Iona at Peterborough Crit

Iona at Peterborough Crit

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Team training weekend in Ilkley

End of November and time for our first team training weekend of the winter.  We all headed to Brit's in Ilkley, West Yorkshire for the weekend.  I was first to arrive, with living the closest it was just a hop across the boarder from East to West Yorkshire.  The rest were to arrive much later, with an accident on the A1 not helping the others in their attempts to get there.  Brit and I went to a spin class Friday, while we waited for the others to arrive!

10pm before eventually Sandra and Karen arrived.  Then Jo arrived just in time for chocolate fondue and to find Karen, Brit, Chris, Rob and Sandra hiding in the pantry!  I had left the room, so they all decided to hide, like small children!  Giggling coming from the pantry and the joke was back on them as they emerged form the pantry, I jumped out on them and they nearly wet themselves!

Next it was chocolate fondue time, and Brit decided on chocolate face paint!

Nicola then arrived, along with new team mascot bears for everyone!

Next day and it was a ride out to Malham.  Time for a photo stop and a sit in the road (not a single car in sight!).

Then it was down the awesome decent into Arncliffe, dodging sheep on way down!
Bottom of the climb and we met Chris and Rob, who had ridden out other way to meet us.

Caffe stop at the trout farm!  Then it was back to Ilkley via Burnsall, Barden Towers and Bolton Abbey, an awesome bit of road to ride!

That evening it was out for food in the little village of Appletreewick.

Next day was an easy hour and a half's spin.  As few of the group had long car journey's back to the deepest darkest south!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Our big Sudbury Adventure

Our BIG Sudbury adventure weekend

Setting off at 1pm on Friday we arrived at Sudbury Sandra's 5 and abit hours later. We were greeted with a scrummy lasagne and a bubbly Sandra to make us feel at home. After being rebel children staying up until midnight watching Pitch Perfect laughing at the cheesiness we hit the hay. A leisurely morning eating bacon sandwiches was a very relaxing start to what was going to turn out to be a rather dramatic day. Arriving at Hillingdon circuit Steph, Sandra and myself not riding for various reasons  clustered around the start line to support and cheer on Iona who looked rather lonely out there on the track with no team mates. 12 riders set off from the start line, after afew laps of pissing about Iona took to the front to drill it and try drop some of the weaker riders, 1 lap later it was still together and the bunch, although successfully strung out,  came back together. This seemed to be the format for the rest of the race with Iona making some great efforts on the front managing to split the pack on a couple of occasions but with no help from any of the other riders it was inevitable that the bunch would reform after each effort. Coming into the last four laps Iona attacked up the hill successfully thinning out the bunch. 2 laps to go Twickenham CC attacked and caught some dropped men from the Elite race. 1 lap to go Iona bridged the gap with another junior. It was coming down to an exciting sprint finish which Iona won in style...good job Iona!

Arriving back at the car Sandra was only to find her back car window to have been smashed and Iona's red bag and puffer coat to have been stolen! There really are some awful people in the world. They stole over £1000 worth of Iona's processions including her car keys...yes slight problem how are we going to get home!? After the police had taken there notes and given out victim care cards, the evening consisted of ringing banks, phone companies, insurance companies and autolocksmiths to cut a new key for Iona's car. Iona was a superstar, she took it all in her stride and I was so impressed how she handled it all...if it was my bag I think it may have all been abit more dramatic!

With the previous days trauma pushed to the back of our minds for the morning we set off to compete in the Sudbury hill Climb that I had been somehow persuaded to do for 'a laugh'. After a good warm to rage against the machine it was my turn to travel to hell and back with Sandra and Nicola having already been there. 5...4...3...2...1 and I was off like sh*t off a shovel. Rounding the corner the head wind hit me sapping the speed out of my legs. Nearing the top there wasn't much left and crossing the line I thought I was going to I probably did it right then!

