Iona at Peterborough Crit

Iona at Peterborough Crit

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!