Monday, 31 December 2012

My Season

This winter has been the first time I’ve been anywhere near fit enough to go training with the girls having been out of action for quite a while with some set backs of which I won’t bore you with the long backstory.

What’s happened since I’ve been away from racing is that the women’s scene has developed almost beyond recognition. I’ve had a shock to the system trying to turn up and race having had some much time apart from my racing legs, and unlike in the past it’s not so easy to dip in and out without full dedication. I think this is a really good thing for the top end of the sport and I hope to see more numbers and more separately categorised races to feed all levels for 2013. The amount of female talent in this country is so exciting and as we go into the new year I have confidence that voices are gradually starting to be heard and the sport will continue to move forward.

All the girls have been amazing in encouragement coming back from injury but I have to personally mention team-mate Louise Mahe who has dragged me out of the front door on the days I wanted to sell my bike, feeling I’d gone so far backwards it was hopeless. She has been there the whole way this year and seen me start putting some focus back into riding again, giving me so much motivation, even though she must have been back-pedalling throughout most of it!

Being so far behind where I need to race in the current and progressive competitive climate I’ve taken on a bit of a natural role in background team management. It’s given me a chance to go along to races with the girls allowing me to really appreciate the diversity within MBG. From hill climbs, road, cyclo-cross and BMX to keeping an eye on the jaeger bomb count on a night out I’ve really enjoyed being part of the team and seeing it continue to grow, along with its initiatives such as VeloJam.

I look forward to next season and continuing our work in making sure the voices of women’s cycling are heard, 

Happy New Year!

Rebecca xxx

Thursday, 20 December 2012

2012 round up!

well it has been quite a year!

2012 started with me lining up for the cyclocross national champs. My first big race in Mule Bar kit and my first big race at that level full stop. I absolutely loved it, it was the fastest I have ever ridden my cx bike and I was thankful not to be lapped by helen wyman. I entered to have a go and to survive and I didn't embarrass myself to badly. Anna was in the pits as was her mum, Lou was out on the course, it was a great feeling to be part of the team. The mule bar girls have been fantastic at supporting me and developing my riding.

My cx season finished and the road season started. I was pretty clueless about road racing so the girls decided a good way for me to find my feet was with a 4 day stage race in Malta! talk about in at the deep end. I took my hugely talented friend Di along hoping that she could perform where I could not. Di did not disappoint she cracked out a stage win on the second stage and did well overall. As did my team mate Sarah meaning we had two MBG up near the top on GC. I cant say I played much of a part in getting them there but I did try to provide plenty of morale and medical advice when required. (much more my area of expertise). It was a fantastic trip and it firmly cemented in my mind how much I enjoy being a MBG. The girls were not only great on the road but they were hugely supportive at easing my nerves and never let me feel useless or slow.

Work has been mental this year. I am a junior doctor and I have moved up a grade. My first job as an FY2 doctor was in A&E, this has required long hours and working pretty much every week. Racking up 70hours a week in the emergency department all on my feet and usually at night left little time for training and racing. Despite this I have worked hard to increase my power and strength on the bike all be it lacking rather a lot of base miles. The MBG have been a great distraction from the stresses of work. I took a weekend off to help out at Velojam their hugely successful women's track racing event. It was lovely to see all their hard work at the weekly track coaching pay off. One of the reasons I was so keen to join the team was because of how much they give back to the sport. I am already looking forward to the next event. I also joined the girls to watch the women's olympic road race.

Over the winter I have tried to fit in some cross races, usually after working all night in A&E. I have raced having been awake for approx 30 hours straight (I was a bit wobbly and crashed a fair bit). I love cross and I hope next season I will be working less hours I can put more time and effort into it.

Looking forward to 2013 I have various things planned. In august I will finish my formal rotations as a doctor and I will be working when it suits me. I am taking august off and plan to head out to Morzine for some mountain biking.

Although I have had no dazzling results this year I have had a great time riding my bike and thankfully that is what the mule bar girls value.

Looking Back on 2012 - MBG V

2012 has been a year of sport – especially cycling – and I feel satisfied that we have played our part in inspiring ladies to jump on a bike and give cycling a go.

