Iona at Peterborough Crit

Iona at Peterborough Crit

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)...