Iona at Peterborough Crit

Iona at Peterborough Crit

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Jersey road race

Waking up to a brutal alarm at 5am the sleepy GB riders rose from their slumbers and forced down some porridge before setting off to the road race stage which started at 7:30. After the previous days bike disaster, Karen had managed to borrow an Argon 18 from the local bike shop who kindly lent her it for the day. Lined up on the start line we watch the Elite men and then the 3/4 men set off before waiting for our start whistle which never really came. All looking at each other after about 10 mins with no commissar setting us off we had abit of a random start with a man from the side lines just deciding he would set us off eventually. The first lap was very leisurely as if we were all going for a nice Sunday ride all chatting to each other and asking what colour nail varnish the other was wearing until the Guernsey rider decided it was getting rather boring and launched a huge attack up the 2nd climb. Today we were working for Karen so my job was to chase and control the bunch as best as I could. As a result I got straight onto the Guernsey riders wheel reeling her back in until we caught her back at the top of the hill. The champion system girls worked together on the decent to drop as many riders as they could keeping it at a high pace. Along the flat into the head wind everyone seemed to just sit and look at each other so I ended up dragging the group along on some of these sections alongside Iona and a Zappis rider to just keep the pace from turning into one my grandma could ride faster than. Nevertheless up every hill the Guernsey rider would attack and attack again alongside Jo Blakely from champion system, this lead to me battering the front to bring it back each time making sure Karen didn't touch the front which turned it into a really hard race. Coming to the 4th lap we had decided within the bunch that the GB girls would try break away with the champion system girls which was initiated by Lauren. Coming over the top of the hill the Guernsey Girl attacked, Lauren was straight on it. I Waited a split second to make a gap then jumped making sure Ions and Karen were on my wheel. Drilling it to catch the other two girls we made it across and battered it down the descent to get a good gap. Hitting the head wind flat section we found the wind was like a brick wall and the girls who had sat in with fresh legs decided to work and we were brought back. A valiant effort from the girls. The rest of the race consisted of me nailing it after the Guernsey rider, who was strong as an ox, to keep her from breaking away and also trying to control Karens enthusiasm who just wanted to break off the front up the hill as this is what she's used to but I knew it wouldn't have worked in this race. Iona also took some Wind early on in the race with an attack and coming into the final stretch helped keep the pace high enough for me to get to the front and lead Karen out. With a top class sprinter, Hannah Walker, in my wheel and Lauren also, Karen did a great job to sprint and take 4th. All in all we worked well as a team in this race and it was great round up to the weekend which consisted of some good results.


Jersey crit

By Brit,

We had a rather disasterous start to the Town Centre Crit with Karen managing to snap her fork clean in half which we all think was due to previous crash damage and also a bent a spoke as the track pump slipped off her handlebars into the wheel. With the race preparations taking a frantic twist Rob was put into bat with his mechanical skills to find and fix a bike up to Karens use. With the forks from Charlottes Dads bike not fitting correctly Karen ended up riding Charlottes 14 year olds brothers bike! Not ideal!..The next stage of carnage happened in the warm up lap with a Windy Millar rider taking a hard tumble on one of the tight corners in practise and was consequently carted off in an ambulance which delayed are start by 20 mins, shorting our race from a 50min race to a 40 min race. All wishing the Windy Millar a quick recovery as she flew past in the ambulance, we all lined up and set off. It was a fast a furious first few laps with Lauren from Champion system nailing the first corner stringing it out straight away. Iona broke off a couple of times during the race and looked strong taking to the front of the race on various occasions. I feel this was her best performance of the year as she looked comfortable, competitive and strong. I kept myself tucked in the bunch as I felt I had a good chance of getting a win in this stage and made sure I covered any excellerations of pace. Hannah Walker was on fire taking all the primes which I left as I was after a really good result not the money in this race so didn't want to expend too much energy. Towards the end of the race a guernsey rider broke away and it took a big effort to drag this one back with Iona and Hannah Walker doing a good portion of the work. Coming onto the final lap I made sure I was in a good position for the sprint 3rd wheel back and all looked to be going well until we rounded the corner and collided with a whole load of lapped riders on the finishing straight, avoiding any crashes we weaved in and out of the lapped riders over the finish line with Hannah Walker taking the win, Lauren taking 2nd, Me taking 3rd and Iona taking 4th. I was rather frustrated as I felt I couldn't open up a sprint due to the carnage and feel I may have had a better chance at the win if we had had a clear path but to stand on the podium was great! Karen did amazingly well on a bike that was completely the wrong size so hats off to her for being such a trooper and Charlotte did well considering she's only just turned a junior! It was a great atmosphere and race and I think we all enjoyed it aside the bike disasters!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Les Quennevais Jersey Crit

