Bionic woman, bike racer, fun seeker.

Thursday 12 February 2015

My hero

There are a lot of people in the cycling world I would say inspire me. Paul Kippax and his ability to ride so hard he nearly passes out (this is also massively entertaining – see youtube), Charline Joiner breaking her back and competing in the commonwealth games in the same year, my parents who have both had crashes on the bike in the last few years and continue to get back on, Fred Smith who sacrificed everything to look after his wife who was ill caring for her 24/7 because he didn’t trust anyone else to do it properly.

If I had to pick one though, my absolute hero would be Robbie Duncan. Robbie is 67 and rides for Manchester wheelers. I know Robbie from track league – a daredevil and awesome tactician. Always on the right wheel, bravely squeezing through the smallest gaps, never out in the elimination and regularly places in the top three.
One night in November Robbie had a big crash in the devil and ended up in hospital with a broken pelvis, ribs and other injuries. I didn’t think we would see him until the new season September 2015 earliest if he ever came back at all.
He was back riding and racing on the track in January - before doctors said he would have been walking again unaided. This man is unstoppable. He is now back racing on a Monday night in his opinion ‘slightly off the pace’, but I can assure you he is not. He is on the front driving the pace, making the breakaways in fast races. What this man has done is incredible.

When I think of the accident I had two weeks ago (if you haven't heard about it click here) and how I didn’t want to drive, or ride on the open roads, I thought of Robbie. Would Robbie let the risk of an accident stop him doing the things he enjoyed? No he would not.

Monday 26 January 2015

A hard ride with Planet X

When I agreed to do the Sunday ride with Planet X I had no idea of the scale of things. I arrived to find a group ride with over 20 people - something I've only previously experienced in chaingangs or road races!

The route set seemed ok to me, I assumed it was going to be fairly easy. So I thought it was a good idea about 20 miles in to go with the quicker boys up one of the hills into Grindleford and sprint for the sign. I won. Only because I don't think they knew the game. But I soon wished I hadn't..

After a rather nice cafe stop at the Hathersage Pool Cafe it was a long hilly ride home. I had forgotten how tough Strines actually is and had never ridden most of the other roads at all and already gone too hard. I could barely ride up each climb (and there were many). By the time we got back into Sheffield I genuniely didn't believe I would make it up Jenkins Road. I did. It's a lot easier than everyone makes out - nowhere near as hard as Pea Royd Lane.
Overall a great ride. Very much looking forward to more.

I wasn't much looking forward to track league the next evening however. I got up for the warm up and my legs were exceptionally stiff - I could barely turn them over.
Still, I got up for the first race of the night - a 12 lap scratch. I was barely hanging onto the back of the group and was thinking about going home. I decided to give the next race a try - this time the reverse devil (click here if you want to know what this is). I fared slightly better, this time sticking in with no problem and probably finishing 3rd over the line on the final lap.

It came to the final race of the night - the 30 lap points race and I was really feeling like I needed to go home. The wonderful Mike Farwell told me to man up and persuaded me to stay. We started and I ended up on the wheel of a man who decided to attack two laps in. I went with him and ended up in a break of 5 for the first half of the race, scoring in a couple of the sprints. The bunch caught up to us with 3 sprints remaining and I was fading quickly. I had to try, as I knew I had a chance of making the podium. I sat in for the first sprint, then managed to squeeze out a 2nd and 3rd in the two final sprints - enough for third overall. Not bad for tired legs!

Planet X rides leave every Sunday at 9am from the Showroom in Sheffield - click here for more info.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

The Ras na mBan hasn't even started yet..

After a busy day at work yesterday, driving the 5 hours alone to Fishguard did not appeal. I didn’t want to go, stressing about whether or not I was good enough, whether or not I would enjoy myself, what the accommodation would be like…
I (sort of) manned up and got on with the drive. After an extremely dull 5 hours I arrived at Fishguard at 12.10am – early for the time I was due to meet Karen and Steve from GB Cycles. They were delayed as they had to go back for Karen’s passport, so with the time being fairly tight I was asked to be standing outside the car with my bike ready to put on the bike rack for 1.20am. So at 1.18am I was stood in a cold, dark, empty, eerie car park with my beautiful Parlee Z5 Sli. At 1.30am I was still stood there. I called Karen and she had put the wrong postcode in the satnav! They were 40miles away – with only 30 minutes to go until boarding closed. The ETA was now 2.35am and they were probably going to run out of petrol. Shit. There was no way they were going to make the ferry.
Reluctantly under Karen’s instructions I went to see the lady on the Stena Line desk (thinking that there was absolutely nothing we could do about the situation) and emptied my contents of the car in their office so that IF they arrived in time, I could load their car up quickly. They were really very, very helpful and to my disbelief allowed us to board despite being so late. To save time I even rode my bike onto the ferry rather than strap it onto the car roof – felt a bit weird sprinting along a ferry dock at half two in the morning.  

