Sunday, 26 May 2013

I won a sprint! I won a sprint!! This NEVER happens!

My season hasn’t started very well this year. I ended last year on a bit of a low after psyching myself out at derny nationals and generally getting very tired and under the weather. I spent this winter working upwards of 2 jobs, and as a result did next to no training at all, so predictably, come summer, and with the standard of women’s racing skyrocketing, I found myself lagging a long way behind. I had some big disappointments, not finishing my first road race of the year, and not qualifying for my first derny race, and it’s easy to get dragged down by that.

Then on Tuesday I watched on twitter (and then on TV) as my team mates pulled off this epic feat of getting two on the podium at the tour series, and I decided it was about time I sorted myself out. I had already entered the Dernyfest at Herne Hill for Saturday but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I might quite like to do the National Womens Omnium too. The two events happen on the same day, with the events interspersed, so it was always going to be a bit manic. I set myself up at the track with different wheels for each race, different handlebars for the timed events and a big pile of tools and helmets and a schedule all over the floor around my turbo, knowing I was in for a kicking.

Due to the two event situation I was a bit over geared for most of the day, but at least I didn’t have to worry too much about warming up! We started with a 500m standing start TT, this is never my best event, especially not in such a silly gear, and consequently had a pretty shoddy start, but made it round well enough, if not very fast. Next was the derny heats, I had a good start and my pacer Tony got me up near the front, and then my legs started shouting, it was windy and I’m not great with a disc and got cooked trying to overtake the rider in front, we finished at or near the back but still had the minor final and a chance to try again in a smaller gear, but not much time to prepare. I had a couple of minutes to swap wheels and have a drink before the points  race, and was pretty happy to just cling on at the back of what was a pretty fast race.

I had time to roll off the track and pick my seed for the derny final and then straight back up again, just long enough, in hindsight for my legs to get cold, and as I started at the front I started fast, but after about 5 laps I was hurting and the rest of the field came round. With 5 laps to go my legs started working again and we were making lots of ground back but sadly not quite enough to make many places up, but lessons learnt.

The highlight of my day was the match sprint (!!) I was put with some decent girls, and being a pretty poor tactician and sprinter I wasn’t hoping for anything but I got straight onto the right wheel and found myself coming round her, by a few inches, just in time for the finish. I have never been so happy with a race as that lap, if we hadn’t been sprinting for minor positions I would have had my arms in the air, I have never ever won a sprint before so I was dead chuffed, and still am.

We finished the day with the pursuit, where the fatigue really caught up with me, and then a scratch, where for some reason I decided I ought to attack and try to get across to the break, I nearly made it, sort of, but then got swallowed up and left behind when my legs fell off. I fought very hard to get back into the race finished at the back of the bunch, absolutely empty.

I’m really glad I did it, and I have a week to recover before doing it all again (probably, possibly, we will see) at Welwyn. 



Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Stoked to Win at Stoke!

I still have a huge smile on my face that even my current state of tiredness can’t dampen.  An epic day out with the MuleBar Girls has certainly left its mark.  Last night was the first round of the Johnson’s Health Tech GP Series in Stoke and it was a night I will definitely remember.  The series has gone from strength to strength over the past few years and is now a well-established sister series to the Pearl Izumi Tour Series for the men, fast town centre crits in front of big crowds – what’s not to love?  Well, turns out it gets better, Team MuleBar Girl-Sigma Sport had a fantastic first round with Lou in 3rd and I won – yey!

I know I definitely have a lot of people to thank for helping shape yesterday and first and foremost is the team as a whole for being the most fantastic bunch of team mates and friends a girl could wish for.  We all work hard, train hard, laugh hard and enjoy ourselves.  The team spirit is invaluable for making nights like yesterday possible with two of us on the podium.  Lou has been an inspiration for me in learning to love crit racing, fast starts and faster corners.

Travelling up by train with spare wheels attached to bags and hanging out in a coffee shop after arriving long before race start; V, Lou and I had enthusiasm in abundance that for me was quickly superseded by nerves as soon as we lined up at the start (By the way, the Guinness chocolate cake from the Stoke-On-Trent station cafe comes highly recommended).   Lou was up at the front the moment the racing kicked off, at the sharp end of the action as usual. 

