Monday, 21 October 2013

Cyclocross update from Di

A few weeks have passed and the Notts & Derby Cyclocross league has been as popular as ever with the ladies, the last race I competed in was my favourite, Round 6 Alfreton. This is one of the nearest races to Phoebe and I. It is a great race with a little bit of something for everyone, wood, hills, straights and techy bits. The weather all week leading up to this race was typical Derbyshire, rainy and windy making perfect cross conditions, very wet, very  slippy and very muddy. Both Phoebe and I favour the muddy races. Phoebe had an amazing race and an excellent sprint finish taking 2 places in the last few minutes of the race. I had a really strong race and won.

After this race there was no relaxing I went straight to a swimming competition, the National Arena league,  an important club event that I could not miss despite being caked in mud. For those that don’t know, my main sport used to be swimming. I always do a lot of coaching and work with the local swimming team.  The swimming went really well. I won my first 2 races and gave some races away to another team mate, while I went and had a long shower scrubbing the mud off from the Notts and Derby league. Once clean I only had one race left and that was the main relay of the night where the Matlock girls put in quite clearly the best performance of the evening, winning by over a length. 

After a busy day like this, I went to visit my parents for rapid kit cleaning and a very large tea. The following day we attended the Lincoln cross league where we used this as a back to back race training day, I came 1st and Phoebe 4th not a bad show at all considering we had raced on the Saturday. 

This weekend was the Rapha Super Cross  Round 1 at Skipton,  it started with an early morning as we drove up north - Phoebe proving herself as an excellent navigator. We had very kindly been invited to race on the Saddleback/felt racing team, as saddleback provide the MBGs with lovely posh bont shoes. We met up with the Saddleback/ FeltRacing team.  Scot was  very welcoming and kitted us out in some very nice skinsuits. Phoebe had complained all week about being in the elite race. I don't think she really intended on racing at the weekend as she was meant to be resting her injured elbow. However never one to miss out she managed to pull herself together stating that she was rather have a go and be last than not try at all. As our start time neared everyone was seriously warming up, I was doing a few star jumps and annoying Phoebe who was blending in much better than I was as she was pretending to turbo. Generally I prefer a bit of a run as a warm up, guess that’s the triathlete in me. 

The aim of the Rapha racing for me was really just to get as high a position was possible. I never imagined I would achieve two 2nd places. The first race was thick sticky mud, off camber slippery corners and some nasty banks, the second course was also muddy and slightly more technical (in Manchester). Both courses suited me, and I had really good starts (thanks to Phoebe bullying me into practising my sprinting) and maintained 2nd for pretty much the whole of race. Annie Simpson was super strong all weekend and won both rounds for Hope. I am looking forward to Alexandra Palace next weekend for the third and final round of the Rapha Supercross where I hope to maintain or improve on my second place overall standing in the series. I have round 8 of the Notts and Derby CX league the day before and intend to use this as a warm up race for London.  

Its Phoebe's birthday this week so I think I will be taking her out for some birthday hill reps, that’s what best friends do isn’t it?

Many thanks to Scot Easter for sorting us out on the team and to Purple Harry for their fantastic cleaning products which helped me get my bikes spotless in between the two races. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

VeloJam 2013 - The Ultimate Women's Track Racing Event

Anyone who doesn't believe that 2013 has been a fantastic year for women's cycling should have been at the Ana Nichoola Velo Jam.  Impressive in its inaugural year last June, Saturday’s event at Herne Hill was even bigger and even better.  Organised and promoted by Team MuleBar Girl - Sigma Sport the event had a huge £1000 cash prize pot thanks to the generosity of headline sponsor AnaNichoola, and Sigma Sport - and showcased the very best racers in the country while also catering for the total novice.  A track meet that was all about inspiration; inspiration to achieve at the highest level sitting side by side with inspiration to dust off the trainers and fall in love with life on two wheels.

Velo Jam was the brainchild of Wiesia Kuczaj and Anna Glowinski, both riders for Team MuleBar Girl - Sigma Sport.  Keenly involved in cycling at Herne Hill Velodrome, barriers to women's participation were obvious to both. This track meet, being all female, gave ladies the opportunity to race against others of their own ability and experience, with five separate events each counting to an overall omnium.  At Velo Jam every girl could be competitive and stand out, not just the elite.

