Iona at Peterborough Crit

Iona at Peterborough Crit

Monday, 8 September 2014

UCI World Champs for Masters and Amateurs, by Karen

For me, the culmination of the season had always been planned to be the World Masters races, this year taking place in Slovenia. At the beginning of the season I hadn't anticipated spending two lengthy spells of the season off the road, so in the end even getting to the start line was a mini achievement.
After last years results I had high expectations of myself, not helped by seeing that last years double champion in my age group wasn't returning to defend her titles.
In the run up to travelling, a frantic few days were had with a phone call a day to the lovely Glynn and Guy at Geoffrey Butlers as I had decided to pimp up my Cello Elliot before I went with brand spanking new 11speed Shimano ultegra group set. It eventually arrived with me on Thursday, when I was leaving on Friday. We got it fitted, just, despite the peculiarities of indexing an 11speed front derailleur. Couldn't have done it without my new best mate Adam Sayer!

I had decided I wanted to travel plenty of days in advance to get a chance to ride both courses in full before race day. What we experienced in those first few days was some of the most beautiful and peaceful riding ever, although for me it was mostly seen from the driving seat of a car supporting Chris on his longer rides that he could do. I don't generally do resting very well, but managed it without driving either myself or Chris up the wall too much.

Soon enough it was Wednesday, and there were practical things to do like registration, rider briefing and the time trial course recce. It was our first trip into Ljubljana itself (we had chosen to stay in a historical town Skofja Loka 45 minutes north of Ljubljana). My instant impression was of a very well organised event, streets ahead of last years championships in Trento. The TT recce was an interesting concept, as it was essentially a closed road bubble. I was surprised that most people were happy to just ride it in a peloton, but I wanted to see all the racing lines, bumps and so on whilst minimising the build up of lactic acid in my legs. The course was as pan-flat as they had promised, an out and back with risk of crosswinds through exposed field sections. Not really a course to suit me, but my time trialling has come on leaps and bounds in the last 18 months, so I was still confident that with the right focus I could put in a good performance.

Thursday morning came round and it was race day. I calmly and systematically got myself ready, not panicking about the bike check as I knew my set up was comfortably within the new UCI regs. There wasn't a decent stretch of Tarmac to warm up on which is my preference, so I had to subject myself to putting my bike into a bank of 12 turbo trainers immediately adjacent to the start. There was a lot of hustle and bustle going on, but I just zoned out and concentrated on doing my own thing. Then it was into pre-start and at 11:02:30 I was off. At 30s intervals you can see a lot of other riders, and immediately I could see the Dane who had set off 30s in front of me. My first thought was 'maybe I can catch her', and probably went a tiny bit too hard in the vain hope of doing so. But it became very quickly apparent that she was actually pulling away from me.
There was a slight headwind on the way out which made it hard work. I kept having to switch gears to find a cadence and power output that felt efficient. At the half way point it became apparent that I wasn't making progress on catching anyone, and was in fact losing ground on most of the other girls. Then to see Mary-Claire Aquilana from Malta (one of the teams arch-rivals) catching me for a minute  at that point and passing me like I was standing still destroyed my self belief altogether. It's hard to tell from my Garmin data whether I gave up at that point. I don't think I did, but on time trials when things don't go to plan the hardest thing is to keep pushing and hurting yourself. One more rider caught and passed me before I reached the finish. It turned out that she was the eventual winner, but only 7 tenths of a second faster than the Dane. I ended up in 10th place, 2min30s or so down, and feeling completely demoralised by the whole thing.

                                          Coming off the start ramp

                                          On the course

I now had 3 days to get my brain and body back in shape for the road race on Sunday. Sorting the
body out was the easy bit, with a short recovery ride on Friday and a slightly longer and harder ride
on Saturday. Mentally though, it was a huge challenge. A Facebook messenger exchange with coach Garry Palmer, some checking of results from other races and lots of positive encouragement from Chris and teammate Jo Blakeley all helped, and I got myself to a place where I was starting to believe in myself again.

It was an early start on Sunday morning, but it was a beautiful morning again so all was good. We were surprised to get one of the best parking spots in the arena, yards away from where I needed to go to enter the start box. Confusion over starting arrangements continued through to Sunday morning. Was there a neutralised zone? Were we even going to stop outside of the city before the race proper? Which age groups were grouped together? In the end the organisers made absolutely the right decision; racing from the gun and all the women starting together at 9:30.  I knew it wouldn't go hard from the gun with a long flat roll-out and over 4 hours of racing ahead, so my warm up simply consisted of turning the legs over at very low intensity for 15 or so minutes. Then it was into the start box with about 15 minutes to go to the start. I wasn't stressed about being at the front of the box as I knew it wouldn't matter in such a small peloton (72 riders) over such a long course on completely closed roads.