Hannah Barnes (MG MaxiFuel Pro Cycling) took the lead at the first sprint points with Lou hot on her heels and the pair of them made a break for freedom.  I thought to myself, in between the gasping for breath, this looks pretty tasty.  Sadly, Matrix Fitness Race Academy had different ideas and slowly reeled them back in, so I saw my chance to counter attack.  I always try to put my head down and not look back but when I finally sneaked a peak I saw Karla Boddy (MG MaxiFuel Pro Cycling) trying to bridge the gap just before coming a cropper with the barrier and a reasonable gap.

It’s fair to say that while the hill to the finish doesn’t look much like a hill, it certainly does while racing and after repeat efforts up it.  I was trying to listen out to the PA system to get an idea of the time gaps and a guy on the corner was giving me a split each lap (thank you for this whoever you were!).  You never know what is going to happen though so the idea was to just grit my teeth and crack on.  The support around the course was amazing from the people of Stoke-on-Trent, to team mate Anna and James near the finish, to the other girls in the race and the crews in the pits, especially to Becky and Chris from Team IG Markets - Sigma-Sport. 

I had no idea what was happening behind me so after crossing the line over 45 seconds clear, I was ecstatic to see Lou sprinting to the line in full contention for the podium.  All thoughts of dead legs were forgotten as I jumped up and down cheering her on.  V was there too going crazy all while being interviewed by the TV crew, I can’t wait to see that on ITV4.

We are such a lucky team in so many ways, from the great people in it, all of whom sadly weren’t able to make it last night, to the support from our sponsors MuleBar, Sigma-Sport, AnaNichoola and Wildoo, Sock Guy, Oakley, Hope, Knog, Batiste, Ilovegirlriders who made it possible for us to be there and to have such great kit.  We are a bunch of girls who love riding their bikes and I hope that shines through and inspires other ladies to get on two wheels (and maybe some men too?).  Thank you also to Sweetspot for making the Johnson Health Tech GP Series such a professional outfit, the briefing from Guy Elliot of Sweetspot beforehand was certainly inspirational in their vision for women’s cycling.  It was great to meet John Johnson as well, the man behind Johnson Health Tech, and to thank him in person for being at the forefront of backing professional women’s racing in the UK.

So, back to reality now.  There’s a lot of work to do to retain that leaders jersey and carve our way up the team standings.  Bring on Colchester on the 30th May!

Natalie xxx

Friday, 10 May 2013


Being my 4th time racing one of the staples of the Womens calendar I was excited when I saw an extra day was added to the Bedford 3-day. I feel it really shows the progression of domestic womens racing has over the last few years. The fact that organisers have enough interest that they can add another day and a 3 /4 cat womens support race to the event really shows this growth. Bunches are bigger, racing is faster, more exciting and it’s becoming harder to call who is going to win the events, as there are so many riders capable of doing so. 

So many people have already written race reports or blog about the weekends racing, but here’s my ramblings on my experiences from the #B3D13

Stage 1

After arriving to the race HQ in lovely sunshine, and getting a super detailed run down of the course from guesting teamie Clem all that seemed to be left was to don my race kit and pop for a quick spin to warm up a bit. Alas the great british weather managed to do a full 360 and we managed to begin the race in what felt like freezing rain, making me feel my warm up spin was pretty pointless, not surprisingly this set my tourettes and I was twitching mid bunch for a good five minutes before it settled down and we began the four laps we had of the race circuit.

Photos: Courtesy of Huw Williams

As I felt the race nearing the descent with a bit of dodgey left hander that Clem had warned us about I moved up to keep out of trouble and I’m very glad I did because as I exited the corner unscathed I heard a crash. Unfortunately quite a lot of the rest of the bunch didn’t make it round or were caught up behind it. With the pace high it seemed like it was gonna be a hard task for rider to get back on. Passing the finish I managed to get some points in what I thought was the sprint competition, but transpired to actually be the QOM competition! 

