Iona at Peterborough Crit

Iona at Peterborough Crit

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Yorkshire Day at the Races 2

Saturday 28th April, I arrived at Tockwith circuit for, Yorkshire Day @ The Races 2.  Within 10 minutes of driving up at the circuit the heavens had opened!

The race set off in the pouring rain, and for the first lap or so, I really didn't feel like my heart was in it today.  But as we got going, and got warmed up a little more, (well as warm as I was likely to get given the constant rain) things got better and I tried to get off the front a few times, but no luck.
All attempts form anyone to get away today didn't work, by the time we got to 8 laps to go, I think most were waiting for the sprint finish.

I found myself on the front a few times, later on in the race, so just tried to keep pace going, as the bunch was bunching up a lot and the corners were becoming a little dodgy!

With 3 laps to go Cath Wiggins attacked, like I knew she probably would.  Think another benefit was her just trying to string it out around the corners, it made it a lot safer, as she did the same with one lap to go too.

By this point I couldn't see a thing!  The rain was worse than ever and I was having to peer through my lenses, trying hard to judge where everyone was around me!

I found myself quite far back going into the last lap, but I managed to move half way up the bunch once we entered the headwind section before the last corner.

Coming into last corner, I saw Cath go on the inside, I went to get on her wheel, but Alice Barnes blocked her path through, and I found myself mid bunch on the inside round last corner.  Out of the last corner, the bunch went to the left of the track and me on the inside on the right, found that a massive gap had opened up.  I kicked and was passing people, I must of passed 10 riders in that last finishing straight, and as I crossed the line I was amazed to realise I'd just finished in 3rd place!  I was quite pleased as I hadn't expected to get a result in such wet horrid conditions, and glad that I hadn't had a wasted journey, even if I only did have 30 minute drive to get there today, unlike my usual 5 to 6hr round trips to races!

Now for next weeked and the Bedford 2 day!


Monday, 23 April 2012

Cheshire Classic 2012

The sun was shining as we set off, in the team car, up the M6 towards Northwich for the Cheshire Classic. This did not explain why sat-nav spent at least 30 minutes "acquiring satellites". With no map in the car this added a little extra anxiety to the journey!

My pre-race preparation had been less than ideal... but I'm starting to get used to working four A+E shifts back-to-back, finishing at 7pm the evening before the race, legging it home (usually avoiding a monsterous rain cloud), quickly packing my bag, cleaning my bike and hitting the road for the following day's race.

This was the second race of the season for me and my first chance to race with my new team-mates. This was Adele's first big national race (as a Junior) and Iona, having come second in the Tour ta Malta, had got the season off to a fine start.
Adele in her first big national women's race
Whilst less nervous than the previous week, I was still rather apprehensive. The line-up looked even stronger than last week's, with Paralympic World Road Race Champion and Olympic-gold-medal-holder Sarah Storey, top time-trialist Julia Shaw and several other National Champions on the start sheet. In addition to this, there was the slightly unknown quantity of the climb up Acton Bridge Hill, which the locals apparently refer to as "the cliff"...

Coaches, I thought, were supposed to encourage but Steve's words to me in the car on the way up north were, "It's going to be a tough, fast race!" I managed to take my mind off things by spotting lorries (our usual team-car entertainment) and was rather amused when we went past the Eddie Stobart depot on the motorway!!

About 20 miles from Northwich, the heavens opened. This was going to be a wet race!
Team GB Cycles lined up at the start
The pre-race nerves soon settled as I went out for a quick warm-up spin around the course: a five mile circuit: fast bypass, a sharp left turn followed by a steep climb and then some winding country lanes back onto the bypass. Ten laps in total. The climb wasn't half as bad as I'd expected... over the last few months I've been riding with a group of guys whose approach to training is generally to "beast-it" up every climb. Whilst this is rather annoying at times, my climbing has certainly improved since last season.