Despite this, it was still a bit skittish in the first few kilometres, and I even touched wheels with one of the Canadians, although we both stayed upright. I was surprised that a couple of the 'favourites' including TT winner in my age group Juanita Venter (South Africa) seemed willing to sit on the front and move the pace along, with 60+ passengers in tow. The first 'hill' on the course came after about 30km, was 4.7km in length with an average gradient of 4%. I had predicted that some of the favourites would make this hill work for them and indeed that was the case. Molly van Houweling from USA went straight to the front and put the hammer down. I was alert to it and got on a good wheel about 5 back, climbing comfortably with the strong girls. I didn't look back to see what carnage the effort had caused, but do know the peloton was down to about 40 in size next time I ended up at the back.
After the steep climb, the course actually carried on climbing much more subtly for another 10km or
so, and then we set off on an awesome descent into the town of Idrija. Again I had made a conscious
decision to position myself near the front so I had good sighting on the descent. I was confident with
my descending, and detected a split in the peloton forming behind me. It didn't stick, but it's good to know I can descend with the best in the world. A long drag along the valley saw the peloton reform, and you started to get the feeling that everyone was preparing themselves for what came next. From the town of Cerkno we had a 7km climb with gradients up to 11%. My plan approaching the climb was to swap bottles at the feed station at the bottom, then go with the leaders pace for as long as I could. There was no doubt in my mind at the time that was the best tactic. I got myself into a good position for grabbing a bottle, but in doing so I slipped back a bit too far in the peloton, so before I even started I was on the back foot and chasing. The steepest part of the hill was the first two km, and whilst I went past a lot of people chasing the leaders in the first km, I was to severely pay for this later. The pace the leaders were setting was just too high and in the end I had to watch them cycling away from me, having put my whole body into severe lactic overload. Hopes of a medal were disappearing up the road.
The next 40km were probably the hardest I have ever ridden in a race. Firstly trying to hold wheels of girls who I should have been able to with no problems, then a frantic and fruitless lone chase on the descent. I was caught from behind by two other girls and a back marker from one of the men's races, but they were being assisted by two locals who had been out spectating. I got some help for a while, but again couldn't hold the wheel when one of the non-racing guys came to the front just after I had done my turn. I was getting a bit pissed off with him as I knew we shouldn't be getting outside help, and also knew if it was just the racers, I wouldn't have been dropped. We were seeing the peloton ahead of us again, and would have caught them under our own steam.
Then, another 20km completely on my own on a subtly rolling road into a slight headwind. I was destroyed, and was nearly in tears, desperate to just climb off my bike and crawl into a hole. But no, I knew that wasn't the correct attitude, so I slaved on, and was actually still pushing out a very respectable average speed.
I was so relieved when a large group came through from behind and welcomed me into their fold.
Once again most were non-racers, but I didn't feel so bad about accepting help this time, partly
because of my mental state and partly as I knew this time there was no chance that anyone would be
dragged back into medal contention. I sat in for a while, and we kept picking up back markers from the men's race as we got closer and closer to Ljubljana. Then the girls who were racing took control and I started rolling through and taking my turn. We kept the pace high all the way to the finish, and I even managed a little sprint to the line to beat the other girl in my age group in our group. It turned out we were only 9 minutes down, and I was 13th from my age group over the line.

Whilst disappointed again, I knew I had done all I could and more. This was proved as I nearly blacked out whilst waiting for some food. I don't get like that often!
In hindsight, some more lessons were learnt tactically, but there were positives as well as negatives. At this stage I don't know whether I will do next years race in Denmark, as it will be much more like a pure (but very long) road race. Now it's time to rest, recover, and get my shoulder properly fixed.
A huge thanks has to go out to the people who have got me through a difficult year - coach Garry Palmer at Sportstest, physio Femke Nauschutz at Finest Physio, all the boys at Geoffrey Butler Cycles and my brilliant husband Chris who has put up with severe amounts of verbal abuse from a frustrated injured athlete.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Tour weekend racing!

So it's tour de France weekend!  What to do!?
a) head to Hawes to watch tour
b) go for spin then drive 3 hrs to race a TT and road race next day!
c) be indecisive, and do neither!
So I choose b!

So Sunday morning and awake at 5am!  Didn't need to be up till 5:45, oh well!
Early morning TT!  We had two GB Cycles teams entered for the 2 up TT, Sandra and Nicola and Me and Brit.  But no Brit this week, she was up in Ilkley with the tour going past her door, and also still recovering from illness keeping her off the bike!  Instead Sandra and Nic and I rode the TT.  Sandra and Nic riding the 2 up, with me riding it as an individual TT.  The rain began to pour, and I'm no idea how I did, 26:18, for 10.2 miles.  It was better than the last 10 tt I did, so I guess that's good enough!  I have no real comparison time to compare too, having only ever ridden 1, 10 mile tt in very windy conditions the day after returning from a training camp!

Anyway the road race was my main focus for the day.  No idea where it was the road race, but it was  Norfolk somewhere, it was down south anyway!  Luckily the rain had stopped, and it was a lovely sunny afternoon ahead.  The course was interesting, mainly flat, but the twisty narrow roads made it fun.

Sandra, Nic and myself we're riding.  There were no attacks first lap, I don't think!  Sandra allowing for a warm up lap for once!  Instead Hayley was straight to the front, and myself and a few others tried to keep the pace high in the first 1/2 lap, going through and off.

The race flew past with Sandra attacking plenty of times early on.  Lap 3, of 6 and there had been no prime whistle, but I found myself 2nd wheel, so sprinted just in case, up the drag past the HQ.  Next lap and I couldn't have been in worst place for prime, (boxed in, on inside, near back)  But up ahead I could see we had no worries as Nic crossed the line first to take the prime :) awesome stuff!  We all regrouped again, and I led us back up to the front.

Lap 4 or 5 and Sandra finally decides her legs are dead!  Haha as if!  Next lap and she's on front again, then she's off the front!  I try to slow things down.  All back together!  Nic attacks again down the decent!  Lap 5 and I know chances are, this is coming to bunch finish, so I say to Sandra, just let's chill out now, but I'm going to have one more go off front!  Nic was already moving round to go again off front, but I come round her, and I attack down decent.  But were all soon back together, and i'm wondering why on earth I just did that, as Nic flies past me yelling at me to get on the wheel!
All these attacks happen several times throughout race, and I've no real idea now, how, when where or what order or anything happened in!

Then last lap, Hayley attacks, like only Hayley does inside the last 1/2 lap.  There are 3 of us, so we had strength in numbers.  I wasn't prepared to, let's all sit and look around and hope someone else brings her back!  I knew we couldn't let her go!  I got to front and tried to bring her back, luckily a couple of others came around me and helped to close the gap further.  I managed to get back into the slip stream of riders.  Last left turn and down a hill into the up hill sprint for the line.  Harriet Owen was several riders forward and in the train on the left hand side.  Me, I was on the right hand side, with no wheels to follow, no idea where Sandra or Nic were, they weren't on the wheel that was all I thought I was sure of.  So I was biding my time, knowing that I had absolutely no wheels to come off.  I sprinted, we caught Hayley at bottom, or on hill for line.  Harriet Owen took the win, I started to fade, then Sandra came from know where flying past me!  Up hill finish, she came straight from back of bunch straight to the front to take 6th place!  Brilliant result Sandra, and well deserved!  Nic and I finished in 16th, 8th position, with Nic getting the prime prize too.  Overall a great fun race, and some awesome team work!