The next lap on the same dodgy corner I managed to snap a spoke, I rolled to the back of the bunch to look for neutral service and a spare wheel. To my dismay though I watched it pull in allowing a few of the stronger riders that were making it back to the lead group after the crash. After a wheel change the chase was on to back to the lead bunch, but as I passed riders and tried to avoid random cars that had got inbetween the race and me it seemed it was gonna be harder than I initially anticipated. A strong headwind on part of the course meant I was in no mans land, but luckily I joined a group of a few riders also chasing back on. Just as I did so I hit a pothole and punctured my front tyre and with neutral service ahead of me it was game over. 

When I got back to race HQ I was not happy, and thoughts of a decent position on GC had evaporated. However I was cheered up hearing that Clem had won one of the sprints but annoyed for my other teamies Adel and Emily who had also suffered with puncture and got caught up in the crashes.

To top the day off and although somehow managing to avoid the two crashes that had occurred in the race I slammed my finger in the boot of my car! Surely things couldn’t get any worse, tomorrow was a new day with two more stages to come!

Stage 2

Day 2 was based at Keysoe and has been for years so I knew the courses pretty well, first on the days menu was a team time trial. With the least amount of riders of all the teams we weren’t expecting a great result as it was four to count for the finish as that was all we had. We came up with a game plan working out how to shelter our younger rider, Emily, best and ensure we all finished together with a solid time. Not having practiced together before I think we did bloddy well and finished a respectable joint 6th place!

Stage 3

With a 50-mile road race on the cards and having pretty much nothing to loose my game plan was to get myself in a break. I was up there for one of the sprints and couldn’t see Clem around so tried to get some points to prevent others from getting some, however with some great tactical riding by Matrix I failed epically in doing so. So I decided to attack and get across to Eilene Roe who was off the front at that time, we had a little go and worked together but soon realised it was going nowhere. As the bunch caught us I felt tierd already, that was probably gonna be my one effort of the race. I looked back and saw the counter go “f**k it” I thought and went after it, another short lived attack with a few other riders, more wasted energy…good one Louise! Then Hannah Barnes went and I cursed myself, now that was the break to be with, however a lap or so later she was back in the bunch and it was still anyones race. With two to go I found myself off the front with Charlene Joiner, she asked how much longer we had and when I told her she said she couldn’t do it, I powered on alone for a little while then looked back and saw her coming back up to me and the bunch, well I couldn’t even see them. We continued for the majority of the lap but as we neared the finish we saw a group of 9 riders bearing down on us and the bunch not far behind. Amy Hill bridged across from the other riders and telling us they’d been there for a while and to keep going I think Charleen and I were of the same mindset to wait for the other eight, as we were already pretty knackered. They caught us as we passed the finish line with one lap to go but seemed to stall, worried the impetus would go and the bunch would catch I tried to gee things up and we got working smoothly together again. As we came up to one km to go the motor bike told us we had around 40 seconds, but as riders began to sprint my legs buckelled I had nothing left in the tank and rolled over the line at the back of the break in 10th. I was disappointed with my result but had never finished a road race so tired, I felt I gave that race everything. 

Stage 4

The final day of racing was at Milbrook test track, an awesome venue as it’s a closed circuit, but with some awesome features of an almost alpine climb and then a super fun descent which brings you down to finish in the pan flat ‘bowl’. This year for the first time the organisers had got some great sponsorship and we were lucky enough to be allowed inside to use the facilities…great call by the organisers and a big thank you for that! The first stage at Milbrook is the individual TT around the bowl, there’s not much to say about that, I went hard and came in 12th. As I don’t consider myself much of a tester I can’t really complain about that result.

Photos: Courtesy of Huw Williams

Stage 5

The final stage, which takes you around all the awesome course, again still low on GC I had very little to loose. 

Photos: Courtesy of Huw Williams

So when Hannah Barnes went on the attack I knew that she was a rider to watch and went tits out to get across to her. However when we passed the finish line, me in the red just trying to hang onto her wheel, and saw six of the nine laps still to go I could have cried…I stayed with her until the hill where she just rode away from me and I slunk back to the safety of the bunch. With some strong riders uling on the front Barnes was back in the bunch a lap later and that’s how the race remained until the end. With the elastic stretching each time up the hill as the laps ticked down and gradually riders were dropped it was obvious it was going to come down to a bunch gallop. Positioning myself on what I thought would be a good wheel I felt quietly confident. Until I reaslied the rider I was expecting to be up there contesting the sprint didn’t bother, and I rolled over the line near the back of the bunch. 