Coffee, cake and a good chat in HQ was to follow...the main reason for attending obviously! Results time... And we couldn't quite read the writing...but then it was written that I won! Sandra got 1.10.9, Nicola was third with 1.08.08, Iona got 1.17 (up for debate!) and I won with 1.00.07. The girls did great and made it a very enjoyable day which considering I hate hills is pretty special!

With the locksmiths awaiting his £140 payment for a new key when we returned home Iona felt the sting in the bum but again took it very gracefully with Sandra very kindly lending her the money until Iona could get her new bank card an access her money. That's what this team is so great always know they have got your back!

Gobbling down beans on toast for lunch we were then ready for our 5 hour journey home.

It was a great weekend as it always is with the GB girls full of laughs, drama and two wins for GBcycles! Thanks Sandra for having us and persuading me a hill climb would be a good idea! :)

Brit x

Friday, 15 November 2013

The end of one season or the beginning of the next?

Due to the fact that I was racing Chrono des Nations on 20th October, Mark decided that I might as well train for one more week and enter the BUCS Hill Climb on Saturday 26th October.

The Hill Climb is an event that I have always said I would never enter.  First, I don’t really like hills.  Secondly, I don’t think I’m a particularly strong climber.  Maybe I just have a mental block on climbing since I was pretty heavy when I first started cycling and so struggled more than most when the gradient started to increase.  Given that I’m now much lighter I should be fine on all but the steepest ramps but the idea of doing a hill climb still terrified me! I think the other problem is that the event was the BUCS HC.  Over the past 2 years I have been one of the strongest riders at all of the BUCS events I have entered and so the competitor in me really didn’t want to turn up at the first event of the BUCS 2013-2014 season and get a kicking.  For whatever reason, the suggestion of entering BUCS HC led to several arguments in our house but, in the end, Mark got his way (which I think we both always knew he would) and I entered.

The week before the event I ate (even) less than usual in an attempt to be as light as possible on the day of the race (it worked – I was 62.7kg on the Saturday morning which is the lightest I’ve been in my adult life!). Mark was tasked with the job of  ‘slimming down’ my road bike to give me the best possible chance of getting a good result.  Off came bottle cages and the big ring, saddles were changed to save 100g and skewers were weighed to find the lightest combination.  We did debate whether to take off the front mech or not but decided that it would be catastrophic if I dropped my chain during the climb and had no way to get it back on.  We also moved my power2max from Pegasus (my TT bike for those of you who haven’t read one of my blog posts before) to Artemis (my Scott Foil RR bike) so that I would be able to pace my ride accurately and not set off too hard – Curbar, the hill the race was on has two steep sections, at the beginning and end, and those who set off too hard pay for it in the later stages of the race.  When we were finished the bike was pretty light (though disturbingly still quite a way over the UCI weight limit), though it did look a little silly with only a 38t chain ring!

There were 4 women and 5 men competing for Cambridge at the Hill Climb and I was the last woman off in the BUCS South event. Being the last rider off was both a blessing and a curse.  Having never ridden a hill climb I had no idea what to aim for or how I would go.  When Cassie McGoldrick (Cambridge fresher who rode for Wyndymilla this season) came back down the hill after her ride with a time of 7.16, I was concerned that I wouldn’t make it on to the podium (the winning time in 2012 was 7.17 by Molly Weaver).  Another of the Cambridge women, Holly Page, had ridden in 2011 and finished 2nd so I really needed to perform well to even make it into the Cambridge 1st BUCS team (made up of the first 2 Cambridge riders).

Cassie telling me about her race as I warmed up ready for mine

Soon enough it was my turn to race.  I had been told that the starting holder was not doing a particularly good job and as a result a few of the women had ended up in the grass verge after starting.  I decided to make sure this didn’t happen to me and so was slightly bossy, giving him clear and concise instructions to move me out/in! It worked – I got a clean start, attacking the first 10 pedal revs before sitting down and settling into my rhythm.  I tend to do most of my climbing in the saddle and only got out of the saddle around the hairpin bend in the steep section near the top of the climb.  I knew at this point that I was going pretty well, being slightly ahead of the time markers I had set myself and able to see my 1-minute woman.  I gave it everything I had in the final push to the line and then stopped dead, barely able to unclip and support myself.