Monday, 30 June 2014

Gran Fondo Sportful Dolomiti, by Karen

Some people seem to think I'm never at home. Sometimes I think they might be right. That's a little bit what it felt like whilst packing to fly off to Italy for a week in the mountains culminating in an epic 204km long Gran Fondo - the Sportful. It was first suggested to me sometime last autumn by our friend Paul who had ridden the Fred Whitton and Marmotte with me last year. I remember at the time being very hesitant about signing up but by the time we were actually flying out it was one of my key target races for the year.

It ended up that Paul didn't join us; he was afflicted with a crash-inflicted broken collar bone a week after I had bashed up my shoulder. There seemed to be an element of irony in it all. In 2013 Chris had suffered the agony of having to watch Paul and I ride the Marmotte. Was Chris going to end up being the only one of us fit enough to ride the Sportful in 2014?

As you'll know from previous blog posts it didn't work out this way, so a week before the race, bikes went in boxes, car and plane, touching down at a very hot Milan airport.  5hours of scenic driving later we arrived in the beautiful village of Mezzano at the foot of Passo Rolle.

The first few days were all about big miles and hitting the hills before tapering from Thursday in preparation for the race on Sunday.  This was made particularly challenging as a mini heat wave settled over Italy and we were riding in temperatures of 40+ degrees.  I was pleasantly surprised by how my body coped with this; in the past I haven't trained or raced well in extreme heat (although that was in my orienteering days).  Lots of passo's ticked off with my favourite day probably being Passo Fedaia (better known as Marmolada) and Passo Pordoi.  The day of 8min climbing intervals up Passo Brocon was also very enjoyable. By the end of Wednesday I felt that nothing in the Dolomites could defeat me and confidence was high for Sunday.

A few chilled out days later, race day morning dawned and for once the alarm clock woke us before the resident cockerel.  4:30! You have to love your sport to do that, trust me! But with the start at 7 and a half hour drive to get into Feltre it was essential.  I was very groggy for the drive but once in Feltre I soon became alert and ready to go.  We headed for the start boxes at about 6:30. There was a lane dedicated to women so I said an early goodbye to Chris, paid a visit to the cafe for the loo and claimed my place.

If I had understood the Italian commentator, I think he would have been building the atmosphere right up to the start of the race, and then we were off.  The first 10km or so were flat and very very fast. I made a conscious decision to cruise rather than try to kill myself ducking and diving my way through the peloton. I saw a few girls go past me but wasn't worried at this stage. Soon enough the gradient kicked up for the first climb of Cima Campo. Having ridden this already earlier in the week I knew it was a nice steady climb with no steep ramps. I set a good pace at the top end of my aerobic range and started passing a lot of riders, male and female. Faster guys were coming past me, but it got a bit of a wake up call when a girl came past on a guys wheel. I let them go for a bit, but then thought that they weren't getting away from me and that if she was allowed a tow, then I was too! I picked up the pace and got back on their wheels all the way to the top. By this time it was definitely wet, so I threw on my new Sportful Hotpack jacket and set off on the first descent. I quickly overtook the girl who I had climbed with (she was very cautious in the wet) and wasn't losing too many places even to the men. I powered past the split of medio-fondo and gran fondo courses and the first feed and on towards the foot of the Passo Manghen - the biggest climb of the day. This is one of the lesser known dolomiti climbs but has some Giro history of being an epic. Over 20km long with nearly 1,500m ascent; gradual at the bottom but the last 7km with an average gradient of over 10%. I loved it! Once again I managed to get into a group, although it split up after the feed and for the steep bit. It was getting colder and colder as we climbed, and there was a decent amount of snow still lying at the top. I made a bit of a mistake stopping twice in short succession, firstly for jacketing up then for the feed, immediately before another technical and wet descent. I was so so cold that my whole jaw was shaking with chattering teeth, but amazingly my hands didn't go Raynauds so I still had control of my brakes. Close to the bottom I was picked up by a group of about 6 guys and I took a few risks to stay with them for a tow along the valley. The group had swelled to 20 or so as we got to Predazzo and the foot of Passo Rolle.

A couple of the faster climbers then sat on the front of the group and stretched the pace a bit. I was more or less comfortable so went with the pace. The group of 20 was whittled down to 5 by the feed, where I carried on when others stopped. One guy came with me and I elbowed him through to do some work. We shared the load until about 4k from the summit where the fast climbers came back past. I couldn't go with the pace this time so summited on my own. A quick stop at the feed for liquid and I set off on a finally dry descent, zoom zoom all the way down. I picked up the same group of guys again for the final valley run before the last climb, Croce d'aune, made famous by Mr Campagnolo in the 1920's.  I had to de-jacket again but this time couldn't hook back onto the group again afterwards. I must learn to do it while riding! Although much shorter than all the other climbs, it was hard work after 180km and some steep ramps meant it really did hurt. I still had some company, including one of Stephi's Maltesers who I had a quick chat to. Topping out after just over 8 hours riding time gave me a huge buzz and with just a fast descent to go I now knew I was on for an amazing time. What I was especially pleased about was that I still had power left in my legs for pushing on when I got to the flatter part of the run for home, and even a big of a sprint finish up the cobbles to the square in the centre of Feltre's old town. My clock said 8hrs26 but I knew that excluded feed stops. What a ride! So many of the guys I had seen en route called me over to speak to me to say how strong I had been and what a good race I had ridden. Good glowing feeling inside :-)

I didn't know for sure that I had made podium, or what the arrangements were, so I went back to put my bike away, get my recovery drink and have a shower. It was while I was dressing after my shower that I heard the British national anthem playing over the tannoy then the women's scratch results read out. Doh! I had missed my moment of fame and pride, having won the 30-39 age group! I rushed back up to the finish to claim my prize but didn't get them to redo the ceremony. However, one of the other girls did persuade them, so I did get to stand on the podium in my GB Cycles kit in the end.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

La Look UWCT qualifier, by Karen

So, April was a tough month for me after my crash at Tour of the Reservoir kept me off the road for 4 weeks. During that time I was spotted in some very strange places sitting on my turbo trainer with my left arm firmly strapped to my body. At times during that period I believed that my whole season was scuppered and all that hard training over the winter would be lost.