Photos: Courtesy of Huw Williams

Photos: Courtesy of Huw Williams

I wanna say a quick thank you to Jon Miles for organising this race year after year, for as long as I can remember. Also Stef Wyman deserves a big thanks too for helping promote and back this race through his great #fanbackedwomenscycling initiative. There are load of other people out there also helping move womens cycling forward in leaps and bounds. So many people support womens teams as DS’s or mechanics, or come along and provide neutral service or photograph and report our racing on a regular basis, y’all know who you are and it’s much appreciated ☺ 

Lou xxx

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

3 Weeks in Majorca

When my racing hero and sprinting guru Dave Le Grys asked me if I would like to join his crew of group leaders for his 2013 training camp I didn’t need much convincing. Spending the best part of April in Majorca with a group of cyclists didn’t seem like a bad idea to me!
Being a sun worshipper I was most dissatisfied with the lack of tanning opportunities in the UK and when it was still snowing in March I packed my bags and headed for the heat.

To add to what was already shaping up to be a great trip, Alex Dowsett decided to base his Giro d’Italia training in Port Pollenca so we had the pleasure of his company for the first two weeks. Now I’m not going to lie, it’s not like a stood a remote chance of holding him up a hill effort in the mountains but he was generous in giving me some tips on the bike and in return I helped him pool-side in working on an even tan. Now he’s spent a few days in Italy, he’s ruined the whole regime and is back to being tan-line-tastic.

Joking aside it was fantastic to be in the presence of such talent and my group were delighted when Alex came and rode with the group on his rest day, dishing out some gold advice. It’s been fantastic to see him mixing it in the GC in his first Grand Tour and wearing the White, young rider's jersey on day three.

Riding for so many days solid seemed surprisingly easy out on the warm roads of Majorca and the holiday destination really is second to none when it comes to training. I’m back to reality now, but happily the weather has improved and the race season is underway, so lots of opportunities to keep the legs turning.

Last but not least I have to say a big thank you to all of our sponsors for kitting me out for the trip, I even had tourists taking photographs of my bike and kit. I wondered if they’d mistaken me for someone famous, but a friend pointed out they were more interested in the Amira than me! Big thanks to Mule Bar, Sigma Sport, Specialized, Ananichoola, Saddleback, Madison, SockGuy, Knog and Willdo. 

Rebecca xxx

Steel City DownHill Race....#forthegirls

I was sitting in the AnaNichoola HQ one day when I got a phone-call from Henry at Ride Sheffield. He said he was helping organise the Steel City Series Downhill MTB race and wanted to get more women involved and did I have any ideas.
With my thinking cap on in the office "Hmmm, what do girls want?"

There’s one thing other than/instead of (delete as you feel appropriate) that us MuleBar Girls are good at…and that’s getting more women’s bums on saddles. So I got my thinking cap on.

For a start, I was stoked that Henry was pro-actively trying to encourage more women to race. It’s one thing having race entries open to us, but it’s another thing altogether positively being told “this race is for you.” So we decided to set a target amount of women, keeping 30 spaces available in this race that otherwise sells out in about an hour! And then we decided to set different categories, allowing newbies to feel confident to “have a go” and experienced racers to feel as though there was some serious racing to hand.
Once the race entries went live there was a flurry on Twitter and facebook, all the ladies, mums, dads, husbands, boyfriends tagging their friends. It turns out everyone knows someone who would like to give a downhill race a go!

I turned up this weekend, and sure enough there were 30 friendly/nervous/excited female faces waiting at the startline at the top of the hill. AND IT WAS BRILLIANT!!!

I overheard the amazing World-cup MTB racer Maxine Filby pushing up and saying to her buddy Verity Appleyard “I love that there’s two categories, it makes me want to race really hard” or something, and that was cool. And then I met Jody who was bouncing off the walls in excitement about her first ever race, and that was before she got her second place medal J

But the most inspiring of the day was Pat, a 68 year old who had to borrow my spare fullface helmet as she didn’t actually own one. “I’ve always been sporty” she said “So I decided to give it a go.”
Chapeau Pat!!!!