Nearing the finish...

Checking the results board in HQ told me that I had finished in 7.04.4, putting me in 1st place after the BUCS South event! Natalie Grinczer had recorded a 7.11.7 for 2nd and George Schwiening, a GB triathlete, was in 3rd with a 7.15.6.  We all waited anxiously for the Northern women to race.  As more and more riders finished, the top 5 remained unchanged.  It was looking as though the medals were going to go to Cambridge, Birmingham and Bath until Georgia Taylor-Brown from Leeds Met finished in 7.15.1, knocking George Schwiening out of the bronze medal position by only 0.5 seconds.  However, there was celebration in the Cambridge camp as the time for the final rider came in.  Not only had I won but mine and Cassie’s time combined had given Cambridge team gold! We finished with 3 riders in the top 6 (Cassie was 5th and Holly was 6th), which is an amazing result.  The Cambridge men also came away with team bronze, making 2013 our most successful BUCS Hill Climb to date.


In total the BUCS Hill Climb attracted 300 riders – a huge field! I was obviously over the moon at the result and extremely proud of how far I’ve come in the past few years, but I still can’t say that I enjoyed the experience! I struggle to see the attraction of hill climbing; it feels strange to be going so slowly whilst putting in so much effort and putting out so much power! It’s a massive contrast to time trialling, where I am often hitting speeds of nearly 30 mph.  Would I do the event again though? Yes, I probably would.

So with that I reached the end of my 2012-2013 season, but what is odd is that I ended with the first event of the new BUCS season.  It feels a bit strange to now be taking a break from the bike, though I am enjoying not having to get up early to fit in a training session before work! I’m now looking forwards to next season and working out where I can improve from this year.  Hopefully the good results will keep on coming!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Parlez-vous anglais?

I had been hoping to compete in my first UCI time trial back in June; the Celtic Chrono has previously attracted some top female riders and was meant to take place on 16th June so my plan had been to use it as a warm up for the British National TT.  Unfortunately this year’s event was cancelled due to a lack of funding.

Thus my first UCI race was the Chrono Champenois in mid-September. The women’s event is a UCI 1.1 and takes place in Betheny, near Reims in Northeast France, the week before the Worlds.

Mark and I set off bright and early on Saturday 14th September to get the tunnel over to Calais.  The drive from Calais to Betheny was ~3 hours so we made it to sign-on mid-afternoon with plenty of time to look at the course.  Unfortunately our laughable grasp of French meant that communicating with the staff in HQ was impossible, luckily the NZ coach was on hand to help us find out what hotel we were staying in (hotels for UCI races are normally booked by the organizer so I had no idea where we would be sleeping)! I had planned to ride the course but the bad weather dictated that we would just drive it.  I made a film on our second lap to review in the hotel as the long course (one single 33.5km loop) meant that there were a lot of turns to remember.

Although we had the name and address of our hotel, checking in was more complicated than it should have been (not helped by our language skills!).  The first hotel claimed that they were full and sent us down the road to a different hotel.  After being sent to-and-fro a few times we started to worry that we would be sleeping in the car.  Luckily at that point the organizer showed up and arranged a room for us.

The next morning we woke to glorious sunshine and headed down to the HQ nice and early.  Mark had a DS meeting at 10am so I went out for a short spin to look at the first section of the course and get a feel for wind direction etc.  The meeting was entirely in French but he managed to get the crucial information from the Australian and New Zealand coaches.  I wasn’t racing until after 2pm so I had a relaxing morning sitting in the car in the sunshine.  I signed a few autographs and had a couple of photos with local children (being a cyclist is like being a minor celebrity in France) and generally tried to relax.  The Aussie team parked next to us and set up their array of Scott TT and road bikes (for warming up on).  Basically, it made my set-up look horribly amateur:

I got decidedly nervous during warm-up and then spent most of my 15 minutes in the holding pen feeling pretty sick.  Mark had headed to the car ready to follow me onto the course so I had nothing but by own thoughts to distract me.  We had worked out a series of car horn signals (not quite as pro as having a radio) so that Mark could communicate with me if I needed to look up/speed up or if I was catching someone/being caught.  Once on the start ramp my nerves were replaced by determination and I attacked the race right from the word go.  I thought I raced well, from my overall power to my line choices and cornering.  Mark was impressed too, which is high praise! He has never followed me in the car before so I think it was interesting for him to actually watch me race.