As it happens, I am already having a great time with the GB Cycles team. Line up for the Ras is:
Iona Sewell
Karen Poole
Sandra McKay
Michelle Forster (London Phoenix rider also guesting for GB Cycles)
And me
After lunch where the waiter hilariously dropped both our drinks AND food all over the floor, we all went out for a little spin this afternoon just to get the travelling out of our legs and Michelle’s front mech fell off into her chain jamming it so she couldn’t pedal. We took it in turns to push her the 8km back to the hotel, where we still haven’t found a fix to the problem yet… Fingers crossed she can start tomorrow for the first stage.

The Ras na mBan (women’s tour of Ireland) consists of 6 stages over 5 days. The first will be tomorrow at 5pm and is 65km ‘rolling’ circuit based around Ennis - For race updates follow @rasnamban and for a start list click here.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Thank-you Activ Cycles

I’m pleased to announce that I will continue to be supported by Activ Cycles (an independent bike shop based in Corbridge, Northumberland) for the 2013 season in addition to the Champion Systems/Maxgear team.

The guys at Activ Cycles really helped me out through 2012 in lending me equipment to race with and encouraging me to believe in myself. I had a difficult start to the year after breaking my collarbone in 2011 and was at a point where I was ready to give it up. They persuaded me to travel up to train with them a couple of times in Northumberland and the Lakes and reminded me what I enjoy about riding my bike. They’re brilliant fun, although trying to follow them downhill is not so much fun – nutters!

Thanks very much guys, really looking forward to the rest of 2013! Please follow them @activcycles or like them on facebook.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

London Bike Show Rapha Elite Women’s Indoor London Nocturne

Outline of the course
I love doing things that are a little bit different, so when I heard about the UK’s first indoor criterium – the Rapha Elite Women’s Criterium at the ExCel - I had to have a go. The race was only 25minutes + 5 laps, so I figured that track league speed, combined with long base miles would suffice in off season.

The day before we were due to travel the forecast was for heavy snow, so it was touch and go whether we would be able to get there. I had taken the day off work and didn’t fancy spending it sat at home not racing, so went for it!
The conditions on the M6 were interesting. The outer lane not in use as it was covered in an inch or so of snow, but the traffic was quiet and there wasn’t much snow south of Birmingham.  We arrived in plenty of time to have a look around the bike show.

Watching the 2nd cat race and fixed bike race (yes that’s with no gears or brakes) before ours was interesting to say the least. There were a number of crashes and anyone who came off on ‘the paint’ was losing a LOT of skin!

Me cornering - obviously to fast for Towse
Rider briefing - mostly telling us not to run over their

I made sure I got a place on the front row on the start line – I couldn’t mess it up after coming all this way. The whistle went and I got swamped. I had the worst imaginable start ending up in the back quarter of the field after lap 1. Not the start I was aiming for..
It took 4-5 laps of riding as hard as I could and negotiating passing riders in the corners to bridge to what was left of the bunch – all of 3 riders! I sat in to recover and realised Clemence Copie was away, so made an effort to get her back with the others, but I was already suffering from having to chase back on. I looked over at the clock, expecting us to be half way in  and it only showed 5 minutes! The course was quite twisty and technical in places, although the corners were painted with a red paint with grit in it to make the corners more grippy which worked well (as long as you kept it upright). The only issue was coming onto and off the painted areas – cornering too early or too late would mean sliding out on the concrete - in the first few laps of the race I nearly decked it a fair number of times!        
In the closing stages of the race my legs were buckling but I just about managed to stay with the other 3 riders finishing in 5th. The race was a bit of a shock to the system, but saying its off season I’m pretty pleased with my result!

Clemence Copie
High Wycombe Cycling Club
Alice Barnes
23C Orbea
Louise Mahe
Team MuleBarGirl
Alexie Shaw
Les Filles Racing Team
Nicola Soden
Champion System/Maxgear

Tuesday 30 October 2012

The National Hill Climb Championships 2012 – The Rake

I earmarked The Rake as a key target this season relatively early on, as it was on a short, steep climb – something I knew would suit me.