Pat with here "oldest person here"'s trophy!! x

I had an awesome day, my personal racing was very disappointing, but it’s fired me up to want to get fast again, meet some proper competition and see what I’m capable of. That wouldn’t have happened if I’d won, because I was the only girl racing.

The Girls' Podium

The best thing was that I made new friends. I have a girl-riders house I can stay in if I’m ever in Sheffield again, and I have already had a lift-share invite to a gravity endure from another girl. I am so stoked that Henry put the effort in and I know that there are 29 other ladies that feel the same.
Thank you Steel City Series xx

Meee racing

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Bedford 3 Day: Blood, Sweat and Tears

We are lucky enough to have the superbly talented Clemence Copie guesting for the team throughout 2013. Here's her take on the Bedford 3-Day... 

With a new stage on the Saturday on a new course (4 laps of a 15km loop around Great Barford), I decided to go check it out after work on Friday by riding easy around and taking notes. That is when I noticed a very tight right corner following a long descent and took it full speed to judge the angle - I nearly came off the edge of the road as I exited the turn. As it started raining the next morning, I warned my teammates to move up near the front of the bunch after our third left hand turn and before the descent. Surprisingly the crash happened on the left hand side before the corner (probably due to poor bike handling skills), GB-Cycles and MG-Maxifuel had most of their riders at the back on the left who all got caught in the crash whilst other teams, Matrix and BCC were near the front so after narrowly avoiding the crash, Adele and I chased onto the front group and managed to stay safely there for the rest of the race taking a few turns near the front to keep the pace going before some riders rejoined with 1 lap to go ending in a bunch sprint won by Hannah Barnes. This course also featured a sprint competition on a 2% climb which suited me so won the second sprint while Jo Tindley took the first one from the bunch.

The next day saw a team time trial of about 9km in Keysoe followed by a 80km road race (5 laps of 16km). With most riders guest-riding for Mulebar Girl and no practise of TTT riding, we warmed up and set off early towards the start for some last minute practise and focused on communication during TTT with Louise and myself stepping up to take additional turns when other riders couldn't, this seemed to work well as we clocked a respectable 9.47min placing joint 7th with Team CTC. 

 Being joint leader on the sprint competition with Jo Tindley and her teammate Harriet Owen close behind in 2nd, I was to focus on the sprint which unfortunately for me was on a flat straight. With a full lap to do before the first sprint lap, I hid at the back of the bunch probably a bit too far back so struggled to move up before the sprint and with Matrix team leading their sprinters at the front, I had no chance to get through so decided to make up for it on the second sprint narrowly missing it by crossing the line fourth behind Jo Tindley after an early attack from Lydia Boylan. Following complaints from other riders from the first day, MG-Maxifuel were fined and relegated for infringement (something about being towed back to a group following crash, fault still very unclear) and saw their key riders, Hannah Barnes and Karla Boddy losing time on GC so attempted an escape. Charline Joiner who had suffered the previous day a puncture followed by horrible crash in a lamppost as she was chasing back, broke from the bunch on her own before Louise Mahe jumped to get across. Being the only Mulebar Girl rider there at the time, I moved to the front of the bunch to hold helped by Laura Massey from Abergavenny whilst a few escapees managed to get across, notably Alexie Shaw from Les Filles RT and Amy Hill from Abergavenny, who went onto to win the stage. Louise managed to hold onto to the break after taking many turns at the front and making up some lost time from previous day whilst I crossed the line about 50sec down on the winning break in the bunch with Adele and Emily Barnes, who had suffered a nose bleed close to the finish!

The final day was held as per usual at the brilliant Millbrook test track with an individual time trial of 6.4km (2 laps of the speed bowl) followed by a final road race of 80km (9.5 laps of 8km including 9 times up the 'alpine climb'). Starting the day 20th overall in the GC, just 1:05min down on leaders and about 40sec down on top-10, I had to give my all in the ITT to make up any time I could although I realised it would be a difficult task with such a short TT. Having only done 1 lap the previous year and being known to start too fast, I wanted to keep a steady pace on the first lap and pick up on the second lap, which I did, crossing the finish line in 9.44min. With blood taste in my mouth, compressed lungs and screaming legs, I knew I had done my best only to turn around shortly after the line to see Laura Massey who had started just 1min down behind me - Laura finished 3rd with Hannah Barnes in a time of 9.27min whilst Louise took 12th spot and Claire Galloway destroyed the field in 9:17min to take the lead and yellow jersey.

