Iona at Peterborough Crit

Iona at Peterborough Crit

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Cycle Club Sudbury Hill Climb 4th November

On a very very wet Sunday morning, my local club , cycle club Sudbury, were hosting their annual EDCH Hill Climb.
It's a very short climb, and last year having won it I was keen to retain the title. On seeing the start sheet, i knew being the fastest lady up this year would be a very hard pushed task as I noticed Clare Lever of Zappi's was down to ride, I was rather curious as to why one would drive all the way from Oxford for a very short hill climb, easy answer, family in the area, what a small world.
It's now 7 months on since my cruciate ligament reconstruction, and things have been going really well for me, and I have been getting stronger and fitter all the time since I started back racing with the team in August.
The weather was not going to ease up on Sunday, pouring rain, leaves on the road, not to mention the odd bit of mud, but we had some very loyal supporters out cheering  us up Semer hill every step of the way, and I would like to thank all those people standing out in the rain for the duration of the race.
I had the same conversation with myself last year, as i did this year leading up to my time to go, big ring or little ring, big ring or little ring, and as last year, I whimped out and chose the little ring. Whilst I felt like I was spinning too much to start with. It's just the last little bit, and then before you know it it's done and over with, and needless to say I had the same conversation with myself at the finish as I did last year, "I should have ridden in the big ring" next year maybe the big ring!! it doesn't seem to matter how many times one rides up a hill, racing it is different, and for me I think I need to learn to trust my gearing.
Back at HQ was some welcome warm cups of tea, and similar conversations going on , big ring or little ring.
The results came in and Clare did brilliantly with a 1:02 and myself a 1:07 , good times considering the weather conditions, and once again a superbly organised local event, not put off by the awful weather.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Cyclo park, Gravesend Crit, 28th October 2012

Back to the Cyclo park for the second time this month!  This time Sandra, Linda and myself lined up for the start, with a field of 14 girls, of very mixed abilities.

This wasn't before Sandra had managed to puncture, during the warm up!  But better then than during the race.  Ten minutes before the start Sandra discovered the cause of the rattling noise on her bike, that she had been complaining about all weekend!  The saddle was loose!  So with only minutes to spare, and problem fixed, we all rolled down to the start line (last) - sure that they weren't going to start with 3 of us missing!

From the beginning we knew Nicki Juniper would be the one to watch.  We set off,  and first time up the hill Sandra came to the front and did a turn.  But not long before Nicki then came past her and put the pace up.  As we crossed the start/finish line for the first time, I moved up to second wheel, behind Nicki, to try to stop any gaps opening up and making sure not to let anyone get away.   But not realising that in doing this, that Nicki and I had managed to escape the bunch.  Nicki said let's work together, but I lost a bit of ground around a few corners.  The bunch was close behind first time down the descent, and a couple of the other girls came back to my wheel at the bottom end of the circuit.  Nicki still had a small gap and so she powered on.

Over the coming laps I got rid of a few other riders, which left just myself and the Ipswich girl.  We worked together for a bit.  But we weren't making any input into closing the gap to the lead, so I knew I had to get away on my own.  I eventually opened up a gap and pulled away from the Ipswich girl.  Nicki was controlling the gap, and it was now one against one, and that's how it stayed until the end.  All I could do was try to extend my lead over anyone behind, which I managed to do.

I came in to the finish comfortably in 2nd place, with Sandra in 5th.  The bunch was splintered all over the circuit: everyone riding around in ones and twos. A completely different race to last time.


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Gravesend Crit, 7th October 2012

Well today was another day and like I said yesterday, all was not over yet!

We arrived to find a similar sized field of 13 girls riding, and quite a few who were at Hillingdon the day before.  We set off and on the first lap, the Kingston Wheeler's rider had got herself a small gap off the front.  I found myself closing the gap down on the first lap.  The course is quite technical and I was really pushing to try to catch her on the descent.  We eventually caught her through the bottom technical section.  We entered the hill for the first time.  The hill kicks up at the bottom and then levels out and it's a long drag up to the finish.

We caught her and I came thorough to do some work on the front up the hill.  By the top of the hill I glanced back to see I had a gap, by complete accident, hadn't meant to be away only a lap into the race.  At this point we were gaining on the men's 4th cat bunch.  They had set off a minute in front, but unless they got their act together I was going to catch them. I was away out front for about 3 laps, by the time I got caught, we were 15 minutes in, and the men had moved away.

Sandra, along with a couple of the other girls worked on the front to keep the pace going.  It seemed everyone was happy to sit in the bunch.  With 30 minutes down, I attacked again, this time using the speed out of the  bend to launch an attack at the bottom of the hill and get up the steepest bit.  It worked, although this time the bunch were a bit more keen to chase me down, and a lap later they had caught me again.

My aim was not really to want to stay out there, but just to make the others have to work harder.  We seemed to have reached a stale mate: no one else wanting to make a bid for freedom off the front and the Kingston Wheeler's girl, quite happy to sit on the front of the bunch.

With 2 laps to go, the men's field eventually lapped us, luckily moving quickly out of the way and on with their own race.

Last lap and again the Kingston Wheeler's girl sat on the front of the bunch for the entire lap. Sarah moved up the bunch with half a lap to go, as we entered the technical section at the bottom end of the course.  I came in front so she had a wheel to follow, she was sitting to the left of the bunch, in the wind a bit.  Up the first kick of the hill and no one was making any real effort for a sprint yet.  My first thought was, 'you know what, they're all just going to sit and look at each other and then wait until they can see the line.'  I knew I could go early from the bottom of the hill, the previous attacks in the race had been good practice, so that was the plan!  It didn't really matter then if they did come around me, so long as I got Sarah up the road.

Once we got up the first bit of steepest hill, I glanced back and saw Sarah to my left, (in the wind again!) I came out of the line of riders. I was about second wheel.  I'm not sure if I shouted back at her to get on my wheel, but I remember, turning and pointing at my back wheel, to indicate to her that I was going to go.  I kicked and drilled it up the hill like I had done before.  Only glancing back once we were under the pedestrian bridge and the line was getting close.  Sarah was there, and what was even better was that the bunch were miles off!  I either yelled, "Go Sarah," or was thinking it and was safe in the knowledge that we had easily just got 1st and 2nd!  Crossing the line, Sarah didn't realise she'd won, so I found myself celebrating for her!

