Iona at Peterborough Crit

Iona at Peterborough Crit

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Top 10 things not to do in Crit Races, by Karen

Unlike Baby Tate, I am not a Crit lover.  Yet I still go out and keep trying to get a result at Crit races.  I have learnt a few lessons over the last two years that I thought I would share with you all.

10. Don't break into the corners, no one else does, and they mostly stay upright, so surely my bike will also stay upright too?

9. Don't get caught behind a crash - you will never get back on again - even if the crash is in the supposedly neutralised lap (Stoke on Trent 2012).  I reckon that you're better off coming down, taking a lap out and getting put back into the race in your intended position.

8. Don't go into a race without knowing the rules about laps out due to mechanicals or crashes.  Apparently in the Tour Series, if you have a crash on the formation lap, you can just wait until the race comes round again and join back in.  Ed Clancy did this in Aberystwyth this year, and we could have all done it in Stoke on Trent last year if only we had known.

7.  Don't ride into the footing of one of the barriers.  Now this is not something I have done myself, but have seen it done once (in Stoke on Trent last year on formation lap) and heard it done once (in Perth).  It can result in broken bones.

6. Don't fire off the front chasing a prime unless you know you have the legs to stay on when the pack comes back through half a lap later.  I remember doing this in a Cat 4 Mens race (my first ever race) simply because I was annoyed that a guy had completely cut me up into the previous corner.  Schoolgirl error!!!

5. Don't try to ride a Crit race on anyone else's bike but your own.  I certainly would not recommend a 14 year old boys bike (with a boy's saddle) with SRAM gears when you are used to Shimano.  Unsurprisingly I duly got dropped, and it was all a rather uncomfortable experience (Jersey 2013)

4.  Don't race with a wheel that is prone to dropping out of your frame.  Now I didn't know this was going to happen at the Nocturne - it never has before, but right enough, after several bumpy laps, my rear wheel did indeed drop out of the drops, completely jamming up my cranks and gears and duly depositing me on the ground going round the tightest corner on the circuit.  Ouch!  (I believe this is still my only crash in a Crit race)

3.  Don't fumble the clip-in off the start line, whatever you do!  And if you do, only do it once.  I had my worst epic fail at this particular Crit Art at the Nocturne this year where I went from a decent mid-pack position to the very back by failing to clip in not once, not twice but three times in close succession.  Race over!

2.  Don't try to carry too much stuff from your car to the staging / warm up area, particularly whilst riding your bike over speed bumps.  In Jersey, my track pump was laid across my handlebars, and bounced off going over a speedbump.  Somehow this fatally wounded my bike by breaking the fork.  Hence no.5.  (In hindsight, we think the fork had already been broken in a crash 3 weeks earlier, and was just waiting to fracture right through).

1.  Whatever you do, don't start a Crit race with your brakes jammed on.  At Chichester, whatever I did I just could not hold anyone's wheel, and girl after girl just rode away from me - even the Cat 4's!!!  Thinking it was my legs still playing up, I fought on for too long, and didn't realise until about 10mins after the race had finished that my back wheel would not spin at all.  What a spanner!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Winchester Town Criterium 11/08/13

GB Cycles and The Winchester Town Criterium

Saturday the 10th August saw myself and Karen go out across the Sussex countryside in the search of some good hill training ahead of the Ras Na Mban. 
For me it was more of a shock due to the fact that although the suffolk Essex borders do have their hidden little gems, as teams found out at the Giro, but on the whole we don't have the hills that down south has. 
Lead by Karen and her Garmin we had a great ride, and some good climbs, and a perfect sunny day, getting home after a good 100km's , making me wish for a nice golden pint whilst on the green watching the cricket recovering!!

The next day however we were heading down to Winchester for a town criterium. Arriving early we had time to walk and ride around the course, which was really nice, and technical, good if you love cornering, we had our lunch, then before you know we are warming up on our turbo and rollers.
We were advised we had to meet at 16:50 near registration, which all us girls duly did only to be held there until about 17:30, so it was the same for everyone, warm up and then a long cool down before the start.

