Iona at Peterborough Crit

Iona at Peterborough Crit

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.