A fantastic weekend's racing: great to have strength in numbers, and to work as a team.  Glad that Sarah decided to race on Sunday after all: after Saturday's mess of a race, it took some persuading form all of us, that tomorrow was going to be another day!


Gravesend Crit, 7th October 2012

Sarah writes...

It was the perfect end to a not-so-perfect weekend.

We arrived at the Cyclopark in Gravesend on a beautiful, crisp Sunday morning. There was frost on the ground and a beautiful layer of mist over the fields, as the sun rose in the distance. The sky was blue and the sun was shining.

The Cyclopark is an wonderful new facility - for riders of all kinds - down in Kent. The closed-circuit race track is really quite technical, with several hairpin bends and short, steep drags. This circuit was not going to suit me in the slightest!

Legs were feeling tired after the Saturday's race at Hillingdon. I had been feeling good and we had had pretty much the perfect race until the final two laps. If only...

I had a word with the Commisaire, explaining what had happened the previous day. He assured me he would do his best to keep the two races separate (there was a men's 4th Cat race on the course at the same time as ours).

There was a quick wheel change with five minutes to go (where did that puncture come from?) and then we were off. There was a blistering pace from the start - set by Jasmijn of Kingston Wheelers. Having ridden on the front for a lap and a half, she eased up. The cue for Iona, who is on great form at the moment, to attack! She stayed away for nearly three laps, when the race came back together.

I was working so hard that I felt physically sick! I was slowing too much around the tight bends and having to sprint out of them. On top of this, there was a hard kick up every drag: barely any time to recover. I gritted my teeth and dug in. I had to stay with the bunch. Sandra was riding really strong - sitting on the front and sailing around the corners! Why did I feel so rubbish?

There were several more attacks. Iona got away again for another couple of laps. The bunch was diminishing in size. The men caught us with two laps to go. Thankfully we communicated well with each other and eased up to let them past straight away. I moved up to the front of the bunch and was 3rd wheel coming into the last few bends. There is a steep drag about 500m from the finish line, followed by a slightly less steep section running into the finish.

Superstar Iona signalled for me to get on her wheel. She attacked hard at the top of the steep drag. I hadn't a clue what was going on behind me! I could hear heavy breathing behind me, as I came off Iona's wheel into the finish. I heard her shout, "Sprint, Sarah, sprint!"

I assumed the others were catching us and I didn't want to be pipped to the line. I got out of the saddle and gave it my all. Had I really managed to cross that line first? Once Iona confirmed the result, there were celebrations! She had rolled in behind me for second place. What awesome team work! It was a superb lead-out. My first win!

I hadn't realised just how much of a gap we had got on the bunch until I saw the photos!

Two wins and a second place for the team in one weekend. Iona has now successfully gained her 1st Cat licence and according to the BC website, I have also gained my 2nd Cat. (I'll believe it when I see it!!) It just goes to show what can be done when we work together as a team!

Big thanks to Steve for supporting us over the weekend. And a big well done to Sandra, who is riding really strong, given her recent knee operation. 

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Hillingdon Crits, 6th October 2012

Main objective for today's race, was to work as a team to get Sarah the best result possible, to try and get the 14 points she needed for her 2nd Cat licence.  Firstly, to try to break the race to pieces early on, and if that failed, lead her out for the win.

Sandra, Sarah and myself started at the front, and Sandra did an epic turn early on for a couple of laps to try and break the field up, but ended blowing herself up in the process.  The first half of the race, I kept attacking every so often, trying to get both Sarah and myself up the road, but we were never allowed too much of a gap.  

The first time the men's race lapped us they flew past fairly quickly and soon disappeared up the road.  By half distance, we had stopped attacking too much, no one else was trying to break things up, and felt like we were the only ones trying.  Plus the men then caught us again, but this time they passed us and then just sat there and slowed up!  I found myself yelling at them to move and get on with the race!  They eventually got out of the way, but by now, our race had slowed, and no one was prepared to do any work to get way.  And so I was confident with our chances in the bunch sprint.

By full time the men caught us for the final and 3rd time.  Thinking that they would simply add a few laps on to give the men chance to move out of the way, they did no such thing!  The lap board was held up, 4 laps to go, and we were mixed up with the men's race.  This was going to be a real mess!

1 lap to go, and I saw a few of the girls moving up the men's group.  Sandra had managed to get back in the bunch, and I yelled at her to let her know I was there.  Also trying to find Sarah in the bunch at the same time.  I knew then that is was going to be a mass sprint with the men and knew I couldn't let the other girls get ahead in the bunch.  I moved up. the men were all over the road in the finishing straight.  I followed one girl through on the inside, it was dangerous, with the chance of any of the men moving over at any time.  I was just waiting for a gap, and a chance to get around her.  By the finish we had got to the front of the men's bunch, I glanced back looking for Sarah, but no sight of her, she must have got stuck behind the men.  I had just about enough time to finally open up a sprint and get around the only girl ahead of me for the win.  

Not at all the way I wanted to win!  It was a shambles, not a fair sprint!  We hadn't a chance of leading Sarah out with the men across the road, I just had to salvage what I could, and win for the team.  I was first to start complaining, as we got back to the finish line, what a mess of a finish!  Why they couldn't have seen what a mess it would be, and not just have added a few more laps on to the end of our race, to enable the men's field to get out of the way.  All plans for leading Sarah out in the sprint, went out the window, and she didn't get a chance to try sprint, having to slam on her brakes as she crossed the line!

We managed to convince Sarah to race in the morning.  Not all is lost, after one disappointing race and we hope for better in tomorrow's race.  All is not over yet!


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Stephania writes about the 2012 MTB XC World Champs

My experience at the 2012 MTB XC World Championships..... 

It is always an honour to represent your country and to ride in your National colours. It was finally my turn to race the Mountain Bike World Championships in Saalfelden.  