While the promised Indian summer sunshine didn't quite deliver the racing certainly did.  All eyes were on Hannah Barnes (MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling) in the elite category and she quickly made her mark with victory in the opening A cat scratch race.  Accustomed to winning, Hannah hadn’t perhaps reckoned on the might of local girl Sarah Connell (Brixton Cycles) & Anna Railton (Team ASL 360) who were both willing and able to rise to the challenge of giant killer. 

It was never going to be an easy task as Anna explains;
As soon as she [Hannah] hit the front on the first race of the day and seemingly with no effort at all put a fair few extra mph into the pace I just knew this entire day was going to be a very painful experience.
As we all know pain equals gain and Anna soon established herself as contender with three second places in the first three events and a win in the Devil, her highlight of the day.  A regular at Herne Hill this summer Anna had been looking forward to the race all year and found a surprising benefit to the women’s only meet too;
I was really gobsmacked how many girls there were racing! It was awesome! It's also nice not to have to avoid sweaty boys on rollers all the time.
Even without dodging men on wheels, the final result came down to the wire with Anna and Sarah tied on 23 points after a shock early elimination from the Devil for Hannah.  However, it was Sarah who would eventually grab the top step of the podium and  a wopping £300 in prize money. Her win in the last race of the day, the individual pursuit guaranteed her the chance to spray champagne over everyone else in an end of season coup.     
In the B cats it was Alexis Barnes of Cardiff Ajax CC (Don’t worry, no relation) who stormed to victory with a win in the Points, 500m TT, Individual Pursuit and Devil.  Only Hannah Cannell was able to put the brakes on her clean sheet when she won the scratch race. 
The remaining Velo Jam podium places were hotly contested with only a point to separate in the end.  Sweeping up most of the second and third places between them and proving that consistency in an omnium is key, Amy Good (VCL) and Emma Towers (Twickenham CC) collected the silver and bronze medals.  It was Amy’s IP, almost 3 seconds faster than Emma’s that gave her the vital two points from the last round to edge ahead of her opponent.  All three now sport a shiny new Lazer Helium helmet so keep a watch out for them whipping by next year.  
Also in the B cats was Jess Morgan, winner of the MuleBar Girls Women only track sessions’ Most Improved Rider award.  Donated by Oakley and selected by Coach Sarah Brook, Jess was a wonderful example of the great things achieved by the team and their promotion of women’s cycling this year.  As Jess explains;
I'm beyond chuffed, I did my first track session at the beginning of August so to be racing in the B's and placing 9th two months later is a testament to the great coaching at the women's sessions. All the technical exercises and race training built up my confidence and taught me how to race safely. Not only that but being able to practice all the different types of race in a friendly, non-competitive environment means you can figure out your strengths and weaknesses in your own time, as well as getting really good strategy tips from the Mule Bar Girls and other coaches.
In a twist of fate, Sarah also picked up an award at the end of the night for Most Aggressive Rider, a pair of Hope Open Pro Wheels worth nearly £1000.  She had her sights set on them from the off and gave a kick start to some determined racing;
Having missed the warm up and very nearly the start of the first race I knew I was going to struggle to be in contention for the omnium but decided early on to have a crack at winning the wheels!
But for Sarah, the real reward came from watching the development of the riders she had coached every week at the track sessions;

