Spirits were high and the sun was shining as we rocked up for the start of the first stage of Bedford this morning. With over 90 girls lining up for the 3-day stage race we knew the first stage was going to be tough, but at least the sun was shining!
A couple of minutes before the race was about to start the heavens opened it bucketed it down and the smiles on the eager riders' faces started to fade as they lined up at the start line. Too late to chuck on any rain jackets the girls were off. The race was neutralised up the first climb past the finish line to ensure everyone had a fighting chance. I positioned myself at the finish line to get the best view, although spent the majority of the first lap sat in the car hiding from the hailstones.
The girls had to do 4 laps of a 8 mile circuit. The course was pretty much flat with a climb up to the finish line. It didn't take long before news of a large crashed emerged, but I had no idea about who went down, so had all my fingers and toes crossed waiting for the MBG's to come through for the first time. Lou came through first attacking up the climbs with Clem also in the bunch, which had been whittled down to 30ish riders. Shortly after guest rider Adel came through in the second bunch of about 20 ish riders and then Emily a short time after. Phew - all our riders were safe! Then came dribs and drabs of single riders, some of which showing battle scars from the crash. Ouch.
Riders passed for the second lap and Clem was still fighting out in the lead group but Lou was gone, which got be worrying - had she been dropped after her amazing attack the previous lap? I was glad to find out later that it was down to a broken spoke. Lou and Adele then passed in the chasing bunch, which Emily behind. The wind was brutal and many riders were stuck out in no mans lands between bunches.
Then there was news of a second crash and the rest of the race I spent fretting about whether any of the girls were caught up in it - to be honest I am tad confused about what order everything happened in after this point.
I remember spotting Clem passing through again in the lead bunch and looking comfortable. Adel flying past yelling that she had had a puncture and chasing like crazy to get back on the race, and Emily battling out on her own against the wind - but Lou, no idea! Finally I got word that Lou had punctured yet again and was fine. Phew again!
The finish was a mass sprint to line with Hannah Barnes pulling away to take the win. Clem finished with the main bunch, but position TBC. Adel rode a fantastic race to battle back on and I believe finished with the second bunch. Whereas Lou and Emily both suffered punctures on the last lap and with no neutral service were taken back to the start by another team car.
On chatting to the girls it turned out that we had 2 x riders in the ditch and 4 x punctures, but I think all the other teams had as much, if not more, bad luck. BUT we scored points on the QOM and Sprints so a despite the miserable conditions it was great to pick some points up.
Thinking the day could not get any worse, Lou then managed to shut her finger in the car door - idiot! And then we fear we may have managed to get 3 x speeding fines on the drive home - idiots!
It was a very eventful day and a tough old start to the race - but we were all still smiling and looking forward to the next couple of days of racing.