My following car!

I was a little disappointed that I ended up finishing 17th – I thought that I would have placed a bit higher.  Still, I was pleased with my ride and how close I was to some big names – I was definitely in the mix! Also, I felt like the experience of riding such a big event would help the next time I raced a UCI event, certainly in terms of my nerves!

The race was won by Ellen van Dijk, who had a margin of nearly 2 minutes over Carmen Small and Shara Gillow.  Van Dijk obviously then went on to win the World TT Championships the following week, with Small in 3rd – to be only 3 minutes behind a World TT bronze medalist over a 33km course proved that with a little bit more work I can be competitive in these events (incidentally, I finished only 10 seconds behind the Swiss athlete who placed 21st at Worlds).

In between Chrono Champenois and Chrono des Nations I rode the Individual Pursuit at the National Track Championships.  My form was good heading into it but I made the stupid mistake of arranging to socialize the week before the event.  This resulted in me catching a cold.  I did everything I could to recover quickly and by the Wednesday (the day before the IP) I thought I was better.  Unfortunately though it seems I was not quite over it and by the 2km mark of my race I was really struggling to breathe – it seems there is nothing like a 3km max effort to see whether you have recovered from an illness or not! I still managed a time of 3.54, which is a 1 second PB, but in all honesty I felt like I was capable of much more had I been at full fitness.

After the track I had just over 3 weeks to fully recover and make further improvements before Chrono des Nations.  My training reached a new level of brutality but I was hitting the best numbers I’ve ever reached over all durations.  When the start sheet was released a few days before the event it was fairly intimidating, featuring the best of the UK time trailing scene along with top pros including Olga Zabelinskaia, Amber Neben, Elisa Longo Borghini and the ever-green French time triallist Jeannie Longo.  I knew it was going to be a tough race but I was determined to do my best and see how close I could get to the professionals!

The journey to Les Herbiers was long (it was a 6 hour drive from Calais) and we struggled to find the HQ for registration when we arrived as the road closures were already in place (again our non-existent French let us down quite a lot!).  After driving around the town for about an hour we saw a team car go around a road-closure barrier.  We followed it through and, to our relief, found ourselves in the start/finish area where sign on was happening.  Luckily the commissaires spoke good English and gave us an official-looking piece of paper with the name of our hotel on it (no repeat of Chrono Champenois thank goodness!).  The plan was to drive the course twice, before riding it on the TT bike to get a feel for the corners.  The course was continually rolling with some fairly tough uphill drags and a couple of terrifyingly quick descents.  I prayed for a dry race-day as I really didn’t want to have to tackle some sections of the course in the wet.  When I rode the course with Mark following in the car I realized that the wind might also make life difficult during the race – the only front wheel options I had with me were my Zipp 808 and a box-section training wheel – like hell was I using a box-section in a UCI race!  During my practice run I was using my race wheels to get as accurate an idea as possible of the likely race conditions – it turned out that these were “very windy”! At times I felt like I was being blown all over the road by the cross-wind and the downhill sections were especially scary.  I hoped that the wind would ease a little over night but knew that I would have a challenging race ahead of me if it didn’t…

The following morning was sunny, though it had clearly rained heavily during the night.  We packed up the car after breakfast and headed back to the race area (which was only 1.5 km away – our hotel was actually on the course).  The atmosphere when we arrived was crazy! There seemed to be people everywhere and members of the public were walking around, hoping to get autographs from their favourite cyclists.  I was asked several times if I had any signed photo postcards and was met with disappointed looks when I said that I didn’t – clearly I will have to get some made if I go back to Chrono des Nations next year! When Mark started setting up my bike he noticed that my back wheel had gone completely flat overnight having been fully inflated the previous afternoon – I had a slow puncture.  Then followed the fastest tub change I have ever seen in my life.  Off came the old tub, the remnants of glue were removed with ethanol and hexane (being a Chemistry PhD student has its uses) and on went a new tub, secured with tub-tape.  I would have been stressed about the whole matter but I didn’t have time as the change was so quick!