As expected, the pace was fast from the start and the bunch soon started to diminish in size. The biggest surprise (for me) was that the pace increased signficantly at the top of the climb (rather than on the fast surface of the bypass). Adele was looking good - holding her position towards the front of the bunch and riding well up the climbs.  I found myself "out the back" on lap three but soon chased back onto the bunch and did a bit of "brain recalibration"... hang on in there girl!
Each lap the climb seemed to get harder and harder... thankfully I wasn't the only one feeling the pain! There was a mega downpour of rain on about lap 4. Apart from a bit of moaning in the bunch, this didn't seem to bother us too much! On lap 5 (or 6) there was a crash. Unfortunately, Iona was caught behind it and unable to chase back onto the back of the bunch. Adele had also lost contact with the main bunch by this time. However, they both rode really well and finished the race.
Iona (left) and Adele (right)
About halfway through the race I spotted a stripy helmet on the side of the road as we were going up Acton Bridge Hill. It was my Dad! My parents had never turned up to watch me race before... ever! Head down. Better try even harder now! By now the bunch had been whittled down to about 30 riders (from 70 starters). The pace was still fast but I was feeling strong. And much to my amazement I was still with them. All those winter endurance miles are finally starting to pay off.
Sarah on Acton Bridge Hill
A break got away on lap 8 and stayed away. Lap 9 and there was another injection of pace. By the time we got to the 10th time up the climb I was plodding rather than spinning... but just one more lap to go. I was still with the bunch :-) I stayed near the front on the last lap, as I wanted to get a good position into the last corner before the sprint up the hill to the finish line. As usual I managed to mess this bit up a little, finding myself further back in the bunch than expected... and in the wrong gear! One day I'll get it right... But I passed several people on the way to the line and finished 24th overall, ahead of some very strong riders.

I was so pleased. Dad seemed surprised to see me but nothing could beat the big fatherly hug on the finish line! Back to HQ for showers, tea, cake and the prize-giving ceremony. An awesome race and a great day. Well done to Sarah Storey for a brilliant performance and a richly-deserved win. Big thanks to all the organisers for putting on a fantastic race, to Steve for driving me to the race and looking after our team so well... and to my Dad for coming out to support! I think he enjoyed it!

I've really got the racing bug now and can't wait for the next one!


Photos courtesy of Larry Hickmott:
Hopefully some news from Iona and Adele to follow...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Women's Team Series Round 2, Twickenham

First race of the season for me today in the second round of the Women's Team Series. After a number of crashes in last year's race, the course was changed and the race was held just outside Virginia Water.

Pre-race preparation consisted of six, nine-hour shifts in A+E, finishing at 7pm the day before the race, a recovery sprint home from work in freezing rain and a 15-minute bike-cleaning session in the garage at 22:10! Not ideal. Pre-race nerves also got the better of me... after all with the whole Matrix-Prendas team and the Junior World Champion on the start-sheet, it was not going to be easy!
The course consisted of 13 laps of a flatish 3 mile (ish) circuit with a draggy climb on each lap, followed by 5 laps of a slightly shorter circuit, taking in Staple Hill (a fairly significant climb) on each lap. The race finished on the 6th climb (something that caught many of the riders out, as we thought we'd only have to go up the climb 5 times!!)
As usual, once we got going, the nerves settled down and I started to enjoy the race. The pace was fast and the short circuit, with several left hand turns on each lap made the race more like a crit than a road race. It was quite a struggle to maintain my position in the bunch. There was an attack early on, in which Natalie Creswick and a Matrix-Prendas rider got away. Amazingly, Natalie stayed away for the whole race and won by over 3 minutes!! Chapeau!

It was difficult to keep count of the laps but eventually the race transitioned onto the second circuit. The climb wasn't half as bad as I'd expected and I found myself easily keeping up with the bunch (which had, by this time, been whittled down to about 30 riders from the initial 60). There was an attack on the second climb and for a few moments, I thought I had got into a break that would stay away. No such luck. On the third climb, I was elbowed in the ribs by a Dynamo rider and came very close to crashing, as we bounced off each other! Eek! Big thanks to Chris Smith (Zappis) who spent some time teaching us race skills over the winter, including staying upright when you come into contact with another rider!
On the final lap, I thought I was in a great position for the finish - up the front around the last corner, in a good position up the climb and on a good wheel. 500m to go everything went slightly mad, I was pushed into the gutter and found myself with nowhere to go, as most of the bunch passed me.

A disappointing finish but a solid race overall and a good first race of the season. Big thanks to Steve for coming out to support me and to Darren Hague and Steve Avery for the photos. Bring on the next one...


Monday, 2 April 2012

Great start to the season for Team GB Cycles!

With a place on the podium in each stage, Iona Sewell 2nd overall and Steph Magri first Maltese rider, Team GB Cycles have had an epic start to the racing season at the Tour ta Malta.

Clare Leaver showed superb form with a fantastic solo win in the Stage 3 road race and 2nd place in Stage 2. 

In addition, Elena Eggl (of the German team Bike-Aid), who was unofficially riding with the team, won both time trial stages and finished third overall.

In the final stage, a hard-fought time trial on the Zebbug Bypass, Iona finished in 2nd place, 6 seconds behind the winner, leaving her in 2nd place on GC. This is the fourth consecutive year that Iona has finished the Tour with a place on the podium. Finishing in second place was an excellent result, given the increase in strength and depth of this year's much larger field. Chapeau!

Final GC: Iona 2nd, Steph 7th, Clare 9th.

Fantastic results all-round. Big thanks to Steve and Klaus (Bike-Aid) for their support.