Day 1 - Race practice

After hours of driving we arrived at our apartment over looking the mountains, in a small town called Zell am See, which was approximately 14km from the race venue. By the time we picked up the race numbers, course practice was coming to an end. We decided to walk the technical sections and ride it the next morning. After directions from the commissaries, we made it to the most difficult technical sections. "The downhills are no more extreme than our usual Nirvana cycle rides" my back up team member, Wendy, confirmed! The difference was going to be the approach. It is one thing to approach a technical section with enough oxygen in the brain, but it is another thing entirely with hardly enough oxygen to stay on the bike! "Get on with it" I thought to myself …. this is where I wanted to be, this is a world class course, and this is what I have been preparing for. After some positive talk to myself, I was actually looking forward to my practice run.


Recovery & wifi spot

Day 2

The next day the course changed completely...a heavy thunderstorm had changed the course, making it much more technical. We decided to stay safe and take the chicken shoots. I saw other riders struggling, and this assured me that there was nothing wrong with me,... I didn't lose my technique over night, it was just the changed weather conditions. 


A view of the mountains

 Day 3

The sun was out, and surrounded by blue skies and white mountain tops, we headed off to the race venue. I was nervous but still in control. I was gridded with riders from Turkey, Canada, Britain and Australia. We were called one by one to the start. The atmosphere was amazing. I was focusing on a good start, psyching myself up, and getting in the right zone. The start was nothing less then fast, and soon after the gun, I found myself chasing the wheel in front. I overtook some riders and did some more chasing. It was hard work but I knew that after a couple of minutes the pace will become a rhythm and my legs will learn the pace. It didn't happen! Lost my front wheel on a simple flat corner. I jumped back on my bike but my chain was off. Lost time and it didn't take much to be left behind, with no one in sight. After a lonely chase, I started gaining over the Turkish rider. I tried to get back into the field but I was still a bit shaky and nervous after the crash. I decided to settle into a pace and build my confidence again. The course was still muddy and difficult to ride so I focused on being positive, and every time I rode a technical section I gave myself a few points. Eventually I started to relax my shoulders and enjoy the ride, but not for long. We were stopped due to the 80% rule. End result = 53rd


Approaching the jump…the crowd was amazing!

 Day 4 Sprint Eliminator

This was the first time that the World Championships had included the Sprint Eliminator. Two laps of 560 meters, an urban course which included different obstacles such as stairs, tight corners, and a jump. It was nothing different from my Maltese urban training grounds - the Three Cities. I was in the right frame of mind, ready to give it all I had. The spectators made it more exciting then ever. I had an excellent run for my standards, finishing 48th overall but still short of qualifying for the next round. Only 32 had made it to the next round, and I was 12 seconds short. I wasn't too upset knowing that I have given it all I can at this stage in time. And, I could do it all over again... :-)


Picture courtesy of Wendy (This is what happens when a team mechanic acts as a photographer! :-p )

I would like to thank the Maltese Cycling Federation for giving me the opportunity, to my back up team Wendy and Ruben, who were of great support, and last but not least to Steve, who helped me raise money to cover some of my expenses. (We had a stall at the Steyning Cycle Jumble, selling our unwanted cycling equipment and clothing)

Selling stuff at the Cycle Jumble

My back up team :-)

Sprint eliminator results...
XCO results...

Monday, 1 October 2012

Middlesborough Cycle Circuit Crits

Sunday 30th September

Today was forecast to be very wet and windy. Luckily so far only the wind was present and we were hopeful that it might stay dry.

Gabriella Nordin and I turned up for our first race of the day to find, as expected, a small field of 6 girls for the women's race.

We set off and despite our numbers we made sure it was a race, with plenty of attacking early on.  With half of our 30 minute race gone, we lapped one rider.  With 5 of us left Katharine attacked again. Jo, from team Swift, was on her wheel and went with her.  Gabriella was closing the gap but the two ahead flew around the final corner of the circuit and they were away.  Karen and I worked together to try to get them back, but I knew that I'd have to try to close the gap myself.  I could see them the whole time, and they weren't getting any further away, but I also noticed I'd lost Karen from behind.  I was in between the two groups.  Katherine and Jo ahead, with Karen and Gabriella behind.

I  had to make it across to the front group.  It took a lap and a half. The two ahead were working well together but I made it.  I sat on for half a lap, before I was forced to the front a little sooner than I'd have liked.  But a lap later and I was ok to start taking turns again.  We continued to work together and the 3 of us stayed away.  By the end of the race we could see the other two at the opposite side of the circuit, and so long as we kept working, they wouldn't catch us.

Bell lap and I came through to do a turn on the front.  But that left me stuck there, I was unlikely to get the other two to come through now, not my ideal position.  So I slowed it down around the last corner, trying to  make one of the others come through.  We exited the corner both of the others still behind, but slightly alongside me.  The road drags up slightly, into the headwind, before bending slightly to the right for the run into the finish.  I knew I was going to have to lead it out, and if I slowed any more, one of them would get the jump on me and there would be no way back.

So I gradually increased my speed.  Just before the top of the drag, I decided I had to kick now, get the jump on both of them, before they reacted first.  I reckoned they would wait until the road started to level out, where it turned slightly to the right, out of the headwind, where they would be able to see the line.
It worked, I kicked, I got the jump on them and I managed to hold on until the finish, almost forgetting to celebrate!

One race down, 15 points in the bank, one more race to go!

The hour we thought we had, turned out to be more like an hour and 45min, they were running to a very rough schedule!  Four of us that had ridden the earlier women's race had decided to stay and race the men's 4th cat too.  For Gabriella it was her last chance to make her 2nd cat license.  Having been out sprinted by Karen Poole in the earlier women's race to finish 5th, she was hoping to get a top ten finish to secure the 1 point she needed for her 2nd cat licence. For me I needed 9 points, and so wanted  to finish 2nd or better to secure enough points for a 1st cat licence.
There were around 13 starters in the men's 4th cat and early on we could tell who was keen to try to break things up.  Katherine attacked a number of times. I too tried a couple of times, but was also happy to settle for my chances should it come to a bunch sprint. 