The results of my ultrasound scan in early May was a big turning point as we established there was no damage to my rotator cuff tendon. This was good news and led to a different mental approach to pain management; no longer should I believe that pain meant damage, instead it was something that was just there and could be worked through just like pain in legs, lungs and every other part of your body that hurts when you ride your bike hard. A conversation with my wonderful physio Femke and we agreed that we would get my shoulder ready to race 10 days later (at which point I hadn't even ventured back out onto the road). 8 days before the race I managed an uncomfortable 30 minutes on the road, 7 days before this crept up to 75 minutes, and 6 days before I went and hit the hills for just under 3 hours. If nothing else, the mental approach to pain management was working.

We had decided that driving to Nevers in the Loire Valley was the best travel option, leaving British shores early on the Friday morning. The plan was to get there with enough time before the race to fully recover from the journey and have some course recce time. We also wanted to enjoy the scenery and each others' company. After some pretty miserable weather in the weeks preceding, we were blessed with glorious sunshine all weekend although the wind was strong if you were caught out on the road alone. We had time for a couple of hours on the hilliest section of the course on Friday afternoon, although I managed to find a lovely specimen of 'rue blanc' to get me back to the car. Then on Saturday we rode the last 25k which also had a tasty climb in it and a very fast run in to the finish. As we went to register on Saturday afternoon the excitement was growing and we even found some other Brits who had made the trip, including Nikki Juniper. Not to mention some superbly good deals in the Look shop.  Saturday night was all about getting bikes and bodies ready for the next days ordeal.

Sunday morning dawned bright and breezy, and after a quick breakfast we jumped on our bikes to head down to the start. Organisation, and toilets, seemed to be somewhat lacking, and as usual everyone was going into the start boxes early to get the best possible position. Contrary to what was expected, start boxes were by race number rather than category, so it was impossible to see who you were racing against. Given the size of the field, I knew it would be the 'top 3' criteria rather than the 25% that would apply to my age class so I had to try and keep an eye on where all the other women were.

After a long wait, we were off. I had a good start but it was surprisingly fast right from the gun. Very early on Nikki and Nick came past, shouting at me to jump on their wheel. I tried to follow them through the flowing peloton for a while but decided it was using up too much energy that I wanted to save for later. There were some interesting moments early on when the road narrowed for one reason or other. There were some dreadful squealing brakes which made every dicey moment sound much worse than it was. The hills soon enough started to spread the field out, and I found myself climbing better than those surrounding me. There were two other girls nearby who I was keeping an eye on. By the time we got to the village of La Machine the peloton had broken up into a number of smaller groups.

I was with 2 other women in my group and we could see two more groups on the road up ahead. No one else seemed interested in bridging to them, so I went into time trial mode, cruised up to and past the first group then onwards towards the second group. About 3 other guys came through to take a turn and I didn't dare to look back to see how many others we had dragged across the gap. Amazingly, that group then bridged to another (I presumed front) group just before another climb towards Saint Saulge blew it back apart again.

By now we were onto the section of the course that I had pre-ridden with several tough climbs. I put myself into a good position at the start of the first two but towards the top of the second I started to struggle and didn't have time to recover before the third and longest of the day. This meant I started in a bad position and drifted backwards through the bunch then out the back. There was little I could do to respond on the climb so instead had to descend fearlessly to chase back on. Fortunately the chase was successful, despite my compact chainring which was proving to be a disadvantage.

I sat in for a while then moved up through the bunch again as I knew there were some tricky descents coming up along with a bugger of an 18%er that I wanted clean road for. During this period I managed to have conversations with the two other girls to establish they were both also in my age group. This meant I needed to start thinking tactically about how to beat them.

One last nasty climb saw me drifting backwards again and a speedy chase back on once again saved my bacon as it was critical to be in a group for the last 10k burn-up to the finish. Again I was looking to move up, and had decided to go for the tactic of sneaking away off the front before the mad cobbled sprint. It was hard to get through the bunch by this point as no one wanted to give an inch. Remember that this is a 50+ strong bunch where only a maximum of 10 people are really racing for anything significant (women and 60+ men), very frustrating!!! Eventually I managed to get through and went for my diving attack off the front. It was countered immediately, not by the girls but by several of the guys who weren't really racing for anything. Ok, I thought, that's fine. Let's just make sure I hold my position in front 10 and there may be a chance the other girls won't get through. That was hard work but was going fine until a roundabout less than a kilometre before the finish where I got squeezed slightly and lost my position. On the final uphill kick it probably wasn't a surprise that I didn't have much left for a sprint and ended up finishing 4th woman out of 3 in our bunch (yes there was one female in disguise who I had missed completely for the majority of the race).

Several anxious minutes later I was very pleased to find out that although I finished 4th in my race age group (35-49), I had still finished 3rd in my UCI age class (35-39) hence qualifying for the final in Slovenia in august. Sigh of relief, lots of tactical lessons learnt and now the build for Slovenia can start with a vengeance.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Shrewsbury GP

Believe in your dreams enough and one day they may come true

On Sunday the 25th of May exactly that happened. My dream ambition of winning an Elite Town Centre Crit became a reality.

The Shrewsbury GP returned this year after 20 years of not running; consequently there had been a huge build up to this event in Shrospshire with many news articles and an official Shrewsbury GP website drip feeding the public with news about the event in the weeks prior to the event. The biggest news being Jo Rowsell MBE, Team Pursuit World Record holder, 4 x Team Pursuit World Champion, Individual Pursuit World Champion and Olympic Medallist had entered and was set to ride the event. With the knowledge of Jo riding I knew the race was going to be an exciting one!

Arriving at the event the atmosphere was electric, the music was pumping and the crowds were in their thousands.
Standing on the start line I felt quite nervous as I had never ridden a course quite as tight and technical as the course set out before me. The course started out on a straight of cobbles before sweeping round into a short sharp climb. It then consisted of a series of corners sweeping down into a very tight bend onto the cobbled 200m finish straight. I knew being on the front on the start line was crucial if I was to keep up with the leaders due to the narrowness of the circuit which wouldn’t allow for much movement once you were in position.