GB Cycles car ready to go!

 Slightly more branded other team cars!

The only other thing to worry about was the bike check.  I hadn’t changed anything on the bike since Chrono Champenois but the bike check there was so relaxed that I was still worried about it.  It turned out that my saddle was pointing down by 0.5° too much and so I had to take the bike back to Mark to adjust it.  I ended up going back and fourth three times before the bike checker finally okayed my bike.

It was soon time to warm up on the turbo and once I’m in to my routine the time seems to fly by.  Before I knew it I was on the start ramp listening for the beeps and waiting to be set off.  The roads had completely dried out by the time I started racing but it was definitely windy! There were sections of the course where I really struggled to control the bike but the fact that the roads were completely closed meant I wasn’t going to be blown into the course of an oncoming vehicle – always a bonus. Overall I think I handled the conditions well, only coming out of the tribars (other than in the sharp corners) on one double bend that looked exposed.  Mark and I had decided to use the same car-horn signals as at Chrono Champenois.  However, whilst he was fairly quiet there he decided to employ liberal use of the horn at this race.  It felt like every 5 minutes I was getting a double beep for “speed up”.  At times I genuinely wanted to take my hands off the bars and make a rude gesture but I obviously didn’t! It worked though – I crossed the line (after a near miss with a cat who was leisurely crossing the finishing straight) in 30.46, under the 31-minute mark that Mark and I had talked about.  In previous years a sub-31 would almost guarantee a top 10 finish and so this was the time I was aiming for.  Unfortunately, not this year.  The caliber of riders competing meant that my 30.46 was only good enough for 19th.  One definite positive was that I finished just 20 seconds behind Julia Shaw (I said going into the event that I would be happy to finish within a minute of her and so I was definitely pleased to be so close).  I was also only 1’21 behind Zabelinskaia, Olympic bronze medalist – there are obviously still improvements to be made but I’m not a million miles away!

Hopefully I will be able to return to both Chrono Champenois and Chrono des Nations next year and improve on my performances from this year.  I think that the main area in both races where I was losing time on the pros was on the uphill sections and I hope to be much leaner next season, which will definitely help with this.  I really enjoyed the experience of racing on closed roads in a country that welcomes cyclists – bring on more French racing next year!!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Team GB Cycles hit the cyclopark ...... by Sandra, Iona and Stephi

I met Iona and Stephi at the cyclopark today after much discussion about whether or not there was a womens race on today, we decided last night that we would show up anyway.

On speaking with the organisers, they confirmed there wasn't a women only race.

Having woken up not feeling not the full ticket, and arriving at the park slightly shivering, Stephi took my entry, so Poor little Iona wouldn't be racing on her own again for a 2nd consecutive week!!

The idea of the race was handicapped, so the Cat 2 men went off first with 16 laps to go, followed 30s after by the cat 4 men, then 90s after them the Cat 3's set off with each 15 laps to go.

The race started after a 2 minute silence for remembrance day, Iona and Stephi setting off with the Cat 3 men.

It was a perfect day for racing and in fact being on the bike, the skies were blue, the track dry, with a nice head wind, I could get used to watching, although I made the right decision not to race, which enabled me to try my hand at taking some shots on the iPhone....


The girls rode really well, and it was a good safe hard workout for them both...... They both eventually came in together after 15 laps of the track , and i think that was smiling :-)

Iona and Stephi

But even though we were there together, we still found Poor little Iona in a corner eating alone..... :-)

Iona Alone again
Actually once Steph and I had finished racing, we headed to find Sandra sitting all alone with her hot chocolate waiting for her Panni!  The conspiracy continues .............Sandra!