Soppy as it is, I am proud of what we have done as a team. The success of our weekly track sessions is testament to the effort we put into pushing the women's side of the sport forward, and it is thanks to our girls (as well as Tony and Joseph) – who have selflessly given up many their Sunday's – that we have been able to run these sessions no matter how many girls turn up.

At the start of the year I was told, 'what's the point in putting a women's only track event on, as there are not enough girls to race.' How wrong that person! Velo Jam inspired another wave of track riders to dip their feet in the water and give racing a go. At the last track session, one of the girls said that racing in Velo Jam was one of the best days of her life. What more inspiration do you need!

Velo Jam 2012 - GoRace Girls photo credit: AE Photos
Velo Jam 2012 - A Cats photo credit: AE Photos
Velo Jam - B Cats - photo credit: AE Photos
I find the women's race scene can at times be an arrogant place. If you don't have the legs to keep up with the 1st/2nd cats it can feel like you are being looked down on. This attitude frustrates me as I feel you should be able to enjoy sport at a competitive level whatever your ability. Hopefully through our track sessions and events, we are changing things.

Racing wise I have sucked this year, with plenty of weddings to go to, a new Olympic gold medallist in our family and plenty of other work and personal engagements that I had to attend, I just didn't have the time to put the hours in on the bike. I took to commuting in the big gear to work and spin classes – lots and lots of spin classes. I could say that I will put a big winters training in and be back stronger and fitter next year, but we are already nearly at the end of December and I have been hitting the party seen hard over the festive season – for networking purposes obviously! 

I have come to accept that I can only dedicate a certain amount of time in my life for training. I need a healthy balance between training, socialising and working to be happy. If I cut out the socialising and train like a madman for three weeks, I tend to spend the following three weeks partying even harder. I think the enthusiasm for partying always seems to win.  Maybe this is because I feel I have been there and done it. From the age of 5 through to 17/18 I trained, trained and trained some more. My sport was gymnastics and we used to train 18 hrs per week and this would be upped to 6 hrs per day in the summer holidays. Even when I wasn't at gym, I would manage to squeeze in swim squad or hockey training. I guess I feel I have done my training and cycling is a lifestyle not just a sport.

For 2013 I plan to train smarter, as I am a competitive bugger so even though I dont like training, I also dont like being useless on a bike. I  plan to allocate a certain amount of time to training that is realistic and plan what races I do around my fitness. I am lucky enough to be heading home to Ireland for Xmas with my bike, so will be able to get at least a weeks worth of riding on nice quiet country roads to kick start the endurance side of things.

Other than that I am really excited to work with the other girls to continue to grow the team, we are lucky enough to be working with some amazing sponsors such as Oakley, Wildoo, Batiste, I love Girl Riders, MuleBar, AnaNichoola, knog and Hope who all help us in our quest to keep pushing women's cycling in the right direction.

I had to check out by Facebook to work out what on earth I had done this year, and the following images made me smile.

Anna G and myself on our way up Mount Teide, Tenerife
Rebecca and myself networking

Thank you to everyone who has made 2012 such a cool year and bring on 2013!

Merry Xmas


Looking Back on 2012 - MBG Sarah

If I’m honest I haven’t really done much winter training this year! Last year when I was still a layabout 3rd year art student I was training for hours every day but this year I’m an impoverished graduate and just started a new job (alongside my old job) so cycling has taken a bit of a back seat for the moment - aside from a few seriously painful group turbo sessions courtesy of Elite Cycling.

What I have been doing a lot of is coaching, with the last day (I hope) of my level 2 coaching exam coming up soon I have been cramming in the coursework and hours to get it finished in time, and to that end, ran a basic cyclocross skills session at Herne Hill this weekend.

While I’m used to coaching on the track, cyclocross is very new to me, and not my strong suit, but armed with British Cycling’s ‘Go-Ride’ session guides, a few months practice and one race under my belt (and a bag full of biscuits and a pair of wellies and a whistle) I gave it a go! We were blessed with the mildest day in weeks, but this hadn’t made much impact on the mud, the girls ploughed through it (literally) in great spirit and all made fantastic progress, impressing everyone by all managing to touch a bottle on the floor while riding in boggy mud and not fall off, as well as all of them tackling the infield obstacles left behind from muddy hell, which over the last months have only become muddier and more difficult, and despite more than a few tumbles and several kilos of mud per bike, they kept at it and all made it round the course.