The countdown began…5…4…’God I need a wee’…3…’not sure if Im really ready for this’…2…’oh crap’…1…’go go go!’.
From the off Jo Roswell hit the front like a bullet out of a gun and set a hard fast tempo stringing out the bunch behind. I knew I had to stick on her wheel like glue or else id be out the back so I did just that! After 2-3 laps I had a quick look around to see how the bunch were looking and to my utter surprise realised there was only myself, Harriet Owen of Matrix Fitness and Lydia Gurley of Merlin Cycles following my wheel with Jo infront. ‘Wow’ I thought, maybe this could go quite well.
Jo set the pace for the majority of the race putting in a couple of attacks to see if she could separate herself from us but with no such luck. I tried to take some laps leading our group to help Jo out as I felt that it wasn’t right she did all the work whether she’s an Olympic Champion or not! I was feeling pretty comfortable at this point and was starting to get abit giddy knowing if we continued in such a way I was going to get 4th as a minimum. At 30 minutes however, a group of about 6-7 riders caught us from behind and I thought…bugger! But then Iona comes charging past onto the front and I was very pleased to see her! It seems Jo wanted to keep our group away however as she immediately attacked up the short climb and that was it…back to the four of us in the original breakaway again.  
The crowds throughout were phenomenal banging on the side boards, cheering and clapping their hands, ive never felt so electric in a race being in the front group with so much support behind us.  
Coming into the final 5 laps with our group having an extensive lead on the next bunch back, I felt so comfortable yet I never thought I was going to win it I was just so happy that I was potentially going to be in the top 4 in an Elite Crit.
On the final lap Lydia attacked up the climb and I knew I had to be 1st or 2nd wheel minimum coming into the final cobbled corner so I jumped onto her wheel and dived through the last series of corners into the final cobbled corner where we had to negotiate our way through a bunch of riders we were lapping in maybe the worse place possible on the course! I took abit of a do or die line through the corner and saw the finish line approach. Lydia moved to the right which gave me a clear line to the finish which I hardly ever get so I took the chance and sprinted my heart out leaving nothing left in my legs. I came over the finish line and was actually very confused! I thought ‘Oh my God I think ive just won it!’ But I was so surprised I just didn’t believe it until the commentator came up to me and told me to come up to the podium for an interview on my win!

Iv only ever felt as happy as I did that evening once, and that was when I won Bronze at the U20 World Age Group Triathlon in Budapest 2010 as a 16 year old and the feeling was unspeakably good!
After the podium presentation I was whisked away for interviews and a prize presentation in which I received a pair of Bontrager wheels, a pair of Podium glasses, a bunch of gorgeous flowers, an amazing glass trophy and £500 cash prize money! What a haul!  And what made the evening that much better was that my boyfriend Rob Watson won the Elite Mens Race to make it the double!
We had a very happy car journey home with our prizes retelling our races to each other over and over not quite believing we both had won!
Iona also did very well getting a 5th place and taking home £80 J

I am very grateful for the hard work and efforts of the organiser of the race and everyone involved in making it such a successful evening including all those that came out to watch.
I am also so grateful to my teammates, friends and family, boyfriend and coach for helping me to achieve one of my biggest ambitions in cycling.   

Brit Tate

Our Breakaway group consisting of myself, Jo Rowsell MBE, Harriet Owen and Lydia Gurley

Managed to get my arm up in celebration after the initial shock

Prize Presentation with the Mayor of Shrewsbury

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Bedford Classic (Off-road challenge)

I really like this course, a few short hills and some good downhill sections.  Five laps, totaling 40 miles, so it was a good distance for me at this stage in the season.  My aim for this race was to ride nearer the front, I wasn’t sure how my legs were going to be because I hadn’t eased up training prior to the race.  The Sunday ride was a good 4 hours with some efforts up hills (you know who you are...Jim)!


So the race went to plan, I rode off the front at one point, right into a head wind and then was left there (as is only right if you attack).  It was good fun and I was feeling strong throughout, I even enjoyed the hills...well as much as you can...

I'm going for some really interesting (!) photos in this post, and I took this picture (not on my bike I might add) but because this was hill to the finish.  I had been riding near the front on the 3rd and 4th laps, there were a few attacks but no one kept away.  On the last lap I was about 15 back, everyone trying to get the best position, we all went for it up the hill, I was coming up for 3rd when a rider next to me tumbled, I did a bit off-roading on the verge but stayed upright.  The group went by I clipped in and rode to the finish, a bit disappointing but still really pleased with my performance overall.  Definitely my best road race so far. 

Well done to the rest of the team in the team series race, thanks to Steve as always and a big thank you to Physio Trevor for easing our aching limbs. :-)


May 5th 2014


Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A Weekends Racing

This weekend was about the Cheshire Classic. But before we get to that let's talk about Saturday.  Saturday was a small local crit in York, and I'd decided to ride it,  just because, yep just because. .......because I wanted to! No other good reason,  if there's a race I'll usual try to ride it regardless of if I should or not!

Now after returning from Tour ta Malta and Sicily training camp two weeks earlier, I'd managed to nearly train myself into a black hole the previous week, with no rest followed by a Easter weekend of a planned 4 days of back to back racing, (I say planned as I had to finally admit defeat and pull out of 2 day stage race, and that's a first, I never abandon a race!) Here you see the flaw in the plan with trying to enter every race possible!

So anyway back to last Saturday!  Today was going to be first day back on bike after forcing myself to have complete rest week (well 4 days!)
There were 20 women on the start line, and Brit and I hoping for something a bit more interesting than the usual 2 up team time trial of a race! So we were happy when they didn't handicap the start.

The race went of steady enough,  I came to the front straight away and decided to make sure it at least stayed a decent speed.  Next thing and a lap or two laps in Brit shouts and comes around me to take a turn. Apparently we have a gap! Wow ok so I hadn't even attacked and 3 of us were away.  Someone had simply let a gap go on a corner and it had caught quite a few of the stronger riders napping! Brit and I pressed on all to aware that we had escaped a few potential threats in the bunch behind!
Our third break away companion didn't seem keen to work but we solved that problem,  when Brit let my wheel go forcing the other girl to chase!

The race was only 30 minutes today,  and we worked well with a good lead over bunch.  Up until 8 laps to go when I thought I'd mix things up a bit, and through in a few attacks.  I had no expectations to get away but it at least forced the other girl to chase.
3 laps to go and stale mate, she didn't trust us now and working together was long gone!
Now we were in was cat and mouse,  the pase slowing as Brit and I tried to force her through.  It certainly made things interesting.  We were be caught again by lapped riders we had just caught.  And apparently we weren't far off being caught by bunch!  With two laps to Brit took up front, before I took over, this was was going to be a long lead out with 1 1/2 laps to go!