GB Cycles a long with a few others were lucky enough to be gridded at the front, now normally I never have an issue with getting my foot into the pedal, but this time the left one argued a bit and I faffed and lost a bit of an advantage I could have had. Nonetheless, I dug in deep made up what I could, and eventually found myself working hard with a few others, really pushing it to close the gap on a larger group just yards up ahead. The course was fairly short, and twisty and turny, but I was finding myself really comfortable with the corners, which is a great feeling. I also absolutely enjoyed the race, never enjoy the waiting, but once your off, that's it. 

Thank you Steve Wright for always being there for us, and accepting all our little ways. 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Bruntingthorpe 10 mile Time Trail - 30th July

I was really looking forward to this as I had not entered a time trail locally for over a year and this was a course I'd never ridden.  I heard that it was windy, due to being an air field and so very exposed.  The surface was also quite rough but it was nice to be on a closed circuit course, so no lorries and speeding cars to contend with like on the A46 (the only other TT I've ridden locally).
The sat nav sent us on a city adventure through Leicester which meant we got stuck in some rush hour traffic so didn't have much time for a thorough warm up and to ride the course. 
It was two and a half laps and on the the first lap I was concentrating on picking the best line, avoiding some pretty good pot holes and cracks, but as it was on a run way the road was very wide and there were lots of other cyclists and always a 'carrot' to chase.

I'd gone out pretty quick but felt good, my first lap was the quickest and I overtook my friend Gav, it was his first TT and I couldn't believe it when I caught him up, he's got some power when he decides to use it but he looked like he was on a Sunday ride!! (he admitted it and I know he'll see the funny side)!  He said after he thought he should put in some effort when I went by and I knew that was the case as then he caught me up and overtook, I caught him up again and we were ridding at a similar speed for a while (not draughting of course)!  On the last lap we rounded a bend and hit the head wind on a slight ascent, Gav started dropping back and I  kept going, there is no respite on a TT, although I knew once I got on the the run way  it would be easier in a tail wind and I could spin it up. I got up to max speed of 28mph and kept pushing on, no easier then!  I was pleased to get a PB over 10 miles,  especially on new course, which made me swear with the surface on the first lap but now I'm hooked and will be going back sometime soon that's for sure...


Mallory Closed Circuit Race - 25th July

There were 8 or so women riders and so the decision was made to have a separate ladies race rather than join the men's 4th cat.  It was a steady start, which I was glad of for the extra warm up. I was starting to feel the benefits of the Mont Ventoux 'training' earlier in the month and my legs felt pretty good.  There were a few attacks which livened things up but no one was able to stay away, I put in an attack from the back of the pack to wake up my legs and see how I felt putting in an effort. 
With such a small group it meant everyone did some work on the front, some were more keen than others which is always the case, but it is a race and you never know how anyone is feeling and sometimes people may not have the legs for it.

The course was run clockwise round the track and on the shortest, flattest loop, there was still a headwind and it's quite exposed, I've never raced here when there hasn't been one.

The bunch was still together on the last lap with people trying to stay off of the front but the pace remained consistent.  I was boxed in by two other riders rounding the last but one bend, I was watching one rider who I suspected was going to put in a big attack because she had been so strong throughout.  I was right and just before the last bend she sprinted, it was an early break and I managed to move out and follow, I was gaining all the time and it was pretty close to the line.  She was a wheel or so ahead and I glanced back and saw we had put in a good distance between the us and the rest of the pack which was encouraging.  I was pleased with second place and even more with my performance and how good I felt throughout.  I'm definitely putting it down to the  'Ventoux effect'!


Friday, 2 August 2013

A Hill in France - July 2013

Last month a group of 9 of us went to the region of Provence in France to conquer the mighty Mont Ventoux.  At a height of 1911m, it's nearly twice the size of anything we have in the UK.  The plan was to ride each of the three routes to the summit, each has a different average gradient,  Bedoin 7.5%, Malaucene 7.2% and Sault 4.5%.