Two of the lads, an Ilkley Cycling Club rider and a very young lad, spent the whole race trying to get away.  They would get a gap only to be wound in, usually by one of the girls: either Katherine, Jo, or myself.

On the bell lap, the same two lads jumped off the front again.  No one was quick enough to react and they got a small gap.  Katherine started to shut the gap, then Jo.  Not wanting to be the one stuck on the front trying to close the gap, I risked it to let the others try to shut it down, but no one was wanting to try too hard too close to the finish. One of the men came to the front before the last corner. I was second wheel, but I knew from earlier laps that as soon as he hit the headwind he just sat up, every time!

So out of the corner I came out of the line on the drag into the wind, and started to move alongside him.  I matched his speed and waited until the same point as in the previous race. I kicked before the others and held on to finish in 3rd place.  The two that finished 1st and 2nd were only just ahead, but we had given them too much of a gap to reach them by the line.  I was pleased to get another podium finish, but on the other hand knew I maybe could have done better if we had not of let them get away.

Still just 1 point needed now, and another couple of races next weekend!  Gabriella got the one point she needed for her 2nd cat licence, despite needing a lap out for a mechanical.

For the last race of the day, most people there decided to try ride the 'Big Bad Eliminator Race!'  I finished with a shocking performance, by being eliminated first!  To be fair we had literally finished the 4th cat race and went straight into the Eliminator.  There were no prizes for anything less than a win and we were racing against 1st to 4th cat men.  Gabriella and I had a last resort plan, to race the men's 3rd/4th cat event too if she'd not got enough license points, but luckily no need to resort to that.  I think it would have been one race too many, so we called it a day and headed home.

Altogether, a good day's racing for all and we avoided the rain!


Sunday, 23 September 2012

Dishforth Road Race (Men's 3/4th Cat)

Milby course, Boroughbridge, 23rd September 2012 Iona writes... I only decided to ride today's race after being told last week that they would include a separate points category for the women. At this stage, every point counts... only 24 to go for my 1st cat licence! A field of 50 men lined up at the start, with only myself and one other girl. I know the course well, with it having been used regularly as a TLI course a few years back. (That being before the Police cancelled all TLI races.) The pace was fast with lot's of attacking, but nothing too testing. I never felt in danger of getting dropped and I sat in and tried to keep to the front. By the last lap I got to the front. It seemed a lot easier to move up the bunch in this race than in most women's races. The riders leave massive gaps and are more willing to move over when you tell them you're coming thorough. On the narrow section of road that leads to the finish, I slipped back a bit too much in the bunch. One of the riders ahead wasn't holding his line. I was trying to move up on the inside. I knew I was further back than I'd have liked. I was in the top 15. The finish is at the top of a slight drag. The top ten distanced the rest of us slightly, and I finished trying to cling onto the remains of the leaders. I passed a couple of riders but a couple of riders came past me, so top 20 finish for sure, but was hoping for higher. I hope to find out a final result at some point. Iona

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Ras na mBan 2012, Stage 6

Last day, Stage 6 and the final stage up Moll's Gap. It feels odd for this to be the last stage, every other year this has been the warm up stage, stage 1. The road rolled and twisted all the way to Kenmare. There was a narrow bridge and then one short rise of a hill, I found myself on the front trying to string the bunch out up here. Turned left in Kenmare and we hit the climb. You hardly notice the climb has started, it's a very gradual gradient. All the way to Kenmare, I had managed to hold my place in the top 10 or 15 riders, which was a first for this race, but I think that was mainly due to the pace being kept high and the wide roads, for a change. Half way up the climb, riders all over the road, fighting to stay near the front. I moved up in the wind on the outside, the pace wasn't too high, and it was the easiest way. As we headed around one of the last bends, I knew we were nearing the top, but no one could yet see the top. Fed up with the steady riding I decided to make a break for it. It worked briefly until around next bend, and all of a sudden we could see the top. That triggered a couple of girls to go for the hill prime. The queen of the mountains jersey and Lowri, of Abergavenny, came around me. I managed to hang on for 3rd on the prime. Not that this counted for much, but I think I just felt I wanted to show that actually I can climb with the leaders, even if I hadn't managed to make the cut on previous stages, and make it into the lead group. (Note to self must improve bunch positioning.) From here it is mainly down hill, as we passed the 20km to go sign. The pace was kept high and I kept myself in the top 20. There is another drag of a hill, before the decent into the finish, it goes on for longer than you think. I set the pace half way up here. Over the top of the hill and 4 or 5 riders got a gap across the top, I missed them, being boxed in by this point. They didn't stay away however, and the bunch was soon back together. I had been comfortably in the top 20 for the whole race, so I decided I'd try get somewhere in the sprint. As soon as we started the decent it was madness, riders everywhere, and I somehow managed to stay far enough forward. I'd chosen the inside of the road, and for the most part was able to get through gaps on the inside. Between 500m and 200m to go and I found myself on the inside, with the road ahead completely clear. I wanted a wheel to follow, but far out as it was I had to go. I got some little help for the slip stream of the bunch alongside me. The bunch went to the right of the road like I thought it would, hence my decision to go left, the only down side was the distance I had given myself to sprint. I faded as we neared the line, but was happy to come in 8th, knowing that given a wheel to follow, I could have done a lot better. Iona

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Ras na mBan Stage 5: The Queen Stage