It was a sunny glorious day on the island of Jersey, after a heated debate with a snotty commissar who told Jersey girl aka Charlotte she couldn't wear our respectable colours but had to wear her Jersey kit, we all lined up on the start line gelled up to the eye balls on zip fit. Off we set, after 1 lap Iona strut her stuff on a lone break for 3 laps causing the peloton to wake up after a slow beginning and kick into action. Working as a team effort, Karen took up the next attack to make the peloton work. With various other attacks from champion system max gear,  Karen and Iona did an amazing job controlling the breaks and brining back any that looked threatening to protect me from expending to much energy. This included an attack from Jo Blakely towards the end of the race which Iona single handedly brought back just in the nick of time for the last lap. After a perfect team performance from both Karen and Iona for controlling and making the peloton work in order to bring home a team result, we surged into the last lap with Iona taking to the front and me hot on her wheel for a powerful lead out. Coming into the last corner feeling very strong and fresh due to the hard work of Karen and Iona the excitement of the prospect of winning got the better of me and I lep into my sprint far to early and was consequently taken on the line by Hannah Walker (Matrix Fitness) and Lauren from Champion system. Even though we got a podium I felt the effort the girls put in deserved a win so was lightly deflated as I wanted to do them proud nevertheless it was a podium result and a brilliant team performance. Charlotte rode a solid race sticking in with the main bunch for a good part of the race before soldiering on just off back off the pack but shows some great potential for the future and it was really impressive to see a rider who doesn't give in even when the going gets tough! All in all a super days racing and on to tomorrow's Crit event where we are looking to pull out yet another good team performance.