I’m really looking forward to starting again where we left off with track sessions next year and taking the skills the girls have learnt, and getting even more of them racing. 

Have a great Xmas.


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Looking back on 2012 - Anna G

Riding with the MuleBar Girls has been a bit of a shift for me this year, I've evolved the types of riding that I race at and my work life changed it's pattern too. So where I'd normally see the girls at Herne Hill track and taking the to the Tour Series, I was mostly off doing downhill racing or something adrenaline based. My track bike hasn't been ridden this year once, but it was swapped for a BMX and jump bike.

Time with the girls has been spent on Rebecca's sofa, in the pub or at bike industry events, at which we'd be catching up and swapping stories about what we'd been up to.

I spent a month in Scotland riding, during which I felt terribly homesick, and had missed the team loads, barely even able to keep track of their impressive road and track results on the internet even. So I made up for lost time when we threw ourselves into organising Velo Jam, a women's only open track meet. That was an event I was so proud to be part of, it was a huge success with 50 racers across 3 categories.

Another highlight was the first minidrome of the year in, where V and Rebecca came to support me and I was the fastest girl.

The other stand out moment of mine with the team was in fact a road ride we did together!! It was a wet morning and they'd totally hoodwinked me into thinking it was some promo ride thing i a town, not a 60 miler through the Surrey Hills. However it was so much fun chatting and riding we decided to make sure we do that together at least once a month.

2013 is looking bright and exciting, just more of the same good times :-)

Love Anna xxx

Friday, 19 October 2012

Our Playground

So what, the rain is coursing down the windowpane

and the mist from our breath swirls in the damp air as we leave the front door 

And yeah, so the tips of our fingers feel the nip of the cold

and knees left exposed feel stiff and sore 

But this is autumn and the weather is changing

Long sunny nights obscured by the haze of the drizzle and the howl of the wind

The world is nestling down and preparing for hibernation

But the weather doesn’t change us, it just changes what we see

The reds and golds, oranges and crimsons, scarlets and rubies, burgundies and cherries

The rain doesn’t muddy our minds but makes mud our new playground

The jumps, the turns, the hurdles, the burns

The clocks go back and the raindrops cling to the leaves that are clinging to the trees  

But the pedals still turn and our lungs still burn

It’s no worry to us in pursuit of strength and speed as the crest of the hill looms high

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Masters Road Race Champs

I’ve been trying to kid myself I’m still an under 23 for far too long and I’ve got no excuse to carry on pretending anymore since winning the National Masters Championships on Saturday.  For anyone who doesn’t cycle you have to be over 30 to even enter but I tried not to let that put me off.

The championships for the various age categories were held over the weekend in Virginia Water over the courses often used for road racing near Kitsmead Lane and Acoommodation Road.  The women’s race was the first event combined with the men’s over 60s.  Lining up I had no idea what the racing would be like and how having two championships in one race would affect the tactics.  I was only informed that veterans don’t like crashing, which was absolutely fine by me!

I’d spent much of the week before the championships camping in Snowdonia experiencing almost every season available.  It felt like my feet had gone mouldy yet I’d also been sunburnt but I was happy to have enjoyed a week under canvas despite everyone telling me it was a ridiculous idea.  It turned out to be great preparation for a road race all the same, helped along by the numerous tea shops and cafes.  I can particularly recommend the bread & butter pudding from Caffi Gwynant and under no circumstances should you believe anyone who tells you I ate that for breakfast!

Back to the race, my eyes were firmly fixed on Adel Tyson-Bloor (VC Raphael) and Elise Laverick (Look Mum No Hands) whose eyes were also fixed on me it seemed.  Everywhere one of us went the others weren't far behind!  My plan was to watch any early moves but not to attack myself until 4 laps to go on the Staple Hill Circuit but as always seems to happen I found myself attacking while we were still on The Valley End loop.  There were some strong legs on the early laps with the bunch being well strung out up the drag but the elastic never seemed to snap.