After 2 crashes, 4 punctures, 4 stages, 2 days of racing and countless tired legs, the final stage was going to be a race of attrition and soon after the first climb, the race split in two groups with Adele and Emily safely in the second group. My placing on GC remained unchanged after ITT and with yet another flat sprint competition, I decided to try to hold my sprint placing on the first sprint and use it as an attack to break before the climb to test other teams...and myself! MG-Maxifuel were on a mission to prove a point and help Hannah Barnes to make up time so brought me back on the climb - I'm not known for my climbing skills! Many riders came riding past giving me a push up the climb including teammate Lou who got me to the top of the climb with words of encouragement: ‘don’t do that again’! After some big attacks from Hannah Barnes and Louise Mahe during the two hill competition laps, which were brought back by the strong Alexie Shaw, the pace settled with 1 lap to go. Yellow jersey holder Claire Galloway had a mechanical atop the climb and was brought back by her teammates to the speed bowl where the bunch was waiting for her return. It was going to be a sprint finish so despite the fatigue and with only Louise left in the bunch, I focused on following the right wheels and moves and managed with just under 500m to go to get close to Claire Galloway but had nothing left to go past her and finished 8th, moving up another place on GC to finish the weekend 18th with 1min down on leaders and 3rd in the sprint competition whilst Louise rode brilliantly to close her deficit from her stage one’s misfortunes to finish 27th (2:50min down on leaders). Despite some riders tarnishing the race with their unconstructive complaints, the weekend ended on the great image of Adele and the second group crossing the finish line as one and showing the true spirit and sportsmanship of women’s cycling!

Singletrack Enduro 6 - race report

What a weekend! Beautiful weather, bike racing and best of all I was NOT at work. This weekend I avoided the Bedford 3 day stage race. I am still very new to road racing and so far this season my confidence has been pretty rock bottom. Therefore I decided to try something a little different. My training partner Di (previous MBG guest rider in Malta) and I teamed up to race the singletrack enduro 6h MTB race. This race is set in the beautiful location of Catton Park. The course consists of twisty single track and lots and lots of draggy leg busting climbs. Di and I probably would not consider ourselves mountain bikers. Having been shown how a proper girl DH rider hits the descents riding with Anna, we set about in the weeks before practising our skills as much as possible.

Race day arrived and we were greeted with glorious sunshine. Di still insisted on trying to wear leg and arm warmers - she believes these offer some sort of skin protection when she falls off. We managed to wrestle the leg warmers off her once temperatures reached 20 degrees. The race started with a short 1/4mile run before jumping on the bikes. Di being the ironman triathlete that she is was happy to do the run. She lined up on the front row elbow to elbow with the men. The whistle blew and she was off. She came round the corner to collect her bike in the top 20! I started to feel rather sick. Acutely aware Di was pulling off an absolute stormer I was going to have a great deal to live up to. I sprinted out on to my first lap only to realise my front mech wasn't working. It looked like the whole race was going to be done in the big ring (my legs shuddered at the thought).

We were lapping in approx 35minutes which was an all out max HR effort. This left little time in between laps to catch your breath, wolf down a mule bar and open a can of coke. The laps were unrelenting and by the 3rd lap we had dropped to second place. As I waited for Di to come in to hand over I started to get nervous as again we were a couple of minutes down and I needed to make up some ground. Di came flying into the arena shouting that the other team had had a problem and we were back in front. I went off like a woman possessed determined to make every advantage. I hit one of the more bumpy descents and something went wrong. My rear mech would no longer shift. Panting and sweating I fumbled about trying to fix it but in my panic I couldn't see what was wrong. Unfortunately I was stuck in the smallest cog on the back. I managed to get the chain on to the front little ring and managed to muscle the last quarter of lap. Thankfully the boys managed to fix my rear mech (no luck with the front). We had lost a little time and going into our fifth and final laps Di had a 1min50 lead. In the previous lap the other girls had put 3 minutes into me. Victory was looking unlikely.