I ride with this group of bikers all the time at home and it was no surprise that we'd be in competition, some people training to peak for this week.  There had been ryvita diets, new bikes, and also a bit of training in preparation. 

I'd had a great time in the Alps a few years back so couldn't wait to get out there onto the mountain.  As Ventoux stands alone, it's an impressive sight and we also anticipated some flat rides on our riding days between the hill climbs.  We were staying at a lush French villa, complete with two kitchens, 10 ( I lost track) bedrooms, a swimming pool with its very own robot.  It was luxury and almost painful to drag ourselves away from it, as well as our fresh coffee and croissants every morning, to ride.  However the scenery and countryside was stunning, fields full of sunflowers, lavender and vines, surely this is paradise.  I promise I wasn't on a 'scenic' ride every day Steve!

Our first ascent of Ventoux was from Bedoin, the steepest of all the climbs, I thought this was my best day but on reflection it was probably from Sault, I think it was just that I had fresh legs and don't mind the really steep stuff of 12%+.  I got up there behind the ryvita and mountain goat boys, beating the 'new bike' but mainly I was pleased to get to the top. 

Monday, we did a superb ride around Gorges de la Nesque, winding roads with magnificent views, I got dropped (!) but then had some bread and cheese and felt brand new again.

On Tuesday, we rode to the summit from Malaucene, I can't remember too much of this ride, or where my legs were, just that I got to the top and it was quite steep. I was chasing the group throughout this ascent as started off at the rear due to going back down the road at the start to get the start of the strava section (we had stopped just after the start of this and so wanted to get the right time).  Strava has a lot to answer for!!

Wednesday was a pool day...

On Thursday we rode to Sault, a good undulating 30 miles, I actually found this harder than the mountain.  Temperatures of 30degrees plus meant we always had a keep an eye open for water fountain without the words 'non potable' (non-drinkable), on.

A group of 5 of us started off at a pretty quick pace, I soon thought I'm going to have to ride this my way and start off steadier.  I'm sure ryvita and goat boy wanted to drop a few riders!  It is a mountain after all and I was on holiday right!? Anyway, I backed off, got into a rhythm and started to enjoy myself, the gradient was about 5% and so perfect for spinning up.  My cadence was bordering on 100, I felt good, was keeping on top of my nutrition and hydration and started to think about catching the others.  I was passing a few riders, and then looking towards the next in front.  There were lots of camper vans and people en route getting ready for the Tour de France stage coming up on Sunday, it was exciting stuff.  A French rider was particularly surprised to see me go by (hopefully at such speed) because he did a second glance and exclaimed "mademoiselle"! Only in France...
At 6k we reach the point where the road meets with the ascent from Bedoin and the gradient kicks up.  I was well warmed up and could see Timlad in the distance, he is the one responsible for getting me into cycling and is probably the most competitive person I know, he goes beyond into the red and I knew this wouldn't be understatement as it turns out.

Well, I kept Timlad in my sights and kept pushing on, on the last section of road before the summit I put in a final effort and reached Tim, and had never been blowing so much on any ride! Lack of oxygen I'm sure!  I barely got the word "Timmm" out and he said "well done gal" well within himself.  He knew I'd worked to catch him and I joking said are you going to let me have the victory... no chance! He said after he thought about it, for a millisecond I reckon, but then said it would do me no favours.  I totally agree although at the time I so wanted to get in ahead.  There was cheering from people at the summit and we dug deep to get to the top, Tim got it with a strong surge of power round the last bend, that I couldn't respond to (this time)!  All I have to say it WELL DONE TIM... And I really mean that.  :)

It helped me get Queen of the Mountains on the TT challenge on strava so I have to be pleased with that, not bad, as some of the blokes say, for a girl! 

By Linds

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Marmotte Gran Fondo - 6th July

The next step in my training plan for the Ras - enjoying a week in the Alps with the hardest Gran Fondo in Europe thrown in for good measure.
Having flown out to Nice in time to catch the Tour de France Team Time Trial, we headed up to Alpe d'Huez and took in some classic climbs such as Col d'Ornon, Col d'Izoard and Col de Sarenne, as well as a first ascent of the Alpe itself in the few days before the Marmotte.