This morning was the epic "Queen stage". The race start time had been brought forward by 2hrs in the interest of rider safety. I woke up at 7am to find that two of my team mates had been ill all night and so wouldn't be able to start the race. At breakfast it became obvious that Sandra and Karen weren't the only ones who had caught the mystery illness. Around 15 to 20 riders were ill. We rolled out of the start, up the hill that we had ridden on the TT course 2 days previously. The stage was neutralised for the first 4km, after which the start flag was dropped and the pace was set fairly high, to try and limit the carnage that might occur once we reached the extremely narrow single track roads. We hit the first climb. It rolled gradually up until we got to the point where the gradient ramps up. There was grass in the middle of the road, as well as loose gravel. I was in the middle of the bunch and struggling to move through the pack. I had to work my way through the mass of riders right until the top of the climb. Nine riders had gone clear over the top. I was one of the first, after the lead group, over the top, having worked my way up to the front of the pack. The descent was just as narrow as the climb. I had a couple of riders go past me and then one of the Dutch girls came flying past. She yelled, "On your inside," and hurtled past me. (I was slowing down at this point, knowing we were about to enter a right hand bend.) She realised too late, braked, locking her back wheel, and then hit the barbed wire fence: the only thing stopping her from falling off the edge of the hill. After that I took it a bit more cautiously, allowing more riders to fly past, knowing that they were joining the group that was forming ahead. So I knew that as long as I stayed within bridging distance, I would be fine to jump back on. At the bottom of the climb, I bridged across the gap to the second group on the road fairly quickly. The group slowed a lot into the headwind before the second climb. It rose gradually up. The Japanese girl decided she wanted to get a head start into the climb and rode off the front. The climb zig-zaged slightly and we could see the lead group near the top of the climb. It got steep at the last bend before the top. I lost a bit of ground over the steepest section, grinding up the hill in my 53/25, while the Dutch girls came past me, spinning away. Once around this bend, however, I made the lost ground back up. This second descent we had seen the previous day and so I took it very steady. As it turned out the freshly-laid gravel section wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be. The worst part was the top section of the descent, with a very steep and twisting section. I lost ground on the group I was with, despite being one of the first 3-4 to reach the top of the climb. I didn't care though: I just wanted to get down the descent in one piece. I worked with one of the Dutch girls and a Danish girl, who had also lost ground on the bunch. I never somehow doubted that I wouldn't get back on. We had to work for longer to reach the cars, which by now had come past us, but we got there and then I got back on the group. The group was going slowly, so I moved straight to the front and continued to push the pace on. Only a couple of the High Wycombe girls came through to help, and very quickly I was fed up with dragging them all along. By the time we reached Waterville and the bottom of the last climb I had decided that I needed to try and get rid of a few of the wheel-suckers! I set the pace. One High Wycombe girl helped. I then ramped the pace up slightly more and I must have got a gap, as next thing I realised, Irish rider Louise Moriarty came flying past and yelled, "UP"! I kicked and got on her wheel. The pace was high, and she gapped me slightly. I managed to peg the gap, we were both away. Louise slowed towards the top and I managed to bridge over near the very top of the climb. We worked together, and had around a minute's lead. By the time we reached the descent into town and 5km to go, the gap was at 50 seconds. The bunch had got themselves organised and on the run into town they were chasing us down. I was none the wiser, not having heard any of the time checks. Steve was calling out of the car window, "1km to go!" and we worked together all the way to the line, crossing the line together. The bunch was only about 20 seconds behind us. All in all, a good day's racing, and very pleased to have stayed away for 10th or 11th place on the stage. Iona

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Ras na mBan Stage 4

This was the first dry day since we arrived! The stage took us from Sneem, via the town of Waterville to Valentia Island, with two significant climbs.

There was a lovely rolling road out to the first climb: Coomaciste. Karen rode off the front briefly and we were hoping she might get away to get some QOM points, or that the bunch might string out to reduce the number of riders contesting the climb on Valentia Island. Unfortunately, the pace slowed and the bunch stayed together, making it rather dangerous at times.

The pace remained pretty sedate all the way to Valentia Island, where the action began. Before the final climb, there was a sharp left hand bend. Those on the front of the bunch sprinted to the base of the second climb (the Geokaun Pass). Sarah and Iona had some chasing to do! Sarah got back onto the back of the bunch fairly quickly, with Iona chasing for some time but managing to work her way up through the bunch on the climb itself. The bunch split at the top of the Pass, with Iona making it into the front group and Karen and Sarah forming a chase group with around 8 other riders, finishing just under a minute behind the main bunch.

Today was a relatively easy day... Karen somehow managed to persuade Steve to drive us around tomorrow's course (in reverse) after the race had finished. We're going to need to get our climbing legs on! Tomorrow is going to be tough. (It's not called the "Queen Stage" for nothing!)

Monday, 10 September 2012

Ras na mBan stage 2

Stage 2, Sunday 9th September
Individual Time Trial

Iona writes... Yesterday's second stage was a short 3.4km uphill TT.  It made a difference from all the previous years' downhill TT's.  We had ridden the course the previous day.
I finished at the back of the main bunch, in 40th place, on Stage 1, so I was to set off about mid-field.  Lining up for the start, I could hear the commentator announcing the previous riders' times.  They were in the region of the low 7 minute mark and just as I was about to set off, Helen McKay went sub-7 minutes.

I set off and had a good start. I managed to get into a good rhythm.  It was only a short climb, only wished it could have been longer!  
As I got close to the top, I heard a helpful call of 200m to go!  That really helped, as despite having ridden the course before, I was still unsure as to how far off the line I was, as you couldn't see it until it was too late to push any harder.

I crossed the line in 6 minutes 44 seconds.  Now just to wait for the results.
I rode back down the climb to find that I had led the standings in the TT just briefly, before another rider went faster. 

Results out, I was hoping for a top 20, as the downhill TT of previous years has never suited me.  So I was quite pleased to find that I had finished 14th.  This meant that I now moved form 40th to 14th on GC.  


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Ras na mBan Stage 1

And so it began. Ras na mBan 2012. The usual friendly, warm welcome from Sneem Hotel; the usual amazingly delicious (and nutritious food) and a great night's sleep in a comfy bed.

We woke up to grey skies, wind and driving rain but thankfully the weather forecast turned out to be correct and the rain cleared before the start of the race.

Around 70 riders signed on and at 10:15 am we set off for a ceremonial lap of Sneem Village before racing four laps of the Gortagowan circuit.

Legs felt heavy as we warmed up and all of us were pretty nervous as we lined up at the start. Thankfully the nerves evaporated after a few miles and we started to enjoy the race.

The first lap was fast and the bunch was soon whittled down on the first climb. A few riders managed to get away at various points on the circuit but none of the breaks stuck. 

