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