The increasingly good results I’d had over the previous two months really gave me the confidence I needed entering hill climb season. I managed 2 wins and 4 podiums in the hill climbs and wins in the track leagues leading up to the Nationals at the Ramsbottom Rake. In the hill climbs, I was never too far off the winning times, so position didn’t worry me. I was just focused on the Rake. I visited it on numerous occasions learning how best to ride it, how much effort to put in and what gears to use. I also did a lot of turbo intervals and reduced my weekly ride time to barely 5 hours a week, eat healthily (no cakes, no drinking). I picked up some super-light Vue des Alpes Light SuperSport Edco Carbon Wheels and stripped the bike down as far as possible. The most seriously I’ve ever prepared for an event.

I arrived on the morning of the climb early, pre rode it to test how slippery the surface was (it was pouring it down). I stayed in the car to keep warm until I needed to warm up. Preparation was spot on. I got to the start line with 3 minutes to go – plenty of time but not enough time to get cold. The timekeeper counted down – 30 seconds, 10 seconds, 5 seconds… paused. I thought I heard go, I didn’t. I tried to go but the starter pulled back. I was off balance leaving the start, and ploughed straight into the barrier – couldn’t avoid it – and both feet came out of the pedals. I tried to get them back in, but couldn’t. Shit. I almost cried, but thought sod it; I’ve trained so hard for this so I’ll damn well ride as hard as I can. I did. As I reached the steep section the legs started to scream, but I pushed on. The atmosphere was immense – the noise practically carried you to the top. I don’t think I’ve ever ridden so hard in my life. I reached the top of the section of 1 in 4 and could barely turn my legs. Still, I whack
Me, trying to go fast up Rawsons Rake - Ed Rollason Photography
ed the gears up and ‘sprinted’ as hard as I could for the line (although was probably actually going about 10mph). I almost rode into some poor bloke stood at the finish line, then collapsed at the finish with no colour in my face, unable to stand and talking utter gibberish. I had raced as hard as I could. Done everything I could. I finished in a time of 3:36 – only good enough for 6th woman. Third place finished in 3:23. Make of that what you will, maybe I lost out on a medal, maybe I didn’t.. It certainly gives me the confidence that I would have been well up there.

Just over a year ago, sat nursing a broken collarbone, with no outstanding results to note, I never thought I would be saying that I believed I could have medalled in a National Championship. Remembering where I was then, makes me realise even 6th isn’t so bad at all! Either way, I’m not giving up!

Top 20's, 10's second cat and Track Nationals

Me and Mel after a muddy crit in Buith Wells
I’ve been meaning to write a blog for quite some time, although it has been put to once side as I have been totally absorbed in my preparation for the National Hill Climb Championships.

I started performing better after a break in racing around June, after a few DNF’s, with a top 15 at Naseby – providing the boost in confidence I needed. A couple of weeks later, I travelled to Wales with Mel and her family to the Auchterloine Memorial stage race in Wales, which consisted of a time trial, rather muddy criterium and road race. I was dreading the crit, as it was round the Welsh Royal show ground, it was raining hard and there was a lot of mud and standing water. Once I got racing I absolutely loved it – probably the most fun race I’ve done all year! The main field was quickly whittled down to about 15 riders. After a crash split the main group, I found myself in the second group but recognising the other riders weaknesses managed to break away from them finishing 11th – my best result yet.
The second day I almost got dropped on a steep descent on the first lap (didn’t make that mistake twice). I went for a long one with 1km to go, but it wasn’t to be and finished mid bunch. With consistent results I finished 8th on the GC! Absolutely brilliant circuits to race on – will definitely be going back next year.

Following this I raced some crits at Tameside, getting a top ten in one of the mens races and also at Darley Moor Women’s Team Series. I would have liked to be in the break at Darley Moor but guest team mate Jo Smith got there first! I worked to control the bunch to allow them to get away, as Jo is a top class sprinter and I knew she wouldn’t let us down and she didn’t, finishing a close 2nd to none other than Lucy Garner soon to be double Junior World Road Race Champion! I look forward to having Jo guest for us again in the future!

I also made some progress in city centre criteriums at the Newport Nocturne, despite starting at the back due to being gridded base on category I was still in the main bunch on the final lap (containing about 25/60 starters) – something which I have never done before.

Not long after I also earned my 2nd Cat licence – a move up 2 categories in one year!

Track nationals were next on the list. I’d never competed in the National Track Championships before, so I was just riding for experience (aiming to peak for the hill climb rather than the track nationals). I didn’t have any problems keeping up whatsoever, although rode rather conservatively. Wish I had done a bit more in the points race, but came 10th in the scratch race which concluded in a sprint finish – total surprise, as I’m not the best of sprinters. All good progress ready for the hill climbs...