Guest rider Karen was looking strong, staying towards the front of the bunch for the majority of the race and finishing 20th overall. Sarah was amazed to have stayed with the bunch for the entire race (having been dropped early on on this stage in previous years), finishing 35th (in the bunch kick). Iona came in just behind in 40th place. Sandra put in a great effort, having lost contact with the main bunch on the first climb, and finished 59th.

We've just enjoyed a delicious lunch and will soon be getting ready for this afternoon's TT.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Team GB Cycles arrive at the Sneem hotel for the Ras Na Mban

Team GB Cycles riders, Sarah Maidment, Iona Sewel and Sandra Mackay arrived at the Sneem Hotel ahead of tomorrows 1st stage of the An Post  Ras Na Mban.

The hotel is in lovely surroundings, and the weather so far is good. We met up with our bikes and Team Manager Steve Wright when we arrived and started cleaning up the bikes, and making sure they were all mechanically sound, before heading out to ride tomorrows road race and TT course.

The road course tomorrow is one of the shortest at 66km, we do 4 circuits of a 15km course and with just 2 cat 3 climbs this will establish the Queen of the Mountains general classification.

We get a little break for lunch, and then late afternoon we have the 3km Time Trial, which is a gradual climb all the way.

With a lovely dinner inside us it is time to get some much needed rest, before the early start for tomorrows road race.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Gearing up for the Ras!

On Saturday we'll be travelling to Ireland for this year's Ras na mBan: a five-day, six-stage race around the Ring of Kerry. The race, which is now in its 26th year, is based in the small village of Sneem and attracts riders from across Europe.

So how are we feeling in the run-up to the race?

Iona writes...

I'm returning for my 4th year to the Ras na mBan. Last year the race stepped up a level, with the introduction of five days of racing. The competition has grown year on year.

Coomaciste, Ras na mBan 2010
The chance to race some challenging and more exciting courses compared to normal UK races is always good. 

[Ed.] The Ras really suits Iona, who is an awesome climber. We're hoping that she manages to stay away over the Coomaciste Pass this year and manages to pick up plenty of QOM points. 

Sandra writes...

My hope for the Ras na mBan is that we have a good team feeling all the way through. It's still early days following my knee surgery, but I am going into the Ras knowing I've had some great performances this season: from last weekend's criterium, where I came 4th, to a recent PB of 20:35 in our club's 8.5 mile time trial. We had a great time together as a team in Wales at the beginning of August, and also in Jersey, where we had some fantastic results.

It will be the most I have ridden since my Surgery,  but my hope is that if I take it easy and keep my own pace, whilst working hard, I'll be able to complete the Ras. But I am not setting that hope as a strict goal: I just want to feel the same performances in myself as I have done to date, little by little!!!

I'm the sort of rider that will work hard for my team mates, so that and my performance is what I'm looking at. My fear is my own mindset, and pushing too hard too early.

I'm really looking forward to riding with so many of my teammates, as we have great fun on and off the bike. Everyone encourages each other and Steve is fantastic at putting up with us, saying the right things at the right time and looking after all our needs, making sure we and our bikes are ready - fit and fighting for what lies ahead!!

Sarah writes...

This will be my third Ras na mBan and it is a race that I always enjoy.

I've had a difficult couple of months, with a number of set-backs both on and off the bike - largely as a result of six, sleep-deprived months working in A+E, whilst trying to train and race at full speed. This has come as a real "blow", as I was just coming into some decent form!

TT Ras na mBan 2011

I've spent the last few weeks trying to get my head back in the right place, letting my body recover and catching up on some sleep. This has meant that I've not been able to train as I would have liked and I've lost some strength, power and cardiovascular fitness. There was some doubt over whether I would race at all in Ireland but things are looking up and now I'm really looking forward to the race. 

I'm not expecting a spectacular performance (I'm just coming towards the end of a week of night shifts!) but I'm going into the race knowing that I've had a good season and spent two quality weeks training in big mountains. I'm going to go out there and have some fun, enjoy riding my bike in spectacular surroundings and do what I can to work for my team mates. Who knows what will happen... maybe all the rest will have helped!

Steve writes...

I am approaching the Ras next weekend with mixed feelings. Whilst it is one of the best races on the calendar, and one I always look forward to, there is a part of me that wants to be in Austria to support Stephania at the MTB XC World Championships. Let us all wish her the best for next weekend.

I am actually looking forward to the drive to Sneem, our base for the week, it is beautiful country and the scenery is stunning. The hotel is really friendly, and I am hoping to meeting up with some old friends, as well as making some new ones. The Team is great fun to be with, although a little noisy sometimes. In the past when I used to coach at Sutton CC, I had the privilege of driving Louise Mahe, Alice Monger-Godfrey, and Joanna Rowsell to races, usually Crystal Palace, and they were know as Team Decibel, because of the volume of noise they could create. I think I will have to resurrect the name for the Ras, I have the stickers for the car already!

I want everyone on the GB Cycles Team to ride to the best of their abilities, have fun doing it, and come away with a really good feeling. We should take lots of pictures for Stephen, and write some interesting views on the race for the blog. (Oh, and I’d like to move up Sarah’s list of the 10 best things about the Ras.)

Adele and Linda are also looking forward to the race! 
Follow our progress on Facebook and Twitter (@TeamGBCycles @mediconabike @sandracjm @AdeleMartin3)...

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Jersey races

Sandra writes...

Friday 24th August saw the GB Ladies Racing team leave at 5 am in the morning to catch a ferry across from Poole to Jersey. The plan was to race a criterium on Friday evening, a Time Trial on Saturday and then the main Jersey town criterium on the Sunday, followed by a road race on the Monday. All in all a fun-packed weekend of racing ahead.

We were driven in the team car by Steve our team manager and we arrived in plenty of time for the ferry, settled ourselves in and then the long journey began. I think it was about 2 hours late, which is quite usual for the Condor ferry.

We eventually arrived in Jersey and found our way to the youth hostel (our base for the night), which was on the East coast of Jersey, not far from St Helier. The weather wasn't looking too good and with regular weather checks, a storm was due at about 5 pm, which was when we were heading for the Friday evening criterium race. Right on cue, the storm arrived: just as we pulled into the closed circuit track!! We all sat in the car, looking at each other, looking at the track, listening to the thunder and watching the lightning.

