Saturday, 2 October 2010

2010 Team Series Wrap-up

Two weekends ago was the final race of the Team Series, and with a hilly course suiting my strengths and several of the series' best riders away in Ireland at the Ras na mBan stage race, I was looking forward to a good result. So with a team of four strong riders we were off to Coalville to race on a chilly and windy but thankfully dry September morning.

We rolled out of the HQ, across the road and 400m later past the lap/finish line: 6 laps to go, 14.5km per lap. This was a longish race Team Series standards, but that was fine with me. Leona was behind the lead car as it pulled away, and with all the Motorpoint girls (juniors, nearly every one of them) chatting away about school, boys and whatnot, I casually made my way up the group to sit beside her. And then picked up the pace just a bit. And then decided to ride off the front ever so slightly... peeked behind and the bunch was somewhat noticing but not really.

All of sudden Emily came flying past me and I let her get a gap of 30m or so. Nobody reacted because it was so early (2km into an 87km race!) and I'm sure they thought she would come straight back to us in a minute or two. Then MaxGear's Anna Fischer -- one of the best domestic riders in the UK right now -- flew past on her way over to Emily and I decided this was a wheel I needed to jump on. I did, and we quickly reached Emily who was able to grab my wheel and the next thing I knew we were away with a massive gap. And so it stayed for the next 85kms.

First lap we pulled out a minute, second lap another minute, by the third lap that seemed to be holding (Anna's teammates policing the bunch with Leona's help, and Motorpoint not able to get anything going) and by the fourth lap there was word that two riders were 2 min behind us and the bunch was not chasing. At that point, even though we were slowing down from our original lap-times (not helped by the wind picking up), I knew we'd stay away from everyone as long as we kept working.

But my legs were not good. Emily was having a really great ride, I had been worried at first that she'd get gapped on the sharp hill before the turn into the finish-line draggy straight, but she hung on. And did more than her share on the flats and into the wind. Anna did quite a bit too, in fact I felt like I was the weakest of the three of us at times, struggling a bit with an upset stomach from early that morning and legs threatening to cramp up. Frustrating, but I could live with it.

In retrospect Emily and I should have been attacking Anna on the last lap, taking turns at it, but in the moment we didn't really have our plan organised and frankly I wasn't convinced we could beat Anna anyway. Emily selflessly sat on the front most of the last lap and when Anna attacked going up the hill before the final corner I went with her for about 5 seconds til my legs said "no way" and my brain stupidly said "2nd place is fine" so I came in about 100m behind her with Emily another 100m behind me. Not a bad result really, though of course now I'm annoyed with myself for giving up the win without a fight!

Coalville 2010 break
Looking rough at the halfway point (from left: me, Anna, Emily) (courtesy of race organiser Nick Horner-Maddocks)

But the best was yet to come... after the finish we turned around to go back and watch the other riders come in. I was curious who the 2 riders between us and the bunch were and much to my delight it was Leona with a giant grin on her face, having outsprinted her break companion to come 4th! Mathilde ended 11th, rolling in with the next group as the bunch had split again at some point. So that meant top team was us, Surrey League. All in all a pretty successful day and a satisfying finish to the end of my road race season. Great rides by Emily and Leona made for 3 happy girls on the long ride home.

Coalville 2010 bridgers
Leona and her break partner Maxine Filby working together (courtesy of race organiser Nick Horner-Maddocks)

Later we learned that with our strong finish at Coalville, we managed to leap over the Rapha Condor team in the overall standings into 3rd. A nice way to end the season and it showed that consistent performances are just as important as stand-out performances when it comes to a season's overall results (see the series report on British Cycling's site).

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