With Di's boyfriend Gary shouting on encouragement and time gaps, Di managed to put in another fantastic lap giving me a 4 min lead on my final lap. I was shattered, my right calf had blown up and the pressure was starting to get to me. Shaking with nerves I set off again. Constantly telling myself this is it, this is to finally get that win, that first ever win, this is to prove you are not a looser. All the way round I willed myself on, taking another gear when my legs were screaming. The other team had still put 30 seconds into me. Coming into the last section of the course, bang it happened again my rear mech. swearing and cursing I jumped off, trying to keep calm I managed to fix it. Jumping on again for the penultimate climb I gave it all I could. Coming round the final corner I looked back, no sign of the competition. Finally I could ride into the finish - we had won. I managed in my exhaustion to put one arm in the air (victory salutes aren't something I've needed before). 6hours of close racing 5 x 35minute all out intervals and I was spent. Limping off my bike, my right calf finally gave up. Luckily Di caught me. She was a fantastic team mate, knowing she was giving it everything on every lap allowed me to push thoughts of pain and fatigue aside.

Thanks to Singletrack and Pat Adams for putting on a fantastic event. Thanks to all our sponsors for ensuring Di and I looked like serious pro racers and thanks most of all to V for supporting me and letting me do this rather than Bedford 3 day.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Bedford Race Report - Stage One

Spirits were high and the sun was shining as we rocked up for the start of the first stage of Bedford this morning. With over 90 girls lining up for the 3-day stage race we knew the first stage was going to be tough, but at least the sun was shining!

Or NOT...

A couple of minutes before the race was about to start the heavens opened it bucketed it down and the smiles on the eager riders' faces started to fade as they lined up at the start line. Too late to chuck on any rain jackets the girls were off. The race was neutralised up the first climb past the finish line to ensure everyone had a fighting chance. I positioned myself at the finish line to get the best view, although spent the majority of the first lap sat in the car hiding from the hailstones. 

The girls had to do 4 laps of a 8 mile circuit. The course was pretty much flat with a climb up to the finish line. It didn't take long before news of a large crashed emerged, but I had no idea about who went down, so had all my fingers and toes crossed waiting for the MBG's to come through for the first time. Lou came through first attacking up the climbs with Clem also in the bunch, which had been whittled down to 30ish riders. Shortly after guest rider Adel came through in the second bunch of about 20 ish riders and then Emily a short time after. Phew - all our riders were safe! Then came dribs and drabs of single riders, some of which showing battle scars from the crash. Ouch.

Riders passed for the second lap and Clem was still fighting out in the lead group but Lou was gone, which got be worrying - had she been dropped after her amazing attack the previous lap? I was glad to find out later that it was down to a broken spoke. Lou and Adele then passed in the chasing bunch, which Emily behind. The wind was brutal and many riders were stuck out in no mans lands between bunches.

Then there was news of a second crash and the rest of the race I spent fretting about whether any of the girls were caught up in it - to be honest I am tad confused about what order everything happened in after this point. 

I remember spotting Clem passing through again in the lead bunch and looking comfortable. Adel flying past yelling that she had had a puncture and chasing like crazy to get back on the race, and Emily battling out on her own against the wind - but Lou, no idea! Finally I got word that Lou had punctured yet again and was fine. Phew again!

The finish was a mass sprint to line with Hannah Barnes pulling away to take the win. Clem finished with the main bunch, but position TBC. Adel rode a fantastic race to battle back on and I believe finished with the second bunch. Whereas Lou and Emily both suffered punctures on the last lap and with no neutral service were taken back to the start by another team car.

On chatting to the girls it turned out that we had 2 x riders in the ditch and 4 x punctures, but I think all the other teams had as much, if not more, bad luck. BUT we scored points on the QOM and Sprints so a despite the miserable conditions it was great to pick some points up.

Thinking the day could not get any worse, Lou then managed to shut her finger in the car door - idiot! And then we fear we may have managed to get 3 x speeding fines on the drive home - idiots!

It was a very eventful day and a tough old start to the race - but we were all still smiling and looking forward to the next couple of days of racing.

V xxx