Conquered the Col D'Izoard

Descending Col D'Izoard

Friday saw the usual bike fettling before the big day.  For me that was brake pads only (very important for alpine descents), and for my friend Paul even less.  The other critical activity was to discuss our target times.  I knew that our very own Sarah (Maidment) had done a time of about 8 hours in 2012, so that was the target I had in my mind.  However, when Chris started looking at results, I realised that to do something impressive, I needed to go a bit faster than that, so readjusted my target to a total riding time of 8 hours, which would mean that after the Glandon descent was subtracted, this would make me competitive in the women's ranks.  Paul also readjusted his target in the same way.

Are you ready Paul? 6 AM Start!

We had managed to get ourselves into the first start group, although it probably wouldn't have made a difference in the long run, so supposedly rolling out of Bourg d'Oisans at 7am on Saturday morning.  The decision was made eventually that the most reliable way of getting to the start without a panic was to cycle down the Alpe in the morning, leaving at 6.  We certainly weren't the only ones!! The scariest moment of the day was actually on this descent, when going into hairpin 21 (the bottom one), the bang of an exploding tyre was heard close behind us, followed by the yell of a guy to get out of his way and the crash of carbon hitting tarmac.  That shook me up, and I was relieved to still be on two wheels.

While I was using the supermarket facilities, Paul discovered that he also had a flat, so had to use his spare tube up.  We decided to go our separate ways much earlier than intended as Paul disappeared to go and find a spare to purchase, and I went to line up to start.

With transponders attached to bikes, your time starts as you cross the start timing mat, so no jostling for position is required.  I found myself next to a group of guys from Kingston Wheelers, and spoke to them briefly.  Then we were off.

Rolling down the valley surrounded by thousands of other cyclists was an experience I will never forget.  Its nothing like road racing with the constant jostling for position - this was much more relaxed with everyone just going at the speed they wanted to and a decent amount of courtesy.  Soon enough we zig-zagged our way across the dams (where Chris and Linda were cheering) and onto the foot of the Col du Glandon.  I was conscious that I didn't want to burn myself out on this first climb of the day, but still found myself going past a lot more people than were coming past me.  There seemed to be the hint of a group of us all climbing at roughly the same speed forming.  There is a mini descent half way up the Glandon, where I saw my first and fortunately last crazy descending manouvre.  Nearer the top I recall passing two Zappi's tops without acknowledging them.  In hindsight I realised that one of these had almost certainly been Claire Leaver, and regretted not having said hello.

Following a fatality on the descent of the Col du Glandon a few years back, the organisers now neutralise this descent so that riders take it more steadily.  This made me a bit nervous, as I know that I get scared if I go too fast when I can't see a clear road ahead of me.  So, quite a few people who I had passed going up came back past me going down - although most did it sensibly.  Even at this early stage, there were two heaps of man and carbon by the side of the road along the descent.  Paul reported ambulances had arrived a few minutes later when he came down.

Once you pass the timing mat at the foot of the descent, there is a critical part of the route where you need to hide in the shelter of big strong men.  Luckily for me, I timed it all quite well, and was able to power onto the back of a group with a nice friendly Swiss guy who looked after me for the whole of the next valley section, in a group of about 30 riders (me being the only girl).  At this point it was interesting to note the general acceptance by men in Europe of strong female riders, when British men would have testosterone pumping at the fear of being 'chicked'.

Soon enough we arrived at the foot of the next climb, the Col du Telegraphe.  I took the risk of ignoring the drinks station at the foot of the climb as I was still sitting pretty in my group of powerful men, but as soon as we were back onto a road with a gradient, it didn't matter any more as everyone went back to riding at their own pace.  Some guys rode up the road ahead of me, but as many dropped back off my wheel.  Near the top of this climb I caught up with a guy from London Dynamo who I had met on the train on the way back from the Fred Whitton earlier in the year.  He picked up his pace to ride with me for a couple of minutes, then said goodbye and let me carry on my way.  A quick stop at the top for bottle filling and I was on the descent to Valloires and the foot of the Col du Galibier.