We eventually met Peter Derrick, who advised us that there was no way the crit would run due to the track being flooded. He and his wife Debbie happened to be hosting Steph and Iona from Saturday!

So with the race being cancelled, we decided to go into town and eventually found a very nice little Italian restaurant, feeling the need to get some good food into us before the next day's Time Trial.

The hostel was full with various different groups: one being the Loughborough Uni rugby team. We kind of felt we weren't going to get too peaceful a night's sleep before our early start for the time trial!! However, I think we had our own fair share of laughs and indeed at one point Bohemian Rhapsody could be heard echoing around the hostel, followed by Hotel California!! For some reason we then started to play tricks on each other, and that's how the whole weekend carried on (outside of the racing of course)!! Quite how Steve managed to put up with us at times, I do not know!!! We were giggling for most of the weekend!!

Saturday morning saw force 7/8 gales, which gave us a bit of a cross wind for the time trial. This made it quite tough, but interesting. We all put in a really good effort... results to follow.

With the time trial done, we found ourselves some much-needed breakfast, and then found our way to Iona and Steph's home-stay with Peter and Debbie. We were all invited to stay for a BBQ dinner. The weather had got slightly better and Peter timed the cooking of the meat down to a tee before the next passing cloud of rain!!

That night at the hostel was quieter in my room, but the rugby boys definitely partied. Thankfully it wasn't an early start for the main event, which saw a portion of the town centre closed off for the afternoon's crit racing.

The weather was lovely and the day started off with the youths racing, showing us all how it needs to be done. The Elite women's criterium started at 16:20!!

It was a fantastic atmosphere in the town, and we rode down to watch some of the action and meet up with some of the other girls who were racing, before heading back up to Peter and Debbie's to get changed. (Bear in mind today wasn't the day to perhaps try a new route back to Peter and Debbie's!) We met up with Steve, who put us all at ease, checking our bikes were all ok. The last of the youth races was done, and it was now our turn to get out on the track and warm up!!

I found the course a good one, and once around some of the tight corners I was confident with the course. The start was neutralised, but at a jolly fast pace! Personally I had the worst start I've had: my cleat not going in cleanly and due to doing another warm-up lap found had started right at the back of the bunch. Steph and Iona were in good positions from what I could see. I started to work my way up, but the pace was just too fast and I didn't feel top notch!! That said, I eventually got a comfortable rhythm, and started to work with a few other girls.

Eventually, with about 10-15 minutes left, my race was over, as the lead pack were descending upon us, so we were pulled out of the race.

Iona was up with the lead pack of about 8 and Steph was in the 2nd pack, which eventually was about 30 seconds behind. Steph had cleverly taken charge of the second pack to keep it away from the main pack in which Iona was riding.

It certainly was a fast-paced race, with quite a few primes up for grabs, which were mostly won by Nicola Juniper of Corvida Allpress and one went to Louise Mahe of Team Mulebar Girls. So it was an 8 man sprint to the line, with Iona springing in in 6th place, and Steph in 13th. What a grand performance!!

With much rest needed, we all got ourselves prepared for Monday's road race and then had our diner and an early quiet night... but not before Iona and I had taught Steph how to leap-frog!!! So in the middle of St Helier town centre we were placing police cones on top of each other to see how high Steph and Iona could leap-frog over them!! Steve had already gone back to the car to wait for us!! I on the other hand was offering much encouragement whilst conserving my energy for the road race, we all had to be up at 5am to get to the road race ready to be off at 7:30am.

The weather, thankfully, was good for the start of the road race, and remained so. The elite men set off, followed by the support race, followed by the elite women's road race. We had 5 laps to do, with a nice little drag not far from the start. This certainly sorted out the bunch. Anna Grundy set the pace up the hill, and the pack split fairly quickly.....

Close to the start, as we came back down a hill and along the straight to the start-line, I tried hard to get us back on to the main bunch, eventually running out of gas. Steph managed to carry on through, with a couple other girls, but I was totally spent and told Steve in the following car that I was going to do another lap to warm down!!

I turned for the drag, only knowing that the pack were not that far ahead. Very slowly I started to see a rider ahead of me that i was catching up the hill. This was one of the Jersey juniors, who hopefully will guest for GB Cycles next season: only 16. I said that I would work with her, and went to the front to try and gain some ground. It made a huge difference to me and the way I was thinking, and very soon, I started to notice 4 riders ahead. I rode hard until we closed the gap, and then as a 5 we all worked together. This made made life a lot easier, so my warm down lap never happened!

With one lap left to go, the pace picked up - especially on the home-straight, into a head wind - finishing with a sprint for the line. Steve said we weren't that far behind the main group.

As for me, my knee is getting stronger, and with each race, I'm getting fitter. It was a great experience riding with the girls again, and we had lots of laughs.

A big thank you to Stephen Delaney of GB, who made sure we had plenty of socks, Zipvit and other kit for the weekend. And a big thank you to Steve Wright our manager, who maybe is wondering just why he does it, and if he can indeed put up with us all for a whole week when we go out to ride the Ras na mBan stage-race in Kerry from the 9th - 13th September.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Steve and Steph's exciting weekend

