Back in October last year I decided that the Tour of Cambridgeshire was going to be one of my goals for the upcoming season, both the time trial and the road race. If I could finish in the top 25% of my age category I would qualify to ride for Great Britain in the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships. A couple of friends qualified in 2014 and I wanted to get in on the action this year, after all, who wouldn’t want a team GB skinsuit with their name on it?
My season had been going well so far, and I was feeling reasonably confident going into the weekend of the competition. The time trials were taking place on Saturday, my allocated start was just after 2 pm, and the road races were the main event on Sunday.
As usual, my pre-race nerves set in when we arrived at our hotel on Friday night. We faffed around with the three bikes we’d brought and eventually went to bed. Half an hour later I sat up with a jolt. There are some mistakes you only make once. Forgetting the washers that enable my pedals (and power-meter) to work on my TT bike I’d like to think is one such mistake. I felt sick. My husband did his best to console me – we could swap pedals and buy some new cleats, someone was bound to have the right washers, we had until 2pm to sort it out, etc.
Since converting earlier in the year to training with power, the thought of racing without it filled me with dread. I messaged a friend who was going to drive over from Oxford the following morning, but it was nearly midnight and I knew she’d have gone to bed. I managed some sleep, but all I dreamt of was washers.
I’ve never been so happy to hear my phone beep with an incoming message as I was the next morning. My amazing hero of a friend could drive over to mine, convince the neighbours she wasn’t a burglar, get house keys and retrieve the washers. Not an ideal start to the weekend, but at least I could relax marginally, knowing that I’d be able to see my power while racing.
I was one of three women from our club due to start at around the same time, and a few others who had come along to ride the next day arrived just in time to cheer us on. Before I knew it, I was queueing on the start ramp, then being counted down and set off. I started in a daze, realising after about 30 seconds that I hadn’t even started my Garmin. It took a little while to settle into the race as the route out of the event HQ was pretty circuitous, but once I was on the main road I tried to get into a rhythm and maintain my power. The 16 mile course was a little lumpy, and I was overtaken while battling up the biggest hill, 5 miles in. As riders were being set off in 20 second intervals, I wasn’t too concerned, but it seemed that this rider and I were very similarly paced and we ended up leap-frogging each other 2 or 3 times. I went past her for a final time when we were back on the main road back to the event village, determined to give it everything for the last 2 miles. I didn’t want to finish feeling like I could’ve given any more. Checking my time at the finish line I was pleased that I’d made it in under 45 minutes (44:06 to be precise).
My time placed me 6th in my age group, and was enough to see me qualify and bag a UCI medal. Feeling very happy with myself, I ate a lot of pasta and had a decent night’s sleep in preparation for Sunday’s 84 mile road race.
As much as I enjoyed the time trial, I didn’t enjoy the road race! It was brutal, and full-on from the start. We were released from pens grouped by age, and I was dropped by a bunch while trying to clip my left shoe in! There weren’t many women in my pen and racing with lots of men makes me nervous. A couple of years ago while racing with a bunch of men, a rider caused a crash that led to me spending the evening in the emergency department of our local hospital. Since then, I’ve stuck to racing with women only. Sure enough, about 5 miles in there was a touch of wheels in front of me and several riders came down. Miraculously I stayed upright, and decided that I’d rather finish in one piece than battle for position in a big group. It seemed like every time I was in a nice group of 10-20 riders, we’d get swarmed by a huge group overtaking, there’d be a crash or almost a crash, and our nice group would be split up – usually with me solo out the back trying to avoid trouble.
I finished in 3 (painful) hours 50 minutes 27 seconds, 7th in my age category and also enough to qualify. The icing on the pain-cake was that my other half, and the rest of our club-mates who entered the race also qualified.
Based on my experience, I’ve decided to focus on the time trial for the World Championships, although apparently for the final they set off the men and women separately…
GB skinsuit has been ordered, Perth, Australia here we come!
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