By this time, the promised hot temperatures had arrived, and with no tree cover on the Galibier, it really did get hard.  My pre-race plan stuck in my head - just ride at your own pace in a gear that allows you to spin without lactic building in the legs.  The Galibier is long - really long!  And just as you think you are nearly at the top, you crest a little hill, look up and see a stream of cyclists dotted all over a very steep snow covered slope, realising that the road zig-zags its way much further up than your current position.  "Come on Karen, keep going".

Despite intending to stop at the top for a bite to eat, I was carried over the summit by my momentum and the realisation that I was probably now well ahead of my target time.  Despite being shouted at by a couple of guys on the way down, I think the descent from the Galibier is one of the most enjoyable I've done, with good visibility on most of the bends, a good surface, and of course the knowledge that the road was closed, at least for this section.  There is another 'col' part way down the descent when you join the main valley road between Bourg d'Oisans and Briancon, and I knew once I got down to there I could let myself go a bit more and start to try and grab some wheels to tow me down the valley.  This didn't happen for a few miles more as the fast guys still took more risks into the corners than I wanted to take, but eventually a group came through from behind with a suitably timed slight uphill that allowed me to jump on.

The pleasure of riding downhill for such a long way is wonderful, even with the Alpe looming ever closer.  I knew I needed to stop at the last feed station before starting the climb (having not stopped at the top of the Galibier I was running dry again), but still nearly missed it.  Just as with the Telegraphe, the large group that had formed by the bottom of the Alpe split up immediately the gradient went up.

Knowing that I wasn't much more than an hour away from the finish, with a time of less than 7 hours on the clock (including the descent of the Glandon), I had my suspicions confirmed that I was ahead of schedule.  This did not make the Alpe any easier.  The air temperature by this time was well into the 30's, and riding uphill was just like riding against a wall of heat and pedalling through treacle.  It was so hard that I can't find words to describe it.  There were some very nice supporters on the side of the road who would pour water over your head on request, and plenty of GB flags that always got acknowledged.  I knew that I hadn't 'bonked' and that whilst it felt hard, it was supposed to!

 So it was just a matter of counting the hairpins down one by one, and soon enough, there I was at hairpin 4 on the outskirts of the main resort.  At this point, crowds get larger and adrenaline kicks in (oh, and the gradient supposedly gets less) - you know you are nearly there and suddenly having done pretty much the whole climb on your own, there are many more riders on the road whose wheels you are catching.

Then, there I was, in the centre of the village, zooming through the final few hundred metres, Chris and Linda cheering at me from the side of the road, and the 'beep' of my transponder as I crossed the finishing line.  My garmin said 7:56.  Wow!  I knew that my target had been sub 8-hour riding time, but in such hot conditions you never know how your body is going to respond.  I climbed off my bike and collapsed over it, unable to stand up straight or sit down or control my emotions.  My bodily functions had packed in, and my feet were burning up.  It seemed an age before Chris managed to make his way over to find me for my reward cuddle - what a proud husband he was.  After a few more minutes, we managed to make it over to the diploma tent and the moment of truth - the time that would appear in the results - an astonishing 7:22.

Medaille D'or a Tout!

The next hour was spent recovering and waiting for Paul, who also smashed his target time, and fortunately hadn't had the bad luck of mechanical issues he had experienced on the Fred Whitton.  My achievement was sinking in slowly, but needed a look at the displayed results to hit home.  The fastest woman had done 6:45, I was 5th in my age group (35-49 - the strongest female age group), and an amazing 7th woman overall; needless to say the fastest brit (although both Claire Leaver at 7:26 and Vicky Ware at 7:44 gave me a run for my money!).

So, will this lead to something new?  Who knows - it certainly beats road racing any day!!!