With 5 or 6 laps to go (I’m not to sure of the exact amount, my eyes were a bit blurry from then on) I was in a good position on the way up Staple Hill so decided to launch a bit of an attack.  At the top I was on my own but could see Adel and Elise putting in a big effort to catch me.  The men had reportedly sat back and made them do the chasing which was nice for our race but no doubt very frustrating for theirs.  Perhaps something to do with the cake fueled previous week I really wasn’t feeling happy as I tried to stay away from the chasing bunch and my breakfast (a more appropriate bowl of porridge this time) kept threatening to make a re-appearance.  Despite this, I was really happy to start extending my lead and came over the line 1st about a minute and a half ahead of the sprint finish which saw Adel take 2nd and Elise 3rd.

Now I'm just looking forward to my team mates getting old enough to join me for the racing but sadly I'm in for a long wait!

Natalie xxx

Monday, 16 July 2012

Tour of Blackpool

Consisting of a 1km prologue around a crit circuit, a crit, and a short flat road race, we went to Blackpool with high hopes for a good result, particularly for Lou who is a fast cornerer and explosive on the flat.

On the way up north we visited our lovely teammate Phoebe, and got an idea how she got to be so good at climbing, with her house being surrounded by what look like mountains to a Londoner!
The circuit turned out to be a long oval, with a hairpin at one end and a slightly wider one at the other, and two long straights, not quite the twisty circuit we were hoping for but with a good crowd around and kids races on we were feeling pretty positive and having fun anyway. We put on our new and improved skinsuits, from Halo Sports, which look awesome, and long sleeved jerseys and started warming up, unfortunately we got a bit carried away warming up and missed the chance to do a practice lap of the course so the prologue ended up being a very fast sighting lap – not ideal, and we finished within 0.1 seconds of each other is 26th and 28th respectively or thereabouts, but only six seconds back from the leader.

We both went into the crit with all guns blazing and Lou attacked from the start, making sure it was an exciting race, despite lots of attacking, nothing stuck and it came down to a bunch sprint, and we both finished around the middle. I was very happy to make it to the end of the crit with the main bunch for the first time this year, but personal victory aside, we hadn’t done anything to improve our standing in the race!

I could hardly contain my excitement to be at the seaside so we had fish and chips by the sea and looked at the tower and the hen parties and dodged seagulls for a bit before heading over to Burnley to stay the night before the road race. Lou had picked us what may once have been a spectacular hotel but undergoing ‘restoration’ and after a pre bed trip to McDonalds we settled in to watch the tour and get some sleep.

The road race was 12 laps of a twisty rolling circuit on narrow roads and with some very muddy bits. Unfortunately Lou got someone’s handlebars stuck in her wheel after a few girls came down and lost two spokes, and the race, and that was the end of that!

On the 200 mile drive home we drowned our sorrows in a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and sang along to the radio, and in the end, racing aside, I had a fun weekend away with Lou in Blackpool, and hearing that Natalie had become a National Champion while we were away made for a pretty successful weekend for TMBG!


Monday, 18 June 2012

So after five rounds of the Tour Series, London Nocturne, Velo Jam and Edinburgh Redbull Mini-Drome, as a team we are officially pooped! I once remember being told that the MBG's never race, well that has certainly changed :-)

Proper write-ups and blogs to come, but for the time being, see below for blog from the amazing Filles-a-Velo who sponsored Velo Jam.

Blog taken from Filles-a-Velo -
By Leigh Marshall

I'll be honest i'm not entirely sure where to begin.  The whole day blew me away entirely, and that is no exaggeration.

When Anna Glowinski (the very clever lady behind Ana Nichoola and Team Mule Bar Girl) and Wiesia Kuczaj (Team Mule Bar Girl) first told me about their idea for Velo Jam,  there was no question in my mind of whether Filles a Velo would be involved.  It was an absolute definite.

The idea thrilled me to the core.  A celebration of women's track racing.  Women pitting themselves competitively against each other, in a racing environment.  Whilst having fun and revelling in each other's company.  Feeling empowered as a group of women.