I was super excited to see so many of the girls who have come through our track sessions be up and competitive in the B races and my favourite bit of the night was cheering them on. 
It was awesome to get such a lot of girls and to have such a good standard of riding in all categories.
Continuing the theme, the omnium was just as fiercely fought over in the Go Race category where 20 novice women took to the boards in their first track races.  It was quite something to witness the competitive spirit of these riders, many of whom were totally new to sport, and proving organiser Wiesia’s belief that you shouldn’t have to train seven days a week and hire a coach to race and enjoy the experience.    Gemma Marshall was one such rider;
I met so many other great girls who helped me through my first event, explained the racing and put me totally at ease. I'll definitely be back next year, hopefully racing in the next category up, I can safely say I'm hooked now!
Sarah Walsh was the eventual winner, capped off with an impressive ride in the 500m TT which would have placed her 3rd in the B cats. 
As the sun set on Velo Jam, the floodlights completed the spectacle for the invitational mixed Madison and a good excuse to continue the party atmosphere.  The night wasn’t just about serious racing, it was about celebrating women’s cycling.  The beer and wine flowed freely amongst the spectators who were treated to an exciting race won by young pairing Lucy Harper and George Farrell, ones to watch for the future. 
The Ana Nichoola Velo Jam will be back next year so dig out your trusty velo now.  You’ve got 12 months to get ready and we’ll see you there…
Pictures from Huw Williams - check out the rest of them
Elite - Omnium
1                     Sarah Connell (Briston Cycles)                                            23
2                     Anna Railton (Team ASL 360)                                              23
3                     Hannah Barnes (MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling)                   20
4                     Lucy Harper (Welwyn Cycles)                                             10
5                     Jayne Paine (Wildsen Cycles)                                              10
6                     Anna Marie Hughes (Prestige Velo Club)                       6
B Cat - Omnium
1                     Alexis Barnes (Cardiff Ajax CC)                                           24
2                     Amy Good (VCL)                                                                      18
3                     Emma Towers (Twickenham CC)                                       17
4                     Christine Robson                                                                      14
5                     Hannah Cannell                                                                        10
6                     Zoe Lewis (VCL)                                                                        7
Go Race - Omnium
1                     Sarah Walsh                                                                               23
2                     Tanya Griffiths                                                                          16
3                     Gemma Marshall                                                                     10
4                     Charlotte Roberge                                                                   8
5                     Katie Atherton                                                                          6

6                     Fiona Leonard                                                                           6

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Di's Cross Round Up!

Just a quick update, plenty has happened since I joined the Mule Bar Girls. Firstly V was kind enough to send me a package full of lovely Mule Bar and Wildoo gifts. I especially loved my new Lazer helmet and Oakleys, I felt very pro. 

The cross season started early in September. I race and train with Phoebe. Our local league was up and running with 30 women on the start line in Round 1 - record numbers and great to so see so many first time racers. Round 1 was a bumpy but fast dry course, so it was an excellent day for showing off my sparkly new kit, I felt strong, led from the front and managed to take the win. 

Round 2 was at Hilton fields and has a reputation for being a hard and quite technical course. I had tough competition from Adela Carter, and was very happy to take 2nd place. 

Round 3 gave me chance to christen the white mule bar kit with mud, by having a brilliant start followed quickly by a lay on the floor at the first corner, where I showed off my unique skidding ability. However once back on the bike I still managed to take the lead, which helped secure myself 1st in the league with another win. 
After round 3 my main focus was the three Peaks. I have been training for the three Peaks for a while. Phoebe convinced me in the summer it was a good idea we challenged the mountain bike skills we’d worked on over the summer into a cross race. I was quite up for it having done a lot of fell racing and I generally prefer long distance endurance races. The three Peaks morning started with a 5am wake up call. We travelled up to Yorkshire, the atmosphere was good and I was quietly looking forward to it.

So the CX three Peaks – windy that about sums up the day, beautiful sunshine but hellish winds at the top. No seriously it was a very spectacular event, amazing views, great friendly atmosphere and definitely one of the hardest bike races out there. I had no major dramas, I did not quite have the nutrition perfect and suffered a little on the last climb as I lost my bottle coming off Inglborough, but a solid well paced race never the less. I was 5th female overall and 1st first timer. Phoebe’s race wasn’t as straight forward as mine she fractured her elbow, but she’d told me she was going to finish and she did. I was very proud of her, and I would not have won a nice shiny trophy without her.

I’d like to thank all the Mule Bar Girls and our sponsors for making me feel so welcome on their team. My next goals are the Rapha Super Cross and the Midlands Cyclocross Champs.

Di x

The Tail End of The 3 Peaks - Phoebe's race

I have not blogged in a while. My summer has been filled with shifts in the hospital and snatches of sunshine on the bike whenever possible. Before I knew it summer was over and the Cyclocross season had begun. Despite work I had put in a reasonable amount of time on the bike and with our newly developed gym/garage I had started to do some strength work.

Pretty much all of this training and riding was lead by Di. Diane Lee is our newest MBG recruit. Some of you may recognise her from our trip to the Tour Ta Malta and the MBG wiggle 6 duo. Di is a superb triathlete and cyclist. I won't bore you with her list of achievements as there are far to many to mention but what I will say is that if Di puts her mind to an event she will undoubtedly podium. Over the summer Di had encouraged me to do some fell running. Depsite being spanked by runners nearly 3 times my age I thoroughly enjoyed them and Di let me take home her winnings usually in the form of wine and flowers. With all this fell running and off road riding it dawned on me - what race would Di be really bloody good at? The cyclocross 3 peaks.

