Iona at Peterborough Crit

Iona at Peterborough Crit

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

UCI World Championships for Masters, by Karen

My final races of the season took place in Trento in the Italian Dolomites, and were the 2013 edition of the UCI World Championships for Masters.  The races were the culmination of a year long series of races through which most competitors qualified for the final.  As I made a late decision to attend the races, I was fortunate that British Cycling were able and willing to nominate me for a wild card place for the final.

We travelled out to Trento via Milan on 19th September.  There was a team relay on that day, but I didn't try to fit this into the schedule.  My first race was the time trial on the morning of Friday 20th.  The route was certainly a challenging one, a 4km alpine descent, undulating valley road and a 2km climb back to the ridge before a final subtle uphill drag to the finish.  The race organisers described it as a TT for specialists, but it certainly wasn't a typical GB dual carriageway TT.  With 30s start intervals, it was inevitable that I would see other riders.  After my previous experience of TTing abroad, I was fearful that I would be shown up, and a poor start without getting clipped in before I set off didn't help to calm the nerves.  But having the two girls who started 60s and 90s before me in sight before the top of the first climb gave me more confidence.  I had made a tactical decision to race on my climbing wheels rather than my TT wheels to give me a feeling of security on the fast descent, and this helped too.  On the flatter part of the course by Lago di Cavedine I caught my 60s girl, and had my 90s girl in sight.  I made the next catch on the lower slopes of the climb, but was also caught by the girl who had started 90s behind me - yikes!  The temptation to dig in and sit on her wheel was huge as we were on the climb, but as soon as I did it, I realised that I could not, and dropped back.  I kept pushing hard all the way to the finish, completing the course in 44mins, and feeling pleased with my performance.  Watching the others arriving at the finish, I realised that I had likely beaten all but 2 or 3 of the other girls in my class.  Unfortunately, problems with the results software, combined with a lot of riders not wearing their transponders meant that results were not available for hours after we all finished.  We took a punt on not attending the prizegiving that evening, which was a good decision, as I finished a very proud 4th (although not finding out for definite until 24hrs after I had finished!).

The big race for me was the road race on the Sunday.  Now, this isn't your typical British multi-loop road race on a flattish course with possibly a short hill coming up to the finish line.  The road race is billed as a Gran Fondo - similar to a sportive in nature, with the added fun of a mass start, and even better, closed roads.  And of course, Gran Fondo means hills, BIG hills.  This route took in 3000m of ascent in 112km, with the final climb of Monte Bondone being 21km long and 6.8% average gradient.

I was in the first group off, and we dawdled along the road until the rest of the girls caught us up, then the hammer went down up the first short climb.  None of the other girls were really doing anything that scared me on that climb and I kept pace with the leaders well.  By the time we were heading back south down the valley, groups were catching from behind all the time, creating what must have been a peloton of close to 1000 riders – it must have been some sight, and only a little terrifying.  It was also a real challenge to keep an eye on where your competitors were – thank goodness for different coloured numbers.  I was amazed that there were no crashes at sharp corners and roundabouts, and soon enough we arrived at the bottom of the second climb (of about 10km) up to Lago di Cei.  I had worked hard to keep a good position in the huge peloton coming down the valley, and I may have paid for this on the climb, as several pink numbers cycled past and away from me.  I just kept telling myself not to panic, that the peloton would regroup heading back up the valley, and Monte Bondone was the real test.

            The descent from Lago di Cei back down to the valley floor is probably one of the fastest I have ever ridden, hitting a speed in excess of 100km/h.  Once back in the valley, another large group of riders formed to take us back through Trento for a 3rd time before hitting the slopes of Monte Bondone.  I was relieved to see two of the pink numbers that had ridden away from me earlier in the group.  Then it was back into your own little world of pain for the next 21km.  Pacing was critical – set off up this climb too fast and you paid later on. I climbed the first half of it with a Norwegian girl in the 40-44 age group, but she chose to push on as she could see some of her rivals catching her.  I didn't want to go with her, so continued on at my own pace.  Slowly the kilometers ticked down, and I did as much catching of people who had set off too fast as were catching me.  I recaught the Norwegian girl about 2km from the top which was satisfying but unimportant.  Then, I was there, cheering crowds, commentary and the finish line, and of course Chris on the side of the road cheering me on and confirming what I already knew, that I was 5th in my age group. Whilst I hadn't achieved my target of a podium, I knew that I had ridden to the best of my ability on the day, and couldn't expect more than that.