Sunday, 19 May 2013

Fred Whitton Challenge, by Karen

As part of my training for the big races later in the season, I am doing a couple of sportives as well as road racing this year.  Last Sunday was the first one of these - the Saddleback Fred Whitton Challenge in the Lakes.
After a few weeks of lovely weather, it was typical that the weather for FW Weekend was set to deteriorate.  Most of saturday was spent sitting inside bike fettling and listening to the rain pounding down on the conservatory roof.  Regular forecast checks from Chris were only slightly reassuring, as it became more and more certain as the day went on that I was going to get wet at some point on Sunday too.
As I had been a little late seeking a bike reservation on the train home, I needed to roll out of the start gate pretty much at first start - 6am on Sunday morning.  I slept surprisingly well on Saturday night, despite the impending 4am alarm, but the cave-woman look was at its best until only about 20mins before starting.
As planned, me and my riding buddy Paul Thornton were two of the first over the start line, and it wasn't long before we led a small pack along the northern tip of Coniston Water heading rapidly towards the first 'climb' of the day - the little drag up to Tarn Hows.  I thought I was setting a reasonable pace until a chain of 4 riders came past.  Jumping on their wheel, I didn't even realise that I had already left Paul in my wake with mechanical problems (although we had a prior agreement that we would split up if we didn't want to go at the same pace).  Unfortunately, my tow only lasted for a minute or two (I didn't at the time know that one of them was due to set one of only 2 sub-6hr times on the course), then I stranded in no mans land.  And there I stayed - for the rest of the day.
Through Ambleside and up to Kirkstone via Troutbeck was pleasant enough, and because I had set off so early, I had a car and bike free run down Kirkstone - most enjoyable.  By this time I was onto the Helvellyn Triathlon bike route that I was familiar with.  The next categorised climb was Matterdale End - again an easy bump compared with what was to come.  The descent into Keswick on the A66 wasn't much fun - I know that I will have lost time here simply through being on my own.  The first frustrating moment of the day.
Chris was waiting with our first planned feed in Keswick, along with a comfort break.  Of course while I was stopped here, a few groups went by that I could have got a tow off.
I started working a bit harder spinning up Borrowdale, and caught a small group just at the bottom of Honister Pass.  the 28 cog was employed and up we went, without too much stress.
On the descent of Honister and down the Buttermere valley, I experienced my only 'man objecting to being chicked' attitude of the day.  He had been taking it particularly gingerly down the descent, but refused to sit on my wheel on the flatter sections, insisting on steaming past me like a train, only to hold me up again on the next slight rise.  So, I sat on his wheel for a very short period instead - one of only 2 tows I got during the day.
Having had my own feed in Keswick, I whizzed straight past the official feed in Buttermere and straight onto the climb of Newlands Hause.  This one was new to me, but probably my favourite of the day - just a hint of a tailwind, empty road, and a gradient that was just perfect for me to spin up.  The descent wasn't quite so ideal, particularly when on one sharp corner I encountered a car coming the other way, locked my wheels up braking and went into a skid.  My intuition must have kicked in, as I quickly recovered the skid and avoided the car.  I tried not to give too much thought to where I might have ended up had I not managed to control the skid!
Zooming on down the valley and towards Braithwaite and the first time check.  Paul's pre-ride calculations had us going through here 3h45 into the ride to achieve a 7hr total time, and I was up on that, so figured I was going well.  Now onto the course of another lake district multisport event - this time the Newlands Duathlon, and the climb of Whinlatter.  I felt really good going up here and powered up all the way to where Chris was waiting with our second feed.  While I swapped my bottles and grabbed a slice of pizza, Chris briefly told me what had happened to Paul, and was trying to encourage me to take it easy as there had been a large group just behind me who might provide some assistance.  I knew it would have broken up over the passes, so paid little heed to his advice and cracked on, up the little kick at the top of the pass, and over the top as the rain started to fall and I faced a vicious headwind (I was proved to be right).
The next 2 hours kind of blended into nothingness other than rain, headwind and roads I didn't know that kept throwing little digs in to make it bloody hard work.  I caught and passed a few people, but no one who would be of any long term assistance to my cause.  At the bottom of the Cold Fell climb (very aptly named), a pair of skinny men came past, but I had no chance of getting on their wheels.  And eventually I came to the second time check and feed at Calder Bridge - now definitely pushing it for a sub-7hr time, still with the 2 brutish climbs to come, and dangerous and now wet descents to deal with as well.
Fortunately, turning into Eskdale at Gosforth, suddenly the headwind had gone, and I sped up the valley with a tailwind.  I also found some company, although one of the guys was not interested in working together, the other one worked with me to get us to the foot of Hardknott.
Having heard other peoples' stories of Hardknott, it is your mindset and nothing else that will get you up that climb.  For me, failure was not an option, even looking upwards on the first ramp thinking 'oh shit I've got to get up there!'.  My new friend clearly did not have the same mindset, as he dismounted on the first ramp.  The gradient does ease off for a while in the middle section, even enough for you to be able to sit down and knock it up a couple of gears, and then come the hairpins.  I have to say the supporters there were most amazing - giving advice on lines and helping you to believe that it can be done.  On the steepest section I could have been a gonner as on one of my additional zig-zags, my rear wheel hit a chunk of gravel and I momentarily lost traction.  I growled internally and fought on - phew, kept moving, only to have a car push past me on the next bend, with spectators shaking their heads in disbelief.  I'm not sure whether that was because of the car, or because of the brief dialogue I had with them 'go on lad, well done' 'I'm a lass actually', 'wow, first lass up, well done'.  One last steep section, and I was at the top, facing what would probably be the most terrifying descent of my life.  Brakes on, down on the drops, keep in control, and pray for no sheep.  Half way down I heard a bang from higher up the descent.  My poor new friend had punctured.
Now only Wrynose to go - easier up than Hardknott, but we had been warned the descent was worse.  I was able to get into a rhythm going up here, although the road was still corrugated which meant zig-zagging was still a challenge (but still the most efficient way of climbing).  If I had been cautious on the descent of Hardknott, I was even more so coming down Wrynose, probably without cause.  Finally, we popped out at the bottom to enthusiastic marshalls reminding us we were very nearly there.  One final push up to the col next to Holme Fell, and it was downhill all the way.  At this stage of any sportive it is mind over matter.  The 7 hour barrier had been and gone, but I needed to beat 7.5hours and could still just about beat 24kph with a really fast finish.  Cheers as I crossed the finishing line confirmed that I was first lass home, and amazingly, 7th home overall.
So, my emotions - proud, yes, frustrated, yes.  But its all downhill from here.  I doubt anything else I do this year will be as hard as that day was.  Next year - well, we'll just have to see what we can think up...