The 3 Peaks is one of the toughest bike races out there. For those that haven't heard of it, it involves carrying your bike up the three highest peaks in Yorkshire and then clinging on for grim death all the way down the other side - with a bit of road riding in between. It is something I have always fancied having a go at but deep down considered myself far to weedy, weak and slow.

With Di's confidence and support we decided to enter together, with our cross bikes adapted we set off to the race. I will now explain my experience of the race as Di's was rather different.

Sick with nerves I got myself to the start. I had chosen to wear a camelback as it was quite warm and there are various items you have to carry such as a survival bag and a whistle not to mention a large amount of mule bars, gels, jelly babies and my iphone just incase I had a serious accident. I knew this race was going to take me all bloody day.

I lined up with plenty of other friendly nervous looking riders. I rather foolishly put myself near the back for the start which probably isn't the best plan. However my only aim was to finish I had tried not to worry too much about setting a good time as I really had no idea what to expect. For starters I wasn't even sure I could cycle for 5 hours without a cafe stop! The kindly organisers set us off on a rolling road section. I moved my way though the bunch trying not to let the racing excitement take over and blow my legs to pieces in the first few kilometres.

The first climb involves shouldering the bike and crawling whilst holding onto a fence up an extremely steep grassy hill side (or cliff face as it felt). I was quite enjoying this bit chatting to other riders, overtaking people and generally keeping my spirits up. I think at one point I was actually singing to myself. At the top of the hill we were met with gale force cross winds. Struggling to ride or carry the bikes I scrambled over the rocks to dib myself in. All sense of enjoyment was lost at this stage. The descent was long and grassy with lots of hidden obstacles. It was over one of the obstacles that my race took a turn for the worst. As I started to enjoy myself I let the brakes off picking up speed I hit something I have no idea what. I flew over the handlebars bashing myself hard on the head and damaging my right arm. The crash knocked the wind out of me. Rolling over I sensed my arm was badly hurt. As a doctor I tried to instil some common sense but doctors make terrible patients. After 5mins of sitting on the floor getting my breath back I got back on and carried on the bottom. My arm was bleeding a fair bit and I was briefly checked over by the marshals at the bottom. Once on the road I felt slightly better. I pushed on to the next climb. It soon became evident that I couldn't get out of the saddle as my right arm could not support my weight. Once as the top of the second climb that dreaded wind started again and I stopped to help a rider who had been blown off their bike into a stone wall. I started another long descent this time on flagstones, as I dropped off one of the steps I felt a searing pain in my right elbow. So much so that I wobbled off into the soft bog at the side. Choking back the tears I realised I was unable to hold the bars on the rocky surface let alone brake with my right hand. I was back to running again. Scrabbling/trotting as fast as I could I told myself once at the bottom I could throw in the towel.

As soon as I hit the next road section I was able to rest my arm on the tops and get my self together. I decided if I got to Pen Y Gent before the time cut off I would give it go. Just as I made it to the bottom of the third climb I saw Di coming down. Just the sight of a familiar face cheered me up no end. Knowing she was still in the race and smashing it by the looks of things spurred me on. That feeling lasted 5 minutes before the pain in my elbow built up. I had to get off and walk. Concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other I made it to the top knowing that I would have to run most of the way down made me feel physically unwell.

I had made it to the road - 4km to go to the finish - Bloody hell I was going to finish. I realised I was second from last. There was no way I was going to finish last I pushed on dropping the last man behind me. In the distance I could see a tiny figure in bright pink trainers pedalling towards me. Just as she had done as the end of the fell races - Di had come back to get me. Riding along side telling me how proud she was I was still going and how I was nearly there I made it to the finish.

Stiff and sore the next day xrays confirmed a small fracture of my right radial head - elbow basically. Not a serious injury but not something you would want to ride the three peaks with. With exercises, stretches and painkillers I should be back on the bike in no time. Despite a pretty appalling time of 6hours I finished and I have to be proud of that. Di rode an absolute stormer and finished first female first timer with a lovely trophy - I'm sure she will share her own experience.

Photos from Andy Jones and Amy O'Halloran both of whom gave me great encouragement