Some...ok! many, cooed "a women's only track meet? you'll never get the numbers" along with "it will be a crash fest" and "they'll never race aggressively throughout" - but lo, they were ALL 100% WRONG on EVERY single count!

Build it and they will come - and come they did, in exciting numbers across all the categories.  However, it wasn't the A cats field that excited me the was the novice riders.  Some of whom had NEVER raced on a track until that day.  Proving their mettle for the duration.

The racing was fast and furious (I make no apologies for the cliche) with aggressive riding and constant attacking throughout the ENTIRE race meet, in all categories.

Essentially the programme comprised of an omnium (scratch, points, 2 lap dash, devil) and a brucey bonus afterwards, in the form of a 12 lap novice/33 lap A, B cat scratch race.  The support race was a men's 2 lap fancy dress drag race.

I'm not going to give a blow by blow account of how each race unfolded.  It would take forever to read and quite frankly, be a bit too repetitive...attack, shut down, attack, shut down, attack, 2 lap gap, shut down, get the idea!  (i'm not complaining btw, it's a fantastic dilemma to have, but sadly it doesn't make for a great reading experience).

During the scratch and points races, the bunch worked tirelessly and tactically to bring back attack after attack.  With the escapee(s) only ever staying away for a few laps before being brought back.  Yes, there really was that much attacking going on and in a women's race meet too...who knew ;)

We saw some really bold and purposeful racing throughout the 2 lap dash heats and again in the finals.  With many screaming legs afterwards.

Similarly, in the devil we saw a vigorous pace in both the A and B category races (there was no Novice race).  With some very close results each lap and riders working really hard tactically not to be eliminated.  The bell lap in each race providing a truly gritty fight to the line by the remaining riders.

It will be of no surprise to read that the brucey bonus scratch race at the end of the meet was contested with the same zeal.  With spot primes happening at no set regularity, the pace was rapido.  Riders were furiously chased down by the bunch, should they dare to jump off the front.  It was a thrilling end to a spectacular day's racing.

There was a crash (B cat devil) - it happens in racing (men and women equally).  Especially in track racing, where the pace can be higher and more intense, it's the nature of the beast.  Each competitor is pushing themselves to the utter limit with passion and a desire to achieve.  That often leaves very little margin for error.

I believe all bar two riders got back up and continued racing, once it was recommenced.  And racing they did with the pace instantly being cranked back up, no allowances being given to those who had crashed.  And why should there be.  You race to win after all, regardless of your sex.

Velo Jam was not an exercise in "paying lip service" to women's racing - every single woman who entered, raced.  And did so up to her own personal limit.  Boundaries were pushed by all.  There was no sitting up and pootling round because it was a bit difficult.  Each and every woman challenged herself and her adversaries.

Of course none of Anna's and Wiesia's visions for Velo Jam could have been achieved without immense support from an array of people, businesses, organisations.  This cohort worked in unison through Wiesia (the Velo Jam ringleader) to ensure all the plans were implemented.

If the mission was to create a celebration of women's racing in a carnival type atmosphere, with zest and gutsy performances, then the girls should be very proud, as that is exactly what it accomplished.

There was an extensive volume of prizes - both in cash and products.  It wasn't just the overall winners who won, spot prizes were awarded also.  There was music, provided by Red Bull and refreshments to help fuel competitors and spectators.  Even the weather played by the rules (well if you discount the strong gusts of wind), it stayed dry until the prize giving, with the odd sunny spell.

I think Velo Jam showed a clear need for women only track racing in addition to the mixed racing that already exists.  Women voted with their feet by entering - if the demand wasn't there, the number of entrants wouldn't have been so high.

