. It was around this point that we dropped the fourth woman (Ishbel from Pedal Power) that had come with Natalie's initial attack.
Natalie attacked again, and this time she got away, leaving myself and Louise in 2nd and 3rd position. Louise and I worked together but we couldn't catch Natalie so I knew we'd be fighting it out for 2nd and 3rd place. As Louise is a track rider, I didn't want it to come down to a sprint finish so with 5 laps to go, we tested each other a bit. I gained a few bike lengths on her, only to be reeled back in. She accelerated a bit on the twisty hairpin and I chased her down and got back on her wheel. This was hard going but I held my position and came through to the front, hoping to open up a gap. I didn't have much left in my legs so when she attacked on the 2nd last corner, I did all I could but she got away from me. I closed the gap slightly on the last corner, treading a fine line between still being on the course and being in the grass at the side, but she sprinted over the line a few seconds ahead of me.
I was happy with third place and the improvements made so far, but this only made me hungry for more. The decision to race (or not) the fourth round was difficult because 36 hours after the crit, I'd be starting my first priority race of the season. I drove myself mad during the week trying to decide if I should or shouldn't race. I knew I'd never forgive myself if I gave it my all in the crit and turned up on Saturday with tired legs or a seed a of doubt in my mind about how strong I was feeling, so in the end, opted to rest up.
7th in theEast Kilbride Road Race
Alexa and I had ridden the course the weekend before the race, so I knew what was in store. That said, the day of the race couldn't be any worse than our recce - we were freewheeling at 40kph with a tailwind, and blown almost to a halt crawling up the hilly section wishing we had more gears.
The course was two laps. The first section fairly straight and then what seemed like constant up with not much flat or descent for the second half.
Thankfully the torrential rain eased off in time to warm up. The women’s peloton consisted mostly of women who knew each other, with a few unknown women in there, including Gabriella Shaw riding for For Viored. Standing on the start line, this was one race where I felt confident I’d not get dropped because I’ve been racing against these women fairly often recently, and we are all of a similar level.
The pace of the race eventually picked up, and I took an opportunity to get onto the front and stayed here until the first climb, where I went from being on the front to the back! Thankfully I didn’t lose contact and as soon as we reached the top, I worked my way back to the front, staying there until the next hill. This pattern continued round the hilly section. After this, it was back to lap two for the straight section again. I tried to stay on or near the front as the standard of riding wasn’t great and I was worried about being caught up in a crash. I knew I had two choices 1) work, accept the fact it was windy and that I’d be more tired for the hill finish than I’d like or 2) sit in and risk being taken out by some of the riding going on in the bunch, or get dropped. I chose to work.
A few attacks happened towards the end of the race which were chased down and I worked hard to stay on or near the front. I came to the front again, thinking the hill finish was just around the corner. But it wasn’t! I was able to hold my place here but it was hurting lots. Then came the final hill, where I watched my chances of the podium slip away as I tried as hard as I could but it just wasn’t quite enough as I fell further back. I could see 2 women just ahead of me, and decided I was going to catch them before the line. The conversation in my head went a bit like this: “keep going, breathe, just a bit faster”, “I’m going to be sick”, “ride harder, get on her wheel” “ok I’m really going to be sick”, “that’s one women caught, accelerate and get the next women’s wheel”, “no really, I am actually going to be sick” “come on, you can do it” And I just crossed the line (about a quarter of a wheel!) before the woman I’d been chasing. As I unclipped, I could feel my stomach churning but thankfully I wasn’t sick!
7th wasn’t quite the result I’d been hoping for but because I’d done so much work on the front, I was happy. I can see huge improvements in my race craft and confidence. When I started racing, I wasn’t confident about moving about in a bunch, telling people to hold their lines or being on the front – so this is a complete contrast to the last race I did!
Racing is beginning to feel more natural and my second cat licence is almost at arms length with ‘only’ 16 more points needed to gain it. There’s now six more races to go before the end of the season, so I’m still training hard and there’s (hopefully) time to improve and learn more. I don’t want the season to end though because I’m enjoying it so much! I’ve already started to plan next seasons race schedule with some additions to the races I have completed this year, hopefully including some of the National Women’s Series and the Ras na mBan (women’s stage race in Ireland).
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