I led the sprint out from last corner, and just tried to hold it right to the line,  and hope no one but Brit can get round!  This time however I managed to hold on for the win, Brit in 2nd (but she'll be back :-)!)

Now for Cheshire Classic!
There was 3 of us riding,  myself, Jo, and Nicola. Sandra hadn't made the start sheet,  so our suicidal attack from the gun trump card was missing,  but she was there in force riding the course in reverse to yell support at us as we passed each lap!

This year the field was stronger than ever, and this proved true of the pase, fast from the start!  But for some reason today none of this bothered me.  Early on Eve Roade up and said something like, u can do this, get stuck in there! I don't know why but I moved up! I kept losing position on the climb a few times,  but it was certainly easier moving up the bunch than in previous years. Wheather the faster pase was shelling out more of the dodgier riding I don't know, but it certainly felt like a safer bunch than a lot of flat team series races andoso for once I was happy to be in the bunch.

End of lap 2 and I was out the back of bunch over fast section after top of climb! We flew past Sandra shouting to get back in there! Legs wouldn't go any faster but by the dual carriageway, me and another rider made it back to bunch.

The first lap it was like they sprinted up that climb. Subsequent laps it eased a little and I felt that I could maybe survive a bit longer.

Lap 6 of 12 tho,  and it was finally the prime lap that caught me out,  the one time I hadn't managed to move up bunch before climb and I find myself without a wheel to follow as they sprint into the hill for the line. I'm gone and out the back!  Damn if only I could of survived till top of climb I might have had a slim chance of getting back on, but not now!

Instead I caught Hannah Walker,  who had been in an earlier break. We worked together for another 3 laps before we were pulled out with 3 to go.

Jo was still hanging in there, well more than hanging in there,  taking turns on front,  getting in breaks, and making it her mission to mark the strong riders, it certainly worked and she hung in to finish with the bunch,  great riding Jo, onwards and upwards!

I too strangely enough enjoyed the race, despite being dropped, it was still a good race for me and progress on last year's result!
Now for over coming the bug bear of Bedford and the flat horrid courses,  with cars around every bend and choppy riding!  It's never a favourite race of mine, but all I need to do is believe it's an absolutely fantastic course, and all will be fine ;-)


Monday, 14 April 2014

Tour of the Reservoir 12th April, by Karen

After our success at Capernwray and Jo's awesome result at Tour ta Malta, it had the potential to be another day for the GB Cycles climbing whippets on 12th April at Derwent Reservoir in Northumberland.

This race was put in my calendar months ago when it was first publicised, and a long time before it was added to the National Series. So I was targetting it as a key early season race with ambitions of doing very well.  I managed to persuade Jo to come and join me, while the other girls were still enjoying the sun in Sicily.  I had previously ridden most of the course as part of a triathlon and also went out to pre-ride it last weekend in preparation.  It wasn't super-hilly but with prevailing winds whipping down the reservoir it was going to be a tough race.

We all lined up in the square in Blanchland just before 9 on Saturday morning - about 60 women took to the start line.  We did a couple of nervy neutralised miles then the racing started.  Epic - Scott with 9 riders in the race were always going to be the dominant team and so it turned out right from the flag dropping.  As always there was a lot of fighting for position in the early kilometres and I thought I had done ok getting up to the front quickly, but found myself swamped going into the big climb for the first time.  No one pushed the pace so the whole field was bunched up.  I had an inexperienced rider in front of me who was making me nervous.  I was proved right when she wobbled and fell into the verge right in front of me, leaving me nowhere to go.  I fell as gently as I could, stayed calm, picked myself up, popped my chain back on and off I went again, with the whole field up the road ahead.  I chased hard, catching up and overtaking the back-markers quickly, but then started to struggle in the crosswinds on the top.  A few others were around with me, and together we managed to get back on just before the road turned into the headwind.  I moved straight through the field back to the front ready to watch and cover any moves from Epic - Scott or Matrix.

Karen sitting comfortably in the lead group

The next lap and a half saw the field gradually being whittled down, and at the end of lap 2 attacks were starting to fly off the front only to be caught again.  I was there and feeling comfortable (although hadn't realised that Jo had been having mechanical problems and had been dropped) when disaster struck.  On the descent into Edmundbyers Hayley Jones (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International) lost her wheel on the slightly greasy road, sliding out right into me; nothing I could do to avoid hitting the tarmac very hard and sliding across it for what felt like an age.  Then I felt someone else go right over the top of me.  OK, is anything badly hurt? No, I don't think so, but a quick decision that I wasn't going to carry on any further.  I picked me and my bike up to see who else was down.  As well as Hayley and me, it was Mel Brand (Epic - Scott) and Liz Malins (Fusion RT).  Everyone else was looked after by team cars but after a quick check over by the paramedic I was left on the side of the road in pain with no extra clothes and an unfunctional bike.

Having sent one spectator to go and send a message to Mr Red Riding Hood at the feed zone, another very friendly spectator lent me his coat and let me sit in his car until I was picked up.  By this time I had realised that there was very little non-painful movement coming from my left shoulder.  Mr Red Riding Hood (my knight in shining skoda) eventually arrived a whole lap later with Tom and Eve's dad also in the car.  I got bundled in while the bike was put in the boot, and we drove round to the finish.

By this time in the race, a 2-up break of Alexie Shaw (Epic - Scott) and Nikki Juniper (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours) had gone clear, and with Matrix seemingly lacking fire-power in the bunch the gap was never going to close.  Jo was storming through the tail-end of the now disintegrated peloton, having sorted out her mechanical problem.  On the final sprint Nikki outwitted Alexie to take an impressive win.  But as always Jo was our hero, having pulled herself back up into 25th position.  Here she is crossing the finishing line.

This new race on the calendar was a great success.  Hopefully next year the girls will get to do the full two-day race that the men do, which will certainly sort out the women from the girls.

