First race of the season for me today in the second round of the Women’s Team Series. After a number of crashes in last year’s race, the course was changed and the race was held just outside Virginia Water.
Pre-race preparation consisted of six, nine-hour shifts in A+E, finishing at 7pm the day before the race, a recovery sprint home from work in freezing rain and a 15-minute bike-cleaning session in the garage at 22:10! Not ideal. Pre-race nerves also got the better of me… after all with the whole Matrix-Prendas team and the Junior World Champion on the start-sheet, it was not going to be easy!
The course consisted of 13 laps of a flatish 3 mile (ish) circuit with a draggy climb on each lap, followed by 5 laps of a slightly shorter circuit, taking in Staple Hill (a fairly significant climb) on each lap. The race finished on the 6th climb (something that caught many of the riders out, as we thought we’d only have to go up the climb 5 times!!)
As usual, once we got going, the nerves settled down and I started to enjoy the race. The pace was fast and the short circuit, with several left hand turns on each lap made the race more like a crit than a road race. It was quite a struggle to maintain my position in the bunch. There was an attack early on, in which Natalie Creswick and a Matrix-Prendas rider got away. Amazingly, Natalie stayed away for the whole race and won by over 3 minutes!! Chapeau!
It was difficult to keep count of the laps but eventually the race transitioned onto the second circuit. The climb wasn’t half as bad as I’d expected and I found myself easily keeping up with the bunch (which had, by this time, been whittled down to about 30 riders from the initial 60). There was an attack on the second climb and for a few moments, I thought I had got into a break that would stay away. No such luck. On the third climb, I was elbowed in the ribs by a Dynamo rider and came very close to crashing, as we bounced off each other! Eek! Big thanks to Chris Smith (Zappis) who spent some time teaching us race skills over the winter, including staying upright when you come into contact with another rider!
On the final lap, I thought I was in a great position for the finish – up the front around the last corner, in a good position up the climb and on a good wheel. 500m to go everything went slightly mad, I was pushed into the gutter and found myself with nowhere to go, as most of the bunch passed me.
A disappointing finish but a solid race overall and a good first race of the season. Big thanks to Steve for coming out to support me and to Darren Hague and Steve Avery for the photos. Bring on the next one…