I am truly honoured to have spent a day in the company of such fabulous heroic women...and I eagerly await the next event the Velo Jam girls decide to stage :)

Provisional - Velo Jam Results 2012

A Cat Omnium

1. Corinne Hall

2. Charline Joiner

3. Abigail Dentus

4. Lucy Harper

5. Lydia Boylan

6. Emily Barnes

B Cat Omnium

1. Lesley Pinder

2. Nicole Oh

3. Clare Gillot

4. Tessa Pugh

5. Sophie White

6. Aimee Wright

Go Race

1. Kat J

2. Sian Thomas

3. Katarina Bercelova

4. Kate Searle

5. Talitha Wachtelborn

6. Katy Baldwin

Final Scratch Races

A Cat - 1. Corinne Hall, 2. Charline Joiner, 3. Cassie Gledhill, 4. Bethany Hayward, 5. Lydia Boylan, 6. Natalie Creswick

B Cat  - 1. Sophie White, 2. Aimee Wright, 3. Geraldine Glowinski

GoRace Scratch - 1. Sian Thomas, 2. Kat J, 3. Kate Searle, 4. Stefanie Loew, 5. Katarina Bercelova, 6. Sophie Powell

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Tour series part 2


With two rounds to go the team was sitting in 4th, 8 points behind VC St Raphael in the overall team standings, and keen to make up that gap. With four girls on the start line, each had a rider to mark, and a clear objective – get points off VC St Raphael! The course has a bit of a climb and a few challenging corners, the group split fast, as usual, Lou was placed strongly in the front group, while Natalie, Sarah and V were battling for places as riders started to drop off the back. Both Natalie and Sarah ended up sat a little off the back of the group, Natalie put her race face on and got back up into the race, while Sarah and V both settled into smaller bunches to try to make up some ground. It was a fast race with lots of attacks, and a few crashes (wishing a speedy recovery to Lydia who came down pretty hard), and Natalie and Lou both managed to stay upright and finish in 12th and 10th respectively, edging out both VC St Raphael riders in the lead group. Sarah finished 2nd in the sprint in the chasing group, getting 18th overall, her first top 20 result of the series, but unfortunately one point behind Adel Tyson-Bloor of VC St Raphael, who managed to get a bit of a gap in the last corner and put in a fantastic sprint to hold onto her lead. V finished just out of the points but ahead of her marked riders, so a successful race for everyone, and 5 points gained back from VC St Raphael’s advantage.


Standings after round 4:
Team 4th overall
Lou 6th Overall
(we found out you have to do every round to get into the individual standings so unfortunately, despite all her points, Natalie is no longer in the standings)

Stoke on Trent
Stoke was the last stage of this years Johnsons Health Tech Grand Prix and also the first city to host a stage of the womens race. With the men doing their TTT in the afternoon, and the girls travelling down by train instead of in the car, there was a bit of a party atmosphere as the morning was spent sat in a lovely coffee shop at the train station and then another in the city centre watching the racing, rather than at the HQ warming up and signing on as usual. It stayed dry for the race but with a very strong wind it looked like it would be a tough race to end on, and lots of tired legs with only a day to recover after Woking. With Natalie tied up at work we had only 3 girls in the race to VC St Raphael’s 5, and knew it would be a big ask to get the team into 3rd overall. Lou as usual kept herself out of trouble by lining up right at the front for the sighting lap, a good tactic in this case as a crash in the second last corner more or less took half the field out of the race before it had even started. Unfortunately V and Sarah were behind it, Sarah got past quickly and chased hard but couldn’t get back across to the race, V was stuck for much longer and also ended up in no mans land – not a good place to be when the wind is threatening to blow you into the barriers! Helen Wyman attacked and made a huge gap on the bunch, staying away for the rest of the race. Lou also had good legs and was keeping things interesting for the lead group, attacking and staying away for several laps before getting reeled back in, and then attacking some more. Wyman took the win, with Laura Massey in 2nd and Jessie Walker 3rd, and Lou 14th in the bunch sprint. Meanwhile in the chasing group, Sarah did a bit of attacking too, getting a good gap on the rest of the chase, but reeled in with 5 to go after Wyman passed the group and inadvertently giving them a little tow back up. With lapped riders asked to retire with 3 to go, this left 2 laps to recover, and she managed to cross the line first out of her group, just enough to scrape into 19th. V spent most of the race battling the wind but kept going right to the end, and then a bit, as nobody told her to stop!