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

 Hi all finished the JCA Island games 22mile TT  in Jersey on Sunday which was hard work after competing in the Bedford stage race the weekend before . The conditions were good though with sunny skies and light winds.
                                Jersey girl

The Hard, The Fast and The Dangerous

Yet again I have failed to get into the routine of writing a blog after every race, hence prepare for another omnibus edition of Hayley's blog; I'd get comfy with a nice cup of tea if I were you.

The last thing I mentioned was becoming BUCS 10 mile TT champion, which I was really happy with, however there was no time to rest on my laurels as the weekend after was the BUCS 25 mile TT in Cambridge. Obviously I wanted to win this one as well but knew I'd come under a lot of pressure from the previous week's second place Ciara Horne and also from the returning Claire Galloway.

Somewhat ironically the course used for the 25 in Cambridge is significantly hillier than the course used for the 10 in Oxford. It's a really hard course, 2 laps of a circuit that is almost always pitching up and down, and that features a number of tricky corners - it's a hard course to get right and I was glad to have had the luxury of practicing on it in training.

I was pleased with how my race went, I was able to push myself really hard and get the most I could out of myself. Again it was close between me and Ciara with us being more or less level after the first lap (I was a handful of seconds up), however I'd paced it well and saved plenty of gas to go harder on the second lap so managed to improve my margin to 23 secs by the end. However, Claire Galloway had been on an absolute charge during her race, catching almost all the riders who started ahead of her, and in the end she soundly beat me and Ciara (by 1:18 and 1:41 respectively) so I would be forced to settle for silver. It's not what I'd hoped for but it was an astounding ride by Claire and there was nothing I could have done about it. I didn't even have another 18 secs in me, let alone a minute and 18 secs.

Myself and Cambridge's star ironman triathlete Lucy Gossage (who was 4th in the individual) did enough to earn Cambridge gold in the team award, and Cambridge's second team of Anna Railton and Jenny Haskell (6th and 7th in the individual competition) did enough to take team bronze as well - all in all another great day for Cambridge in the BUCS time trials.  Cue more gratuitous medal photos:

And another: (Lucy had gone home, or possibly for a run, by this point so I claimed both team gold medals!)

And one of Jenny and Anna getting their team bronze:

That was the last of the BUCS time trials for the year and the end of quite a stressful period of racing. However I was back in action again the following Sunday at the Welsh CA 25 mile time trial championships near Resolven. This was really an event of convenience: I had to be home that weekend for family reasons and the course is drivable from my parents' homes in the west midlands.  I needed to get another 25 in before the National champs and I wanted to improve my seeding time for the Nationals so the Welsh event being on a very fast course was helpful.

Given the reputation of the Welsh course it had attracted a high quality field, including many of my rivals for Nationals, all looking for a fast time. The day turned out to be quite windy with a block head-wind for most of the first 16 miles (until the turn) making really fast times not possible. I still did a 56:01 which knocked 2:58 off my previous best and gave me a convincing win in the women's competition against quality opposition, so I was happy with how I rode. I was even happier with my prize ... A HAT WITH A DRAGON ON IT, YES! I also apparently have a plaque and a trophy to come later in the year at the Welsh CA BAR lunch - exciting stuff. I think this is the first non-Oxbridge related cycling trophy I've won, normally at open events it's a cheque for a tenner or a pair of cycling socks. I would also like to say thanks to the organiser for a very smoothly organised event. They were so efficient with doing the prize presentation that I nearly missed it as I was still warming down on the trainer. Go on, you know you want to see a picture of me with my dragon hat (btw the dragon is called Dafydd):

