This week was much better on the racing front. Three races, three top-3 results, though to be fair all of the races were women-only and two of them had fewer than 10 riders! Such is the state of women's cycle racing, which is a bit sad when you think that I live on the outskirts of the biggest city in the UK. And most of us know lots of women cyclists who ride with our clubs, commute to work, do sportives or triathlons, etc. but for whatever reason can't be talked into giving cycle racing a go. Is it the ugly crashes highlighted on the news in the pro races that scare them away from the sport? Or just the simple competitiveness; the idea that when you race, you are forced by your competitors to push yourself to the limit most times? Not sure, but I do wish more women would get involved in cycle racing. I'd love to do a road race with 50+ women all more or less my ability, the way Jim can do with his fellow cat 3 guys. Instead I do races filled with elites and Olympic hopefuls who trounce me, or races with fewer than a dozen women, only half of which manage to hang on til the end. Anyway, stuff to think about for a later blog post.
Last week we had some really great weather, which always makes me motivated to get outside and be active. Late summer and never knowing if it might be the final spell of sun and warmth until next spring might have something to do with it. In any case, even with Monday as a rest day I managed a 14.5 hour training week, more than 11 of which were spent on my bike either riding to/from races, racing, or riding around watching others race. It was also my last week neglecting my TT bike as I need to get back to it this week and start building up some long rides for Kona. It's been nice for the break, but at the same time I'm looking forward to riding fast into the wind again, ha ha.
Tuesday -- Crystal Palace
Not quite as many as the week before, but still ten of us showed up to race the second-to-last week of the Palace circuits. Series leader Charlie Blackman was there, as was SE Road Race champ Natalie Creswick, so it was looking like a promisingly tough race. I was curious to see if we could catch Charlie once she (inevitably) got away solo, and we managed to do it once -- though by doing so dropped all but four other riders. Or was it more like she sat up to take a rest before riding off again to finish a few hundred metres ahead of us in first place... Still, my bike handling is improving and I worked my butt off both to try and catch Charlie and to hold off Natalie who's been stronger than I have at every race we've ever done. In the end, as I was coming up the hill on the final lap giving it all I had and waiting for the inevitable sprint to come around me which never came, I let up just a moment too soon and was pipped at the line for 2nd by Melanie Sneddon from the Penzance team. Frustrating, but since she had done quite a bit of work to try and get away from us -- and managed to reach and stay with Charlie a short while before being dropped and coming back to us with a couple of laps to go -- I couldn't complain. She definitely deserved to beat me. Leona had another strong ride finishing 5th, and both of us were not surprised to see our power data show a 10-watt jump in effort from the previous week. It was a tough race!
Leona leads early on, with Charlie on her wheel waiting to pounce, photo from London Cycle Sport
Saturday -- Hog Hill
Having run 19km on Thursday evening then ridden 110km on Friday in the alternating sunshine and pouring rain to watch the Surrey League Revolutions 5-day race (with my teammates Steve Saunders and James Beaumont taking part), my legs were feeling a bit heavy. But I'd been meaning to give Hog Hill a try all summer and this was the last chance to do it in a low-key women's race (unlike the rather higher profile London Open Circuit champs in two weeks' time). So Leona and I rode the 20km to London's Liverpool St. station -- a kind of contest all on its own, to keep out from under bus wheels and away from cab doors -- then grabbed a train to Goodmayes, then rode another few km to the circuit. Sure enough, there's a good little hill there, but nothing too crazy. Seven girls were on the start line, two fell off almost immediately, and the other two were dropped with a lap to go when one of the riders thought it was the bell lap and attacked going up the hill. I sat on her wheel easily, thinking "oh, that's smart, attacking before the bell instead of after", only to find out as we crossed the line that she thought it was the finish! Been there, done that... so we took off again for another lap and this time with the help of Leona clearing the right-hand side for me, it was my turn to attack going up the hill. I gunned it pretty hard and knew I was in the lead, but mindful of losing at the line I was afraid to glance around and see who was where behind me. Turned out I needn't have worried! So that was my first victory and felt pretty good to finally get one. Nice to get the £15 too and set a couple of new power records for everything from 10 to 30 seconds.
Yep, pretty sure I have this one sewn up! photo from London Cycle Sport
Sunday -- Goodwood
I only needed 11 points to get my cat 2 license, but none of the British Cycling reps at Hog Hill could tell me what my win got me, so I figured I'd better do the 3/4 women's race at Goodwood anyway, just to be sure. Early morning races are never my thing and this one was no different, though once we arrived at sunny warm Goodwood and had a lap of the course I was feeling a bit more awake. Seventeen riders lined up at the start -- good turnout for a women's race! -- and we set off a minute or so behind the men's cat 4 race at quite a slow pace. No matter, I was happy for the extra warm-up. It was a windy day, and what with the flat gently turning circuit it was going to take legs of steel and courage to match in order to get away from the bunch on this one. I tried a couple of attacks to see what would happen, but only succeeded in tiring out the less experienced riders and thinning out the bunch to nine. A crash in the men's race on the finishing sprint just after they overtook us meant the first part of our last lap was neutralised, but afterwards it was just a waiting game to see who would start to sprint first. I had my eye on who I thought the strongest rider in the race was and stuck to her wheel like glue til the closing few hundred metres when she was led out nicely by some friends in the race. Despite my best plans to wait until the last second (we were sprinting into a headwind) to try and come around her, I just didn't have enough in my legs to do it, not to mention picked a wrong gear and couldn't get on top of it. In the end, she won a good race and I finished over a bike length back. 2nd place at a circuit like that, not bad.
Just couldn't get around her, though it might help if I could sprint better than a Dutch commuter.
NAHBS 2017: Part VIII
16 hours ago