This was enough to keep the team in 4th overall, with Lou doing a fantastic job to finish 9th overall individual.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Tour Series so far

Round 1: Oxford

The first round of the Johnsons Health Tech Grand Prix was held in Lou’s university home town, Oxford. The sun was out in full force and representing Team Mulebar Girl; Lou, Natalie, Wiesia and Sarah lined up to tackle a very technical course. After a fast start, Sarah and Wiesia both found themselves in chasing groups, while Natalie and Lou were up in the main bunch. Halfway through a small break of five went away, which stayed away until the end, made up of winner Annie Simpson, Hannah Barnes, Jo Tindley, Corrinne Hall and Jo McRae. A small group made some ground towards the break and Natalie went after them, crossing the line 9th. Lou unfortunately crashed but, being a total hero, managed to stay with the lead group and finish in a very respectable 17th. Sarah and Wiesia both finished outside the top 20 but worked hard right to the end.

Overall standings after round 1:
Natalie 9th
Lou 17th
TMBG 5th

Round 2: Peterborough

The second round was another hot one, on a fast but twisty circuit at Peterborough. This time with Natalie tied up at work, Lou, Sarah and Wiesia were hoping to hang onto the team standing and improve on their performances with lessons learnt in the previous round. The two neutralized laps behind the lead bike were pretty challenging and the group soon split with lots of corners opening up gaps in the big group. Wiesia was working hard dragging a small chasing group round, and Sarah spent a long time working with a slightly bigger group trying to get back onto the bunch. Lou kept both wheels down and was looking strong in the main bunch. Taking advantage of the high pace, Harriet Owen, Hannah Barnes and tour leader Annie Simpson made a move early on and continued to make ground for the rest of the race, passing both chasing groups with just a few laps to go. Harriet Owen took the win and this left the bunch to sprint for 4th. Lou took advantage of the wide stretch of carriageway before the finishing straight and got herself up front in the sprint, taking 7th, and avoiding a nasty crash.

Overall standings after round 2:
Lou 10th
Natalie TBC, for some reason they have left her off the results
TMBG 6th

Round 3: Colchester

It seems the best of the weather had passed as a damp and bedraggled group lined up for the start at Colchester. After several hours of rain and the associated delays to make sure the circuit was all taped up and sandbagged and safe, a smaller than usual group still made an exciting and tough race. Right from the start the pace was demanding and with conditions pretty grim, some big corners and a decent climb split the group up right away. Wiesia got very unlucky and punctured on the second lap, with no support in the pits and no spare wheels she got stuck in cheering for the other girls instead. Sarah spent the entire race alone and, mistakenly believing herself to be the last rider and seeing no chance of catching anyone, pulled out a few laps before the end. Natalie made an attack which strung the group out and a few wheels back, with riders pushing to get onto wheels in order to keep up, Lou found herself pushed right out and having her second crash of the series, she still managed to get straight up and battle round with another rider, eventually finishing 12th. Natalie continued to hold her own in the lead group and with one lap to go made a valiant attack, which sadly got reeled in, but managed to still finish strongly in 10th place in a bunch sprint won by Eileen Roe, with Annie Simpson retaining the leaders jersey.

Overall standings after round 3:
Lou 9th
Natalie TBC, for some reason they have left her off the results
TMBG 4th

Jubilee Week End

I wonder if getting cold, wet and muddy counts as being patriotic?  They are all things inescapably linked with Britishness so I’m sure that all 70 riders on the start line for the Banbury Star Jubilee Road race did their bit to toast the Queen in a cycling kind of way.  The weather couldn’t have been more bank holiday like – torrential rain and wind, plus throw in 3 times up a 14% climb and there were all the makings for a hard race.  You could tell how bad the weather was by the number of girls sat in the HQ right up to the start, choosing to keep dry as an alternative warm up, although I was quite a fan of the burst of star jumps from Louise.

After her 3rd at the Hillingdon GP last weekend we MuleBar Girls, Lou, Sarah & I, were keen to continue the podium ways and the hard racing inevitably began the first time up Knowle Hill.  Tamina Oliver (Abergavenny CC and eventual winner of Queen of the Knowle) was looking strong from the bottom and Sarah put in a fantastic challenge for the first QOK points as she sprinted across the top, tailing what remained of the bunch behind her.