The weekend just gone I was meant to do the E2/10, a fast ten course in Cambridge, meaning a weekend of little travelling for once. The week hadn't gone to plan with life doing its best to try and disrupt my training for the National 10. The race continued the theme of the week and didn't go to plan. Five minutes before my start-time the heavens opened. I started the race, headed up the slip road to join the main A11 carriageway (some of you can see where this is going already), hammered it for 2 minutes down the A11 in howling wind and driving rain with road spray everywhere before realising this was a stupid idea. I promptly got off at the next exit. Just when I was having one of those moments when you wonder if you've just been a bit of a wimp and made the wrong decision I happened across a male rider who had made the same decision as me. He explained that he liked racing but valued his life more and that the conditions were too dangerous. His skinsuit said Army CU; okay so I'm definitely not being a wimp and that was definitely the right call! I went home and took out my aggression on the turbo trainer instead.

Next on the agenda is a trip to Glasgow this weekend for the BUCS track championships, followed by the National 10 mile TT championships in Norfolk the week after. I've not done any specific training for the track as I've been focusing all my efforts on the National 10, however my form is good so I'm hoping to still do decent rides in the individual and team pursuits.  Hopefully a blog update will follow next week!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

A round-up of some of my training & racing...

It's taken me some time to post this as I've been quite busy with teaching, training and racing. But I finally managed! Spring is here and we are now racing most weekends but before I share with you some of my racing adventures its worth mentioning training in Sicily. At this stage, I can say that winter training is paying off. Apart from the training rides I do with my training buddies here in Malta I also found time to visit Sicily and make the most of their roads and trails. It is only a 2 hour ferry from Malta so its quite easy to get to. Two of my training camps this year were carried out in Sicily. A 4 day with GB Ladies team and another weekend with Agones SFC club members. The latter training consisted of two days climbing up mount Etna. This was my first road training camp this year and although I did miss being off road I did enjoy myself nearly as much as I do on a mtb! 

Picture taken after climbing up to Rifiugio Sapienza one of the climbs on Mount Etna

Mount Etna erupting by night
Sicily is amazing, great people, scenery, food and riding. We couldn't ask for more! Oh by the way we did meet some dodgy drivers but we survived! While we were staying there we had the honour to watch one of the wonders of earth. In the evening we heard an explosion and saw lava coming out from one of the volcano craters. An amazing experience! 

Volcano ashes being swept away by children so they can play football 
These are the ashes. Looks more like gravel to me!
One of the breath taking views while riding up to one of the peaks.
Back to racing on dirt...
The British MTB XC National Series Round 1 - Sherwood Forest, England

My new RDRitalia Scandium 29er is ready to be tested :-)
Legs were ready and so was my new bike :-) I got accustomed to mild temperatures in Malta and finding myself back in the UK I must admit its freezing! I found it difficult to get away from the lovely heated houses!

Steve scraping off the ice before we set off to Sherwood Forest Brrrrr!
Saturday morning we woke up to a couple of inches of snow. We were a little bit concerned about the road conditions but soon found out that roads weren't as bad as we thought.

Course practice & photo shoot
We got to a snowy winter wonderland, with a 4" of snow which rose to 8" by the evening. Went round the course a couple of times testing my new bike and practising the course. Loved it! Both, the bike and the trail! A fun course and a picturesque view. 

Robin Hood & Maid Marianne
After having camped at Sherwood forest the previous years, we decided to go for a B&B and secure a warm comfortable night. After a good breakfast we drove to the race venue slipping and sliding all the way. 

Warming up :-/
I went through my normal race ritual only that my warm up routine was not enough to warm me up. 
The start
I had a decent start, a little slower then usual as there was not many places where to over take. The race was a total of 4 laps approx 24kms of mostly single trail. 