Steve writes...
It was a weekend of early starts for Stephania and me. Up at 5 am on Saturday to head to Steyning for a stall at a cycle jumble: an effort to make some money to help pay for Stephania’s trip to compete for Malta in the MTB XC World Championships.  Well worth the early start as we made enough to pay for part of the trip to Austria.
Next up was the Kingston Wheelers Club 10, which was on the G10/42 course near Dorking, and conveniently on our way back from the jumble. It was a hot day, but Stephania was loving it, “just like back home in Malta” she said, as I melted into the tarmac. A start midfield, and on her road bike with clip on tri bars, she set off whilst I decided to find some shade and a drink of water. The plan was to ride just at threshold, and keep her pace judgement steady, we had a XC race the next day. Having rested in the shade I thought I had better get to the finish and see her come home. Just as well I was a bit early as Stephania seemed to have done a good time, better than I was expecting. We met up just off the course and I asked her how it had gone. “I didn’t seem to get my power right, I was either spinning out, or pushing too big a gear, but at least I feel OK, and the heat was no problem for me.” I had a look at my watch and worked out what I thought her time was, and checking with Frank, the time keeper, confirmed that Stephania had just done a PB for this course, which shows how well she is going, and boded well for the following day's XC race.
Another early start, car loaded, and off to pick up Stephania for the Mountain Bike XC race at Checkendon, run by the RAT MTB club and 1st Gear Cycles. We were entered in the Elite Women’s race, and somewhat disappointed to find she was the only entrant. The Chief Com, Calvin, knew of Steph’s racing abilities, and decided to put her in with the Elite Men, although she would be doing one lap less. A fast start, and good consistent laps, meant that she finished in a great time for the course, even beating one of the Expert Men, who started a minute behind the Elites. The course was very muddy, despite the 30 degree temperatures, but did not stop a great race. No bad falls or serious injuries, just a few torn tyres and mechanicals.
Feeling lonely on the podium but pleased with the ride
A brilliant weekend, fantastic performances by Stephania, and topped off with a pub lunch on the way back, made for a great weekend of racing. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Auchterlonie Memorial Stage Race

Sandra writes...

This weekend saw my first Team appearance for GB at the Aucterlonie Women's Stage Race at the royal welsh show ground in Builth Wells.

Following major surgery to reconstruct my Anterior Cruciate Ligament, in my right knee I have raced a few 10mile time trials, weight trained and one criterium prior to this weekend.

I always knew it would be a big ask after such a long lay off, but race competition is great training to add to my recovery, and also it gave me a fabulous opportunity to meet back up and race with the rest of the team.

Racing this weekend were Iona Sewell , Stephania Magri, Adele Martin and Linda Young, and we were all looked after by our Team Manager Steve Wright.

We all met up on Friday evening at the campsite that Linda had found for us: a beautiful pitch just outside of Builth Wells. We set up camp, discussed times for Saturday, got food and then had a comfy nights sleep.

Saturday morning saw us all arrive and sign on ready for the morning's time trial, which I have to say was a good course with an excellent surface. There was a bit of a drag up to a nice small decent, back round under the main road and then back up to rejoin the first road with a nice small downhill to the finish. The weather held out and actually stayed dry. We all put in excellent efforts for the Time Trial, and I hope I am correct in saying Iona was in 8th , Linda 16th, Steph 22nd, Me 24th and Adele 27th.

We had quite a long break between the Time Trial and Criterium so we all went to town to stock up on food, and rest, that said I found it incredibly hard to want to eat, but also aware that I needed more than just breakfast to see me through the day.

Back to head quarters in plenty of time to organise ourselves for the criterium. The heavens opened, leaving the course looking potentially quite slippery on some testing corners. Other races had been going on throughout the day and our race started at 3:15pm. The start was gridded with higher cat riders at the front. Personally I had a good start, but it was evident from the off that it was soon to spread out across the course. My aim was clear in my head, A) I actually haven't raced longer than 30 minutes since the op so to complete an hour's racing, trying my hardest and pushing myself was the first objective, and B) Stay safe and out of any trouble..... There were a few crashes I saw directly on the same bend, but nothing at all worrying.

Whilst I found myself dropping I had to keep pushing but also telling myself, that I am still in the early days of recovery and also regaining my confidence. I haven't been able to train as I would have been able to had it not been for having surgery. All in all I was pleased I did all I could and had  good day's racing.

Saturday evening we were very lucky to have use of a drying room on the campsite, where we left our completely drenched and dirty clothes from the Crit race that afternoon.

Sunday we had a 53mile road race. Unfortunately for me, Saturday's racing was enough for my knee and I knew I didn't want to push it in the road race. Having spun on the turbo on Sunday morning at HQ, I was happy to have made the decision to recover rather that push the knee, so withdrew from the road race.

This enabled me to be Steve's assistant in the service support car, which for me was a great way to see the road race from another angle. It was a tough, tough course, which caught a lot of riders out, with very little in the way of a reprieve from a climb or a drag.

All in all my first team experience was the best I could hope for. The team atmosphere is so relaxed and very supportive and we all had a great weekend. Thank you to GB Cycles for getting some much-needed kit and Zipvit bars to me earlier in the week. Thank you to Steve Wright for all your help and support, and for putting up with me in the car for 2.30hours.

I have more longer-distance Time Trials coming up and will be up in Yorkshire riding the "King of the Pennines" on August 19th prior to the next team race, which will be the Jersey Town Criterium on August Bank Holiday weekend.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Racing News from Linda

Naseby - Team Race Series

A super day, a good turnout from the team and supporters from the Bowline Club and made even better by the sunshine and being able to ride on dry roads, after what has seemed like weeks of rain.
50 miles, 4 laps - the first 7 miles of the course being relatively flat with a fast pace - and then rolling hills to the last climb at the finish.

Someone had left a "reminder" about where to go on the last lap - about 300m from the finish. However, I missed this (on all four laps) and decided to make a break about 2km from the finish. Little did I know I would be attempting a solo into a howling wind that soon zapped my legs... Oh well, live and learn! It was my second road race - the first in the UK - and a fantastic experience.

Well done to Iona and Steph and thanks to Steve.

Mallory Park - 26th July

I am loving the sunshine and more importantly dry tarmac!! Summer has arrived and after the last two races at Mallory being in the rain, it was just great that we had dry conditions for the Thursday night race.

There was a breakaway after 3 laps of the 20 lap race. Two riding buddies, Jon West and Leon Wright were also racing and there they were off the front!  They stayed away for 2 laps and it was a good effort.  Leon went on the win the race, with a strong sprint.  I think I should take a lead out of his training book...or just stay on his wheel!! 

With half a lap to go the bunch was getting twitchy, everyone looking for the break and to get a good position. I followed a group on the outside, only to end up on the edge of the track on the edgings. Another rider came back to the group after some ‘off road’ on the grass. Still it was an exciting and adventurous finish, just a shame it's the last Thursday night circuit race of the season...We are all raring to go!