And just in case you are wondering, the shoulder is not broken, but it has a visit to my very friendly shoulder physio tomorrow to see what is wrong with it!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Post Tour Ta Malta training and mostly eating camp in Sicily

After a very physically and emotionally taxing four days racing in Malta, mainly down to suffering with a violent stomach bug/food poisoning over the last 2 days of the tour, I was definitely ready for some chill out time, recovery rides and then some productive training in the sun (without horrific stomach pain!) before returning to the UK.

Our Sicily group consisted of Iona, Sandra, Steph, Michelle me and Rob. We spent two days off the bike in Malta recovering after the Tour doing some sight seeing in Valetta the old capital city of Malta which was definitely needed as I was still suffering from some of the post effects of the stomach bug so I did a lot of sleeping too!

At 4am we woke up to ride down to the ferry which was a surprising nice ride considering it was just past dawn! My legs were still very heavy from the Tour so it was nice to spin them out before we rode later in the day in Sicily. We all had a good sleep on the ferry before we got picked up at the ferry port by our lovely host called Salvo in Sicily. Later that day we had an easy 2 hr spin out to Milo were I was starting to worry if my legs would ever feel the same again!

The next day, after a humongous pizza and a good sleep my legs suddenly reappeared! We set off up Mount Etna for our first climb of the training camp. It was a long 20k climb so 1hr and 30 mins later we arrived at the top of Etna. The mist was really thick at the top and the temperature as sub zero with not much of a view to see except the team saxo bank car that we all got very excited about, we all huddled into the restaurant for a quick coffee before we descended. At this point however both me and Iona shivering badly so when we started descending I really suffered. My body completely froze up and I don't think iv ever been as cold on a bike and thats saying something as iv been in some bad situations in the uk! Then I got a puncture! Rob very kindly sorted out my puncture as I couldn't feel my fingers! I decided I needed to go home to get warm so Rob very kindly escorted me home and the girls carried on to do abit more of a ride. When I got back to the hotel I got straight into bed and slept for 4 hours! All the girls rode really well today and climbed great!

Day 2 I finally felt like I was recovering from the stomach illness and was excited to ride up Etna again, today we were riding up the steepest side of Etna and as soon as we hit the climb me Rob and Iona hit it hard! I loved this climb it was my favourite climb so far since iv started cycling...just a brutal climb for 1hour 30 mins! It was a much better and warmer day thankfully! So when we got to the top we got an amazing view and took a lot of pictures which I didn't think we would get to do considering how cold it was at the top yesterday. We had a guide today a lovely guy also called Salvo, it seems everyone in Sicily seems to be called Salvo! After the ride Salvo invited us to go to meet his Mum who ran an old people's home at the most of Etna she cooked us a three course meal which was amazing including all homemade wine, vegetables, and olives. We had a lot of banter although only Steph could understand Salvo who couldn't speak any English and we couldn't speak any Italian so it was a rather amusing meal signing to each other.

I am currently sat here about to go to tea with the team and I can officially say I have my appetite back yeppeee! Tomorrow we are planning an easy 2 hour ride before we head back to Malta for one day then fly back to the UK on Monday :(

It's been a great four days in Sicily the girls have been great fun and have all ridden really well and I definitely want to come back here to batter myself up Etna some more next year!

That's all for now, next race Nigel Measom 2-day stage race then Cheshire Classic...bring it on!

Baby Tate


Thursday, 3 April 2014

Tour ta Malta, Stage 1

Today was TT day!  There had been a last minute change of course a couple of day's before we were due to fly out to Malta.  So instead of the 3 laps and 15 miles of the coast road, it was moved to a straight bit of dual carriage way on top of a hill!  With 7 laps!

On route to course!

1. One of the motor bike marshalls drove into the kerb and fell off!
2. Nic thought she had a puncture, but no it was just the shorts!
3. Eve realised her wheel was not in straight and was rubbing against frame. (She wondered why the hill was such hard work!
43. We got there, and rode course!

What else can we tell you! 

Oh we must thank the lady who owned the pet shop!

TT time!
Jo managed to miss the turn point on first lap!  She headed straight round roundabout instead.

Anyway we rode the tt, I caught several people, and it was very windy!

Results in and as per usual they were dubious!  Jo was in 4th despite the missing turn and adding on valuable time.  She did a 33min 43sec, so we thought she might stand a good chance of a podium place, but no!  Instead the winning time was 32 min!
With all of us in the first half of field, and 5 of us the first 11, we are set for road race next day and the best course of the tour, despite the rather bumpy decent and corners!


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Victory for Jo at Capernwray, by Karen

Just before the start

The CDNW series of races is going from strength to strength, and the 3rd race in the 2014 league took place on the Capernwray course on 30th March.  The course used to be a National Women's Series race, last used in 2012 when Karen first experienced the course.  It is a proper hilly course, so Team GB Cycles set their climbing whippets loose to run havoc with the rest of the field.

With clocks changing on Saturday night, it felt like a particularly early start, but nevertheless the sun was shining and it warmed up quickly enough, and it was shorts and short sleeves once the race got going.  The rollout and first climb of Sunny Bank was neutralised, then the flag dropped and off we went.  This was the first CDNW race I had ever done, and I must say the atmosphere in the peloton was a sheer pleasure.  We were all looking after each other and there was a bit of time for chatting and getting to know some of the other girls.  There were a few attacks in the first lap, none of which worried us at all, knowing that subsequent climbs of Sunny Bank would make the race.  Soon enough we were back round, and despite the voice in my head telling me that I didn't really want to be on the front, I ended up there and cranked up the pace, not looking back until the top of the hill to see what damage I had done.  Yes, all the usual suspects were there - Lynn Hamel, Claire Martin, Eve Dixon, Ness Whitfield and some others who I didn't recognise - a group of 10 or 11 in total.  A quick whisper to Jo acknowledging that stage 1 of the plan had been executed and a check on how each of us was feeling, and on we went.  Again, lap 2 saw a few attacks off the front, but soon enough they were pulled in with most riders taking a turn in pace setting and chasing.  Yet again I found myself on the front climbing Sunny Bank although let others take the prime.  Lap 3 went the same way again and soon enough we were half way round the last lap and another quick whisper with Jo to check how we were feeling.

