Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Firstly to get the excuses out of the way…

I have spent a long time, as V describes in her last blog post, riding more akin to the pace of a tortoise than that of a track rider and so coming back to race pace has become a long slog, and I’m still a long way off.

To summarise, I fell off and broke some ribs which should have been straight forward, except that having gone un x-rayed, the ribs subsequently damaged my lung, which led to a series of illnesses including pneumonia, pleurisy and eventually, a pneumothorax (partial collapse).

What has happened during my time off the bike is that I decided, I really was happier on it, than not and in turn that re-kindled my love for the sport. The next part wasn’t so easy, as I found my head still thought I could sprint at race pace, but my body did not!
While I’ve had a bit of bad luck, I’ve had the opportunity to fall back on my team mates who have been so supportive and given me all the time I’ve needed to get back to health, without rushing things on the bike.

Track cycling is such an exciting discipline and I’m not ready to give it up any time soon. So, I’ll be joining V this weekend for what I’m sure will be a slower than desired pedal on my part and track coaching for the women’s session on Sunday afternoon. Hope to see you there!

Becs X

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

I am back...

The re-opening of Herne Hill after the winter is one of my favourite times of the year. It feels like everyone is waking up after a long period of hibernation through winter. Most of my friends claim to have done not much training over the winter, but you know they have been quietly doing turbo sessions to make sure they come back stronger for the season ahead.

I am super excited about getting back on the track and injecting some pace in my training for the first time in a very very long time. 2011 was a bizarre year for me, I fell ill with a virus in about March and was unable to ride a bike properly for the rest of the season. I am normally able to race and party at a substantial rate so it was a real shock not being able to do the two things I love, apparently it is because I am not a spring chicken anymore.

I have been riding throughout the whole of winter but at the pace of a baby tortoise. I lost the fire in my belly to train and because I knew I had lost so much fitness I didnt want to go out and ride with the usual crowd or if I did i would go for a 'steady ride' so i didnt feel shit about myself. Thanks to Huw from La Fuga my mindset has really changed over the past month. I have started training again and really enjoying being back on the bike. I know I am well off the pace and the beginning of the season is going to be well hard but i dont really care. I guess its going to be like the first time I rode track with the boys, where each Saturday session I would try and cling on for slightly longer.

Let's just hope i am this positive after Saturdays session!


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Cold Winter of Racing

While most sensible cyclists have long been enjoying the (relative) comfort of telly and turbo to get their winter training hours in, there are a few slightly unhinged or desperate individuals who for one reason or another find themselves still racing long after the tan lines have faded. I fall into the desperate category, originally I kept at it through October and November because I ended last year still a 3rd cat, with 39 points out of 40 needed to move up to the 2nd cats. It seemed too close not to give it a good shot while I had the chance, so I joined the hardy but shivering ranks of winter racers. There aren’t many races at this time of year and no regular Women Only races at all so I decided to try my hand in some mens 3/4 races at the new cyclopark circuit in Gravesend.

My first race was something of a baptism of fire, it was a cold, windy, grey morning, I rode all the way out there, and all the way back again afterwards. Having originally intended just to watch, I decided to jump in at the last minute because Charlotte Easton was there racing and its always nice not to be the only girl! On the start line they announced the race would be (not 60 but) 90 minutes long, and I knew I was in for some pain. After a big attack in the first few laps, I clung onto the chasing group by the skin of my teeth, dropping off and clawing my way back, for more than an hour, and then they dropped me for good and I decided to stop, the first time I have ever not finished a race, as I rolled round back to where I left my coat I saw they had put the lap board up for the last 5 laps, and decided it would be the last time I ever voluntarily didn’t finish a race.

Somehow, two weeks later I had forgotten how desperately painful and drizzly the whole thing was and, full of enthusiasm, set off to do it again. This time I got dropped much faster but ploughed through it alone and, with new determination, finished the race, not quite last. I rode home very slowly, barely able to feel my extremities, but pleased with myself.

I did one Women’s race this winter which was on New Years Eve at Hillingdon, which I had thought would be my last chance to scrape up that point to get into the 2nd cats just before BC delete all your points for the new year. Hillingdon isn’t my favourite race but Lou was there firing on all cylinders and it was awesome watching her attack the bunch. Sadly a snapped chain (testament to the power of her sprint) put an end to Lou’s race, but I managed to finish 3rd after a big crash in the men’s race split the bunch up in the last 500m of the race. I went to pick up my licence with a grin all over my face to have earned that point just in time, only to find out BC stop counting points on the 31st of November every year! After a week or so of moping around I resigned myself to starting again, and decided that the points don’t matter, and it’s all about the experience!

And so I kept on going back to Gravesend, never quite managing to finish the last 5 laps with the group but getting stronger, hanging on longer and gaining confidence sitting in with the men at speeds I’d not often see on my own. Every week my results have crept up a place or two, and I have perfected the art of getting full winter kit squeezed under a very snug skinsuit – a very important skill for racing in January.

