Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Bedford 3 Day: Blood, Sweat and Tears

We are lucky enough to have the superbly talented Clemence Copie guesting for the team throughout 2013. Here's her take on the Bedford 3-Day... 

With a new stage on the Saturday on a new course (4 laps of a 15km loop around Great Barford), I decided to go check it out after work on Friday by riding easy around and taking notes. That is when I noticed a very tight right corner following a long descent and took it full speed to judge the angle - I nearly came off the edge of the road as I exited the turn. As it started raining the next morning, I warned my teammates to move up near the front of the bunch after our third left hand turn and before the descent. Surprisingly the crash happened on the left hand side before the corner (probably due to poor bike handling skills), GB-Cycles and MG-Maxifuel had most of their riders at the back on the left who all got caught in the crash whilst other teams, Matrix and BCC were near the front so after narrowly avoiding the crash, Adele and I chased onto the front group and managed to stay safely there for the rest of the race taking a few turns near the front to keep the pace going before some riders rejoined with 1 lap to go ending in a bunch sprint won by Hannah Barnes. This course also featured a sprint competition on a 2% climb which suited me so won the second sprint while Jo Tindley took the first one from the bunch.

The next day saw a team time trial of about 9km in Keysoe followed by a 80km road race (5 laps of 16km). With most riders guest-riding for Mulebar Girl and no practise of TTT riding, we warmed up and set off early towards the start for some last minute practise and focused on communication during TTT with Louise and myself stepping up to take additional turns when other riders couldn't, this seemed to work well as we clocked a respectable 9.47min placing joint 7th with Team CTC. 

 Being joint leader on the sprint competition with Jo Tindley and her teammate Harriet Owen close behind in 2nd, I was to focus on the sprint which unfortunately for me was on a flat straight. With a full lap to do before the first sprint lap, I hid at the back of the bunch probably a bit too far back so struggled to move up before the sprint and with Matrix team leading their sprinters at the front, I had no chance to get through so decided to make up for it on the second sprint narrowly missing it by crossing the line fourth behind Jo Tindley after an early attack from Lydia Boylan. Following complaints from other riders from the first day, MG-Maxifuel were fined and relegated for infringement (something about being towed back to a group following crash, fault still very unclear) and saw their key riders, Hannah Barnes and Karla Boddy losing time on GC so attempted an escape. Charline Joiner who had suffered the previous day a puncture followed by horrible crash in a lamppost as she was chasing back, broke from the bunch on her own before Louise Mahe jumped to get across. Being the only Mulebar Girl rider there at the time, I moved to the front of the bunch to hold helped by Laura Massey from Abergavenny whilst a few escapees managed to get across, notably Alexie Shaw from Les Filles RT and Amy Hill from Abergavenny, who went onto to win the stage. Louise managed to hold onto to the break after taking many turns at the front and making up some lost time from previous day whilst I crossed the line about 50sec down on the winning break in the bunch with Adele and Emily Barnes, who had suffered a nose bleed close to the finish!

The final day was held as per usual at the brilliant Millbrook test track with an individual time trial of 6.4km (2 laps of the speed bowl) followed by a final road race of 80km (9.5 laps of 8km including 9 times up the 'alpine climb'). Starting the day 20th overall in the GC, just 1:05min down on leaders and about 40sec down on top-10, I had to give my all in the ITT to make up any time I could although I realised it would be a difficult task with such a short TT. Having only done 1 lap the previous year and being known to start too fast, I wanted to keep a steady pace on the first lap and pick up on the second lap, which I did, crossing the finish line in 9.44min. With blood taste in my mouth, compressed lungs and screaming legs, I knew I had done my best only to turn around shortly after the line to see Laura Massey who had started just 1min down behind me - Laura finished 3rd with Hannah Barnes in a time of 9.27min whilst Louise took 12th spot and Claire Galloway destroyed the field in 9:17min to take the lead and yellow jersey.

After 2 crashes, 4 punctures, 4 stages, 2 days of racing and countless tired legs, the final stage was going to be a race of attrition and soon after the first climb, the race split in two groups with Adele and Emily safely in the second group. My placing on GC remained unchanged after ITT and with yet another flat sprint competition, I decided to try to hold my sprint placing on the first sprint and use it as an attack to break before the climb to test other teams...and myself! MG-Maxifuel were on a mission to prove a point and help Hannah Barnes to make up time so brought me back on the climb - I'm not known for my climbing skills! Many riders came riding past giving me a push up the climb including teammate Lou who got me to the top of the climb with words of encouragement: ‘don’t do that again’! After some big attacks from Hannah Barnes and Louise Mahe during the two hill competition laps, which were brought back by the strong Alexie Shaw, the pace settled with 1 lap to go. Yellow jersey holder Claire Galloway had a mechanical atop the climb and was brought back by her teammates to the speed bowl where the bunch was waiting for her return. It was going to be a sprint finish so despite the fatigue and with only Louise left in the bunch, I focused on following the right wheels and moves and managed with just under 500m to go to get close to Claire Galloway but had nothing left to go past her and finished 8th, moving up another place on GC to finish the weekend 18th with 1min down on leaders and 3rd in the sprint competition whilst Louise rode brilliantly to close her deficit from her stage one’s misfortunes to finish 27th (2:50min down on leaders). Despite some riders tarnishing the race with their unconstructive complaints, the weekend ended on the great image of Adele and the second group crossing the finish line as one and showing the true spirit and sportsmanship of women’s cycling!

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