Tuesday, 17 April 2012

I have to admit, I really really wanted to win...

Sunday was the 2nd round of the Shutt Velo Rapide Women’s Team Series in Virginia Water. The race was put on by Twickenham CC, my club and run in memory of Dave Peck our chairman who sadly died last year while out riding his bike to Paris. The event was a fitting tribute to Dave who was so encouraging to everyone who cycled and was always there at the TCC ladies races with a big smile and enthusiasm.

I have to admit, I really really wanted to win but with the combined forces of Matrix Fitness, Scott Contessa and For Viored, all strong teams, and Lucy Garner, the junior world champion on the start line it was never going to be easy. No-one else had the MuleBar Girls around them though. My awesome team mates Sarah, Lou and V all fuelled up on MuleBars and kitted out in our new Ana Nichoola mitts were as ready to fight as anyone else.

The course at least was a familiar one to me, albeit from a different perspective as a red flag waving marshall for TCC’s Ottershaw series. 13 laps round Valley End with one longish drag and then 5 laps of Staple Hill which had a more significant kick up to the finish line, I loved it! Going uphill and into the wind was bound to test everyone’s legs on the first women’s road race of the season.

It was fantastic to see Sol Findley, Dave’s partner and the other TCC girls Selina, Emma and Kate leading out the peleton at the start. I have huge respect for Sol who was going strong on what must have been such an emotional day for her, she’s an inspiration.

Meanwhile, I was hanging about at the back as my bottle kept falling out of my bottle cage and I knew I needed to ditch it before it caused an accident but couldn’t seem to get over to the left hand side of the road to put it somewhere safe. Finally I managed, just as we approached the left turn into the first drag, right when I need to be up the front as that was when the action was going to hot up. Somehow I pegged it forward and took the corner in about 4th wheel with Rebecca Curley (For Viored) keeping the pace high on the front.

image courtesy of Twickenham CC

Annie Simpson (Matrix Fitness) made the first attack of the day and I jumped over to her wheel. At the top I looked round expecting to see the bunch strung out behind us and there was only air. I don’t think making a break of only two people about 3 miles in to a 53 mile race was on either of our race plans but we were both committed so down our heads went and the effort began.

We worked well together and our team mates did a grand job patrolling the bunch although no one seemed to be able to get in the way of Corrine Hall (Node 4, another old TCCer) who with the bit between her teeth put in huge efforts to bring the break back for her team mate Lucy Garner. Amy Roberts (Scott Contessa) also spent a few laps in no man’s land in an attempt to get across to us but didn’t quite make it. Our gap hovered around 30 seconds and both Annie and I will admit to seeing the lap board read 17 laps to go and thinking ‘Er, was this a little ambitious?!’

As the course switched to the second circuit our advantage had been whittled down to 15 seconds. Turning the corner onto Staple Hill I could see the bunch hot on our heels, touching distance away. Even with the small gap I knew I wasn’t going to capitulate, they were only going to bring me back when I’d left every single part of me out on that road. I put a massive effort up Staple Hill (which is a lot longer and windier than I remember) and hoped that would gain me a little time. Unfortunately my breakaway partner Annie lost touch and was swallowed up in the bunch.

All I could do was grit my teeth and keep pushing helped along by the very friendly marshals and spectators. It’s good to race on home turf! I don’t really remember much of the last five laps, I think they’re well consigned to a distant memory but I didn’t want to let up the pace even when getting time checks from the motorbike outrider that my gap was extending. The lesson I learnt last week at Hog Hill when I punctured on a solo break on the bell lap, never think you might win until you actually win, was firmly etched in my memory (along with the brand new tyres firmly on my wheels!).

Coming up the hill for the last time it seemed I wasn’t going to get caught and I started to grin. A huge smile on my face I crossed the line with arm aloft – I really must learn to ride no hands – and promptly fell on the grass by the side of the road.

Sarah and Lou came through in the bunch with Sarah getting blocked in at the finish after being expertly brought to the front by Lou. We were all pretty excited after good day out as the MuleBar Girls. Not content with that we all hopped over to Herne Hill in the afternoon to run our Women’s track sessions (If you’ve never been you should, every Sunday at 4pm!). I lasted about 5 laps of the warm up with novices but I’ve got a good excuse this week.

Big thanks to Lisa West and her team of TCC for making the race such a good one, more of the same next year please!

Natalie xx

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