My last race was this weekend, having been improving, and with a spring in my step so to speak after watching the GB girls break every record going at the world cup in London, and with the weather seemingly on the turn towards spring, I rode out to Gravesend with some hope of a top 20 finish and calling it my last race of the winter. Sadly it wasn’t to be, after a lap and a half, someone with far too much juice in their legs for my liking made a very convincing attack and split the group in two, upping the pace considerably. Finding myself at the back and with a widening gap I did my best to scrabble back but with a wind that made the downhill feel like a climb, my little legs just couldn’t get going and I soon found myself alone, with the best part of 90 minutes to go and not much of that good feeling left. I paired up briefly with a few other stragglers but ultimately failed to find anyone I could usefully stick with and just chipped away at it lap by lap for what felt like about a year, and then finally it was over! Grubby and exhausted and utterly defeated, glad it was over, I realised these races have given me a huge amount of respect for those girls that take part in mens races

and place or win, it takes so much strength, maybe next winter I’ll get that point but for now I’m looking forward to a rest!

Hopefully all the cold and early foggy mornings and ice and crashing and losing and the numb fingers and toes and nose will have made me a better cyclist and being thoroughly beaten week in, week out, by the boys – who I have to thank for continually encouraging me to keep going and keep coming back – will have made me stronger!

And what’s more the memory of it will make bare legs and tan lines and sitting by the track at Herne Hill, and the smell of freshly cut grass, and all the other summer clich├ęs you can think of, all the sweeter for being hard earned and long awaited.


Monday, 20 February 2012

Red Bull Hill Chasers

If we could say that all the Mule Bar Girls’ disasters were contained into yesterday’s trip to Red Bull Hill Chasers in Bristol, then it was a day well spent. Debuting for my new team , the pressure was on at this high profile event which attracts cyclists from across the globe including a Liquigas pro, Ted King, who flew in especially, his next race being Paris Nice.

The idea behind Red Bull Hill Chasers is to find the quickest bike uphill. 16 elite riders plus the 16 fastest amateurs through the morning’s qualification, battle it out head to head up Bristol’s Park Street, 170m of pure hill, on any type of bike that can make it to the finish. Fixie against mountain bike, road against BMX, out through the hydraulic starting gates, up through the chicanes in the knowledge that ‘jostling is allowed’, with the fastest rider going through to the next round and all in front of 1000s of people. The only saving grace being that Red Bull had drawn the line at closed fists, although tell that to the two guys who jostled and met the ground.
It had all the ingredients of being a great night out which in the end it really was but there were a few slight catches to the day. I’d barely got out of the front door and my car wouldn’t start. Absolutely nothing in the battery, zilch, nada, niente and I certainly didn’t have time to cycle from London to Bristol. Not deterred, my boyfriend John pushed me the entire way to Kwik Fit who were absolutely amazing, battery changed in 10 minutes and no charge for labour! This all sounds like quite a smooth operation but hides the panic in between and the state of John after he’d finished hefting a car plus me down the street and then sprinting desperately after me when we got a bit of speed up down the hill. Nonetheless, undeterred and quite a bit late, John, V and I drove through the wind, torrential rain and glaring sun down the M4 to find Phoebe who was already there.

Once in Bristol I managed to lose my brand new team t-shirt, my jacket (complete with house keys) and then my phone. Luckily all items’ whereabouts eventually located although the phone is still having a holiday with V. Then to the actual racing, somehow there had been a slight miscalculation, 18 elites had signed on for 16 places and I was one of the two that wasn’t on the published start sheet. A lot of frenzied bartering between organisers and event managers ensued while I tried not to look too gutted that it seemed I might not to get a race. After some more frantic conversing and for me a chance to practice ride up the hill (I started off in way too bigger gear, it seems it’s all about the quick legs and those legs weren’t quick!) they came to a compromise, the other extra rider, John Pybus (GT), and I could race each other but wouldn’t be able to be in the actual competition. Having made the trip down there and seeing the atmosphere it was a shame I wasn’t going to be in the knock out rounds but it was a chance for a pretty unique experience all the same.

Lining up in the start gates was terrifying, all eyes turned in our direction and my front wheel jammed up against a metal grate that would fall unexpectedly without warning, signalling the moment to start pushing as you began rolling down the ramp. Except time ticked on and on… Five minutes later and we were still there getting colder and the road ahead getting longer. Standing up in the pedals, feet poised and ready to go but with nowhere to go. Finally we got to start and I immediately realised that yes, even this gear was too big and had to quickly change up. However, to my surprise before the first set of chicances I had overtaken John. I have no real recollection of anything from then apart from looking back just before the finish to make sure he was still behind me. Being one of the few girls there it was nice to win although John then told me he slipped his pedal just out of the blocks, but hey a win is a win! It was rubbish that I didn’t get to go through to the next round but it was fun to be a spectator and it’s made me all the more determined for next year. All I need to do is get back down to Park Street and work out what that gear should have been…

Friday, 17 February 2012

Velo Jam

After running regular women's coaching sessions at Herne Hill, we saw that there was a desire for high level track racing to be made more competitive amongst women, and grass roots track racing to be made more accessible. Inspired by local festivals at the Herne Hill Velodrome, such as the Dave Creasy Memorial and Good friday, we wanted to create an event that was more than just a race, but a party!

So we bring you Velo Jam!!!!!

Friday, 10 February 2012

2012 meeting

So we had a meeting to plan the coming season last night. Jimmy got us all some lovely t-shirts, to promote the upcoming Coffee gel range. We had some Mojito's, we had some wine, we danced, we rode back two on a bike in the snow, hammered. Here we are now, 1pm the day after......