Staying in the tracks
It was heaps of fun riding through windy, snowy and muddy sections. Kept a steady pace throughout the race and was pleased with my ride. When I finished the race Steve noticed a huge amount of frozen mud stuck to my bike. No wonder my my front changer froze leaving me to a fixed gear. This was also a good explanation why on the last lap my bike felt heavier than usual probably heavier then the next door neighbour's commuting bike! 

Racing hard

Finished 17th out of 27 starters. Pleased with my position and look forward to the next round :)

More dirt...
Sicilian Cup MTB XC Race - San Cataldo, Sicily
Last year in November I did my first MTB race at San Cataldo where I placed 2nd. The race course was challenging and the climbs where tough. So this year I made sure to return to this race. I set off to Sicily on Saturday morning with Justin, a friend of mine who rides for Agones Club. We got on 5am ferry to Pozzallo and at 7am we were off the ferry heading to San Cataldo a village in Caltanisetta. The motorway was quite boring nothing different from any other motorways, but as we got closer the views became amazing. 
Edward from Wheel Wizard bike shop working on my racing wheels  the night before we set off. Thank you Edward!
Beautiful spring scenery. Picture by Justin
In the afternoon we met with some Sicilian friends and went for course practice. The terrain was very dry and loose making the descents very fast. The course was similar to last years with some more single trail sections added in. I was a little bit tiered from the travelling and rode slowly compared to my usual course practice still enjoyed it though.
Our new Sicilian friends riding their Motorino off road! White one is for sale.
The next day we woke up to British weather! Female riders were planned to set us off at 11am but when we got to the racing venue they informed us the race was moved to 10! I panicked a little knowing there was no time for a proper breakfast so I had a Zipvit energy bar which I know my body can digest pretty fast. Soon after a short warm up we were off. There was not enough time for riders to overtake and soon after a fast start we found ourselves stuck in a traffic jam.
Photo courtesy of ASD Team
The riding was interesting conditions totally changed from the previous day. Ground was wet and with a clay based terrain there was little grip. 
I soon realised I was on the wrong tyres. Had to stop several times to clear the mud which was blocking my rear wheel from turning round! Obviously there was no trouble on the descents as the wheels skidded down any ways but as soon as I reached the bottom of the descent and tried to pedal there was no way my bike would move. I wasn't the only one stopping and clearing the mud. There were many riders retiring from the race possibly due to mechanicals. Having a lefty was an advantage of course as my front kept rolling down the technical descents and this was definitely a plus side to stay upright on my bike.
Muddy descents
Sticky mud + summer tyres... definitely not a good combination!
Even got some tape stuck in my derailleur. I'm surprised it still worked!
I enjoyed this race even though the rain made it tougher then expected. Completed 3 laps in 1 hour 11 minutes less then 2 minutes behind the leader who was a male rider and 1st in the female elite category.
Receiving the trophy

We couldn't stay for the presentation as we had a ferry to catch so got the trophy a goody bag and rushed back.

Back on tarmac...

First round of the Road National Championships - San Martin

After the bad luck I experienced on this course during the Tour with a double puncture and not enough wheels in neutral service to keep me going, I was eager to lay the demons on this course.

The previous day I made sure that my new custom built RDRitalia road bike was set to go. I didn't have Steve to check my bike and help me go through the usual bike check routine but luckily Ivan from Express Traders did a great job. Called Steve the day before and asked him for some racing tips. He told me to treat it as a mtb race and go hard.

My new toy :-) Frame from built by Steve Wright 
I was so nervous about the race especially about puncturing again, I must have checked tyre pressure at least 4 times! After a 1 minute silence in respect to a fellow cyclist Ishmael Muscat, they set us off with the men elite and over 40's. There were 7 of us females racing.

The Start
The race was 5 laps of San Martin circuit which is also used during the 2nd stage of the Tour Ta' Malta. The bunch stayed together until we hit the climb. After San Martin climb I found myself riding with the men. After the third lap there was a safe gap between myself and the other female riders so all I needed to do is stay in company and keep the pace up. 

Up San Martin with a background view of Xemxija (Pic courtesy of Raymond Pace)
I was happy to cross the finish line first female with a 6 minutes gap

"Yes! No punctures!..and a win" :-)