We found some of the other Brits at the finish, which was welcoming, and I also managed to have a bit of a chat with the girl who had finished 2nd, who had also finished 3rd at the Marmotte earlier in the year.

This was a great end to a season that has had me grinning from ear to ear at times, crying my eyes out at others, cursing my own bad luck and the poor quality of other riders who cause crashes, and most importantly, laughing SO much with my brilliant team mates.  Thanks GB Cycles, Steve Wright, Chris (my husband), Garry Palmer (my coach) and my teamies (and guests).  Roll on 2014 - a season for Gran Fondos!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Track Nationals...Jumping in at the deep end

Track Nationals

So I entered the track nationals this year…just to see what was out there. Being completely under prepared I was soon to find out having the correct kit and having practiced on it makes a big difference! So opening my track tt bars the night before my individual pursuit was probably not the best of preparations!

Day one started with the 500m TT, I was up pretty soon so having never even seen a 500m TT being performed let alone competing in one I was really throwing myself in at the deep end entering 3 events over the next 3 days at nationals level having never even practiced these events in training! This is down to not being able to get track time as im not accredited… a strange system which allows me to compete at national level yet not be able to access training at the veledrome :/. I clocked a pretty slow time in comparison to the others girls but that is to be expected on my first attempt when the other girls have been doing it for years, had lots of specific training and the right kit!
Next was the IP, again my lack of experience showed with my poor pace judgement setting off far to reserved after everyone had been warning me not to blow and work into it…next year im smashing it from the start! Some specific practise and I will definitely get sub 4 minutes next year as I was just over that at 4.02 this year.

The Match sprint on Friday was…interesting to say the least and quite amusing really.
My flying 200m was off the pace at 13 seconds however this was due lack of experience as I dropped down off the banks far too early and after watching afew girls after my attempt I realised where I had lost seconds. This will be an easy time to beat next year with abit of practice now that I am currently in the process of getting my accreditation. As a consequence I didn’t get through to the heats which wasn’t a surprise! I didn’t find this out however until I had taken up at least 10 minutes of a very kind man’s time who was part of the Scottish development team who was explaining what a match sprint is looking abit bewildered why I had entered this event at a national level not even knowing what the rules where or having ever done one…iv got to admit I do seem to run before I can walk sometimes! With Nicola soden giggling next to me at my embarrassing confession that in fact I wasn’t even through to the heats I moved on to concentrate on my next and final race, the points race.

This race I felt abit more prepared for as I have competed in the Friday night track league the past 2 years which incorporates points races so I had some idea what I was letting myself in for and for a change I wasn’t the odd one out without an aero helmet! Hayley kindly offered for me to borrow her disc wheel which would have made me on equal terms for equipment unlike all the other races but I was abit scared as I have only tried a disc wheel for about 5 minutes and felt I wasn’t comfortable enough with such an expensive piece of equipment so I opted for my whopper wheels. So the whistle blew and we were off, 6 laps in and the first sprint in coming up 4 laps and something of a red mist comes over me and I decide it would be a good idea to attack some Olympic Champions for the first set of points. Taking a long one 4 laps out I got a considerable gap before being gloriously swallowed 1 lap to go.  A glorious failure! But for a moment I was off the front of a world class field and felt like a champion. The rest of the race consisted of hanging on for dear life which is what I was expecting, but I kept my position and felt really strong. I finished the race with the bunch very happy to have stuck in there with a world class field…it looks good for next years elite crits which I fluffed this year due to lack of form.

All in all an eye opening experience with A LOT to learn in terms of rules, tactics, equipment, positioning and training but looking forward to smashing my times I have now set as my own benchmarks J

By Brit