The first selection of the race had been made and the group of about 15 of us who had stuck in it worked well together to maintain the gap throughout the next lap.  It was great to find that every person was committed to staying ahead of any chasing bunches with Sarah and I still in the mix.  The second time up the Knowle was a bit less of a surprise.  Although given Lisa West from Twickenham CC could only make it up in first gear in her van it certainly didn’t get any easier.  At the top the group had become a little smaller but the pace was still high as we rounded the back of the course.

Crossing the finish line for the penultimate time and hearing the bell I thought I might try something a little different.  Legs were tired and it felt like the expectation of the race was that the hard part would be up the climb so I thought I might as well attack.  I got a reasonable gap quite quickly but couldn’t seem to shake the bunch from my tail.  On more than one occasion I wondered whether 24km from the finish I’d perhaps gone a little early.  I felt like I was just hanging out there in the wind, within easy reeling distance but as the road began to snake about I was able to hide round corners and extend my lead a little to around 30 seconds.  

On the climb they began to really bite at my ankles but the cheers from the spectators at the top helped spur me on to tackle the last few miles and looking back I could see Elinor Barker (Scott Contessa) bridging across.  With about 5 team mates in the front group she was a good breakaway partner to have but I also knew she was a significantly better sprinter than me – a mixed blessing!  There was a kick up to the finish and I knew my only option would be to go long.  As we began the approach to the line I could hear a clunking noise and saw Elinor looking down at her gears.  I grabbed the opportunity to attack but she was far too fast to react and as the road flattened Elinor came round me with ease to take the win.  Lucy Garner (Node 4) completed the podium just about holding off Amy Roberts (Scott Contessa) in the front group sprint.

Sarah and Louise finished strong in the sprints from their groups, boding well for the next round of the Tour Series in Colchester on Thursday where we’ll be doing all we can to extend Louise’s top 10 position in the series overall.  Thanks very much to Banbury Star for putting on the event and for having faith that women can tackle the same course as the men.  It’s really refreshing to be able to do an identical race down to the last kilometre even though we might have all moaned about the climb at the time, but hey, that’s bike racing!

Natalie x

Monday, 21 May 2012

Sitting on the sofa and my legs are pooped. In fact, most of me is pooped. This was a pretty heavy weekend of racing and riding. Across the country riders have been battling it out on the road for the regional championships and yesterday in the South East was the women’s only champs, thanks to the Surrey League and Kingston Phoenix the hosting club. Yesterday saw a record start of over 60 riders and some hard fought racing.

Lou, Sarah and I were on the line up and at the front from the get go. The course had a slight uphill towards the finish but was largely only slightly rolling. With attacks and counter attacks going from the first time up the hill I was really enjoying myself getting in the mix of action. Unfortunately despite our best efforts nothing seemed to stick. I had a dig, Lou had a dig, Sarah had a dig, repeat. We saw lots of air between us and the bunch with other riders joining to try and make sustainable breaks but the bunch was not keen on letting anyone go. If the photos are anything to go by though, you can’t say we didn’t try. One of us in off or on the front in almost every one!

As we approached the hill for the last time it was a close call between Karla Boddy (High Wycombe CC) and Lydia Boylan (Look Mum No Hands) in the sprint for the line. Karla took it by a whisker with Lydia taking the South East Champs jersey. I’m really impressed with how hard the whole peleton raced, echoed by some spectators I was chatting to at the end.

Thankfully my legs didn’t feel too bad this morning as it was my club, Twickenham CC’s interclub time trial champs where riders from Hounslow & District Wheelers and Westerley CC and TCC are pitted against each other over a 25 mile handicap course. I won it a few years back when I was given a 20 minute handicap but no one was quite as nice to me this morning! To get a few extra miles in I rode the 2 hours there which seemed like a great idea until it was time to ride the two hours back. All I wanted to do was yawn and sleep! Still, it’s all good training and has given me plenty of excuse to sit on the sofa tonight and dream of next week when it’s supposed to be 22 degrees – Yey!

Also, wishing a speedy recovery to Lisa Gunn (WyndyMilla) who came down pretty hard – hope to see you back on the bike soon!

Natalie xx