Sunday 3 June 2007

Ah, A Race in the Sun

My friend Sophie (on the right) came 3rd

I think I'm on a roll now - I did a race last Thursday after work, and then another one yesterday, two days later - the women's South East road racing championships.

I hadn't been sure as to whether or not to do this one, so hadn't entered in advance. When the day came I realised there was no reason for me not to do it. Being a relatively local race at Ellens Green, near Horsham, I wouldn't have any difficulties getting there - especially as it was starting at 1.30pm. As this is just a south east and central race then it wouldn't be a massive intimidating field, given that a number of hard core girl racers wouldn't make the trip down if they were ineligible for the championships. The Kingston Phoenix girls that I know and get on with, were organising the race, and I wanted to support their event. And on top of that, it was a beautiful day with lots of warm sunshine. Really no excuse for me to duck out of this one.

Of all the regional championships taking place around the UK this weekend, the South East is the only region to stage a women's
championship. So it was a case of use or lose it.

I rolled into the HQ at the same time as many others who arrived by car. My friend Sophie, who races for Rapha Condor arrived at the same time too. She'd ridden from Islington to Waterloo, caught a train to Slinfold, and cycled the last bit to Ellens Green. I had ridden from Crystal Palace to East Croydon, caught the train to Horsham and cycled the last bit to Ellens Green. Great minds think alike ! It was good to see most of the who's who of SE cycling at the race - some of whom I'd not seen all year, others, like Lisa from TriSport News, who I'd seen just two days before at Brooklands.

The race got underway in the Saturday afternoon sunshine. The pace was lively from the off. As usual, I made the mistake of starting at the back of the pack. Although I was able to keep up with the peloton, which was doing around 24mph, I felt very uncomfortable in the group. Being at the back, and on a circuit that I didn't know made me feel nervous as I didn't know what was coming next. The road twisted and turned, and on some sections there were pot-holes, gravel sections and dead animals to dodge - and coming cars. As people attacked on the hill, I was the last to react, and was caught up behind weaker climbers, but couldn't get past them safely. And on top of all of that, my my road cleats were worn and was worried about my feet slipping out of the pedal.

By the end of the first six-mile lap, I felt so stressed out that I was ready to dnf. I slowed right down and let the peloton go. At that point Jake, from Kingston Phoenix slowed up as well. She was feeling dizzy and needed to recuperate. Great I had an excuse to ride at an easier pace ! We then worked together and caught up with Jen, her club-mate. It turned out we were all abit rusty on the old road racing, and had been a little anxious about the race.

So we managed to keep each other company, working together along the course. We were even slowing down to wait for each other at the top of the climbs ! There was almost a club run feel to it ! With all the time that we were losing on the main group, we'd thought we'd be pulled out on the 6th and penultimate, or at least be lapped by the leaders.

However, on the 5th lap we actually picked up speed and began racing. We managed to catch Lisa (TriSport News) who had been dropped by the main group. According to the marshalls our little gruppetto must have been riding at the same speed as the peloton, as the time gap between us and them remained constant. We therefore didn't get lapped, so ended up doing the 7 laps - much to the chagrin of the Phoenix girls, who were really feeling the effects.

We did a very quick final lap - about 24mph, and I even managed a sprint for the line. But just when I thought I'd win the group sprint my foot fell out of it's cleat, and while struggling to get my foot back in the pedal Jake shot past me. Well, being married to one of the fastest sprinters in the region comes in handy I suppose !

The main race was won by Jo from VC Meudon. My friend Sophie came 3rd. She wasn't too pleased to have been passed by a girl who'd done no work at all on the front. Sophie had made a number of attacks, but nobody would go with her, so she was just reeled back in by the peloton. She feels women's racing in England is always negative. That's why she races in Belgium and Italy, where everyone likes to attack all the time. That's why no one wanted to work with Sophie when she attacked, knowing
she's got all that international experience !

I was pleased with my race, even if I hadn't raced it seriously. It's what I needed though. Something to do tranquilly and to just ease myself back into the swing of things and build up my confidence.
The great thing about turning up at these events is that you end up hooking up with others and making arrangements to train/race again together. Myself and the Kingston Phoenix girls have arranged to do the Surrey League handicap at Kitsmead Lane on Thursday. Also Charlotte from London Dynamo has invited me to train with their group at Richmond Park, so as I get used to the bunch riding at speed thing.

I need the practice : next women's event is the Brentwood Town Centre crit next Sunday. It'll be fast and furious, and no one will be doing any favours there !

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