Near the top of Sunny Bank
Going into the bottom of Sunny Bank for the last time, both of us were watching Lynn Hamel, expecting her to launch an attack; I was second or third wheel, with Jo coming round the outside to take the lead, and steadily she opened up a gap.  Come on Eve, Lynn - are you not going with Jo?  No movement.  OK, I'll go then, and suddenly we had a 10s then 20s then 30s gap and as we climbed it grew all the time.  I said "Jo, we've only gone and done it" to which the response I got was "we haven't yet" and we kept on pushing.  Because Jo had been sitting in the bunch for the race while I had been doing a bit more work, and because she is an amazing climber, she eventually gapped me and flew up the hill to take a brilliant win.  Lynn managed to find something to close the gap to me, but I was aware she was approaching and had a final kick left to make sure she didn't come past me.  1-2 for Team GB Cycles.  Massive hugs and smiles and a bit of couldn't quite believe that we'd done it ensued.  It was a brand new feeling and incredibly satisfying to be sitting in a peloton mid-race and knowing that there was no one in the race to be daunted by and actually really believing that we could win.  I can't wait for the next climbing whippet outing at Tour of the Reservoir on 12th April.

Jo taking the win.

Karen taking second, Lynn Hamel third.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

March and season start!

Racing thus far!

After a weeks training in Spain at end of Feb it was back to racing with the first of a series of crits at York and Prissick circuits.

Last weekend 22nd March, it was a full weekend of racing.  While Sandra, Nicola, Linda, Steph and Kim headed to Hog Hill, which saw a field of 100 riders!
Brit and I headed north to Middlesborough for the Prissick Crit.  It was Brit's first race back after a month off the bike due to illness.
It was also the first outing of the season, for our new team shoes, many thanks to Northwave, i-ride and Geoffrey Butler Cycles!

There were 5 of us for the start of race.  Within the first 2 laps we'd lost all but one other girl.  I decided to attack, I got a gap, but she brought me back.  Then Brit attacked, and I was left having to chase back on!  Next thing the other girl attacked Brit!  I bridged across to Brit then set about reeling in the escapee!  She was strong, but eventually with 3 laps remaining we closed the gap.
Into final lap and I was leading it out, however the other rider wanted to have lead into final bend, but I came back round her, and kept lead.  Only for me to ground pedal on inside of bend.  I heard Brit yell form behind, as the other girl started to come round me, it was a head wind finish!  Having to check my speed out of corner having grounded pedal on inside of bend, I tried to keep the momentum.  But no good she had the gap, and Brit was chasing for 2nd place.  We well and truly attacked ourselves into the ground trying to get rid of our fellow rider.  Only to get beaten by her, we later found out that she was a youth rider!!! 

After race: 4:30pm and Brit and I started the road trip down to Sudbury, a 4hr drive south, to race Ipswich road race next day.  We arrived down in time for Lasange, yum, thanks Sandra!

Next day, race day!  Nic, Brit and I we're racing.  Sandra after a good race at Hog hill previous day, decided to take an easy day and not race, instead she was the all important team back up, cheering us round course!
The race came down to a bunch of 12!  The three of us tried several times to split the bunch further, but by last lap it was probably going to come down to a bunch sprint.  I got stuck on front last lap.  Brit didn't want to get boxed in.  By the time we got to final hill, before line, I went too early, Brit came off my wheel at the point I SHOULD have been starting the lead out! 
Brit still managed a well deserved 4th place, and Nicola in 5th.  I rolled in 11th after having gone way too early into the final hill!  Oh well we live and learn, we'll get it right next time. 

This Weekend

This weekend, and today's race Saturday 29th March.  Brit and I we're racing at York again today.  Jo Blackburn also came, and guest rode for us.  So as we lined up on start line, the race was handicapped, 13 against 4!  3 of us in handicapped group in Geoffrey Butler Kit!
We worked well together the 4 of us.  Until we caught the bunch.  I attacked the bunch out of the hairpin, into the tail wind finish straight.  We got rid of most of field, then i kept it going for two laps, and we finally got rid of all but our fellow Albarosa rider.  Albarosa girl was out numbered 3 to 1.  With 10 laps to go, Jo did a hard turn out of hairpin, and I just let her go! 
A few laps down, and the Albarosa girl seemed to have no intension of closing the gap to Jo!  Silly girl, you should never let a time trialist up the road!  I think she was far too concerned with marking Brit and myself to care that one of our team mates was half a lap up!
Unfortunatly Jo somehow managed to come a cropper on the hairpin with about 5 laps to go!  Think she caught her pedal on inside of corner.  Brit and I slowed as we passed Jo to check she was ok, as Jo was in middle of track on final hairpin.  It was then the Albarosa rider decides to attack us! 

Time to re asses, so Jo was out, such a shame she was on for the win! 
I was going to lead Brit out form final corner.  Perfect with tail wind finish.  Jo was still on ground in track, and we we're having to take the inside line round final hairpin carefully.  Last lap and I was on front, but Brit was third wheel, not where she needed to be!  After trying to swing off to allow Brit to come round Albarosa rider, I had to rely on Brit being able to get round her in finish straight.  Into final hairpin, I lead into bend.  Only to find the first aid guy had put his bag in the middle of the hairpin, on the inside, which was the line we had been taking previously.  There was a man in track waving us round to outside of bend, which is the line I took.  I led out sprint form that final bend.  We caught some lapped riders and I had to go wide, allowing Albarosa girl to come through on inside.  Nearing line, and i saw someone coming round me on my right, hoping it was Brit, but it wasn't!  I kicked again to accelerate a bit more, next thing, meters form line, and next thing the Albarosa girl manages to veer into me!  I have to check my speed and try stay upright!  Damn 2nd again for me!

Brit no where in sight, rolls in after us.  Turns out she managed to ride into the damn paramedics first aid bag!!!!!  I mean come on who on earth thinks it a good idea to put a bag in middle of track when there's a race going on!  Luckily Brit was ok, and stayed up right, but that was the end of any hopes for the sprint for her!

Luckily Jo too was ok, just a bit bruised and a ruined bran new skin suit, but apart form that all good!

So all in all an eventful couple of weekends racing!  Let's hope that's all miss haps out of way! 
Next stop Malta 3 day's form now, bring it on!