However once we joined her, we met this lovely chap, who came up to us showing the below photo, asking if it was any of us. 

He kindly took this photo at the Surrey League Team Time Trial we did back in september, in preparation for the Ras Na Mban, so thank you Hamish Brown for the photo below, its a great shot of Myself, Iona and Michelle Forster of London Pheonix who guested for us in Ireland.

Courtesy of Hamish Brown.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Poor Little Iona........

Poor little Iona 2nd week in a row of coming down south to race, and to race alone as her team mates watched on, this weekend was no exception, down Iona came, to race alone!!, there is a conspiracy!!! Why is it poor little Iona is racing alone!!!
And now tomorrow's race at the cyclopark appears also that she may ride alone, as Sandra and Stephi conspire to go a bit further down the road to the wiggle sportive instead......
When will Iona feel loved by her team.....all she wants to do to is feel loved.....


Iona and Brit head South......

1st November and Brit and I headed down south again for a weekend of Crit racing and a Hill Climb!  Saturday it was off to Hillingdon cycle circuit.  Steph, Sandra and Brit for various reason's were not racing!  Sandra's conspiracy to not put her bike in car and see how long it would take for me to notice this!  The main reason tho was to become clear later that afternoon!
Reason 1!

Reason 2!
Reason 3!

Reason 4!

Reason 5!

Reason 6!

Reason 7!
Reason 8!
And finally Reason 9!
3pm and it was race time.  I was the only one racing today, while the others were team back up crew on the start line.  Brit very helpfully giving instructions as to how the race should be rode, yet not being on her bike herself!  Anyway long story short, managed to thin group out a little, but it came down to a small group sprint into the headwind, which luckily I managed to win!

Early on in race and Steph is in charge of photography!

Bunch all still together.
Race over it was time to get back home for spaghetti bolonase!  But before we could get much further, Sandra had gone back to car to find her car window had been smashed in!  'Your bag's gone!' she tells me!  I walked around the car, first thought she's winding us up!  But then second thought, No, not even Sandra would take a joke that far certainly not about her own car!  And yep got to other side of car and glass smashed in!

Right so bag gone, nothing to do about it, it s gone deal with it!  Coat gone, s##t, no car key's no way home!  Brit and I were stranded in the deepest darkest south!  Now I know why they didn't race!  On the bright side at least they left me my trainers!  Police came, everything reported and we finally set off back to Sandra's the window zip tied up with a plastic sheet!

Temporary measures!

Brit after a tiring day of spectating at the Hillingdon Crit!
All that was left after my bag got stolen!

 Next day hill climb day!  Nicola, Sandra, Brit and myself were all riding it.
This was to be the shortest hill climb ever, 1min climb in Sudbury, Sandra's local hill climb!
Around 50 riders started with 5 women riding!  We all had to beat Sandra's record of 1min.00.6!  Brit telling us she DOESN'T ride hill climbs!  That didn't matter Baby Tate was always going to win in this sort of event, no matter how much she say's she's not a hill climber! An all out sprint for a minute, how hard could it be!?
There was a strong head wind blowing down the hill, not ideal at all!



Hill climbed we headed back to HQ for coffee and cake (the main reason for riding!?)  Then results out and as we thought, Baby Tate wins, by a mile and places 20th over all out everyone including the men, well done Brit!  Time 1min.00.7!  Sandra's record still stands then!
Nicola finishes in 3rd in around 1min.07sec, with Sandra in 4th in 1min.10sec.  Me a long way back in hill climb terms in 1.17 apparently!  Although i reckon it was more like 1.15, but either way still a terrible time!  Sprinters hill!

Hill climb podium, Brit 1st, Nicola 3rd!
Back to Sandra's where a man in a white van was waiting for £140 for our replacement car key so that Brit and I could make it home that day!  Jude was also patiently waiting for Mother's return!

Jude guards Brit's bag!

A good weekends racing despite everything being stolen, and back down next weekend for round 2 of some more winter Crit's!