Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Into the Cross season

It's now well into the season, and nearly all the MBG’s have been doing a bit of Cyclocross with V and Lou doing the London Leagues and Emily, Phoebe and myself doing the National Series and our local league races. So far things are going really well, with the super support form MBG-Sigma Sport I was able to target the National series as my main events this year.
I am currently lying 5th overall in the series with 3 rounds left to go.  Last weekend was the inter championship at Hardwick hall seriously muddy but a great course for me. I had a really strong race holding 3rd place until I had a major mechanical that left me running a good chunk of the course. I managed to hold onto 5th place. I haven’t raced in quite so many of my local races due to the Nationals but the participants in the women’s field at Notts and Derby is continually growing, which is great to see.
Over the Xmas period I am going to do some international events in Belgium to gain some more experience and try to improve my technical skills before the Nationals Championship. I think the thing I enjoy most about cross is that every race is so different with such differing condition it makes it such an exciting sport.
I am really looking forward to the Milton Keynes Nationals as I’m sure the atmosphere will be buzzing after the World Cup. Once cross finishes I’m straight into the tri season with my first race being in Portugal - my training will change significantly, changes by increasing my mileage and regaining my running and swimming fitness.
I am excited about a busy few months ahead.

Di xxx

Monday, 25 August 2014

Euro Trip Challenge: Week One: The Plan, The Views, The Crash

I am writing this from a Cafe in Chamonix. it’s the start of my second week into my Euro Trip Challenge and many things have happened and plans have changed on a daily basis.

The initial plan was to live out of my havebike van,  touring the mountains in Europe and undertaking 4 mountain bike races in 4 weeks. I was given the opportunity to make it into a video diary for The Cycle Show and thus, the concept became a reality.

As with most things I do there was no plan, even less of a plan than even I was comfortable with. I left my house on Saturday morning with the van packed and still no clue as to where I was heading!

First though, I decided to sneak a race in in Brighton, the famous Brighton Big Dog. All my teamies the MuleBar Girls-Sigma Sport were racing and I got an on-the-day entry to do a Onederdog lap, which is a one-lap race that you can start whenever you want. It’s more of a fun category but I was grateful simply to get a ride!

It was an awesome day out, the girls were on form and loving it and totally dominated the podiums, I was so proud to be wearing my team kit and part of the day with them! I still don’t know the time I got but I tried really, really, really hard to the extent that I could taste blood and my lungs were on fire! It felt so good to be back putting that sort of effort into riding, I am not fit enough to be going particularly fast even when I try that hard but there is nothing like a race to force you to push your body to it’s limits and I loved the feeling….

At night time of course I was peer pressured into staying and partying and was offered a floor to sleep on at race organisers Rory and Sabrine’s house.

On Sunday I took myself to a cafe to book a ferry and have a look at the footage and audio I got from the race. It’s quite a big deal to me to be trying to self-film and record, it’s fiddly, takes organisation and commitment throughout the day and with the support of Rebecca and V I felt like I was happy with what I had got.

I booked a ferry for that evening, got stuck in traffic on the M20 and made it on with 5 minutes to spare. I was just thinking “Is this seriously what my whole trip is gonna be like?!” because, to be honest, that’s what my whole life tends to be like…

On the ferry I set about filing the footage I had got from the race...only to discover it had disappeared!!! I was devastated, my Go-Pro was refusing to work too. I drove a few hours south from the ferry and set up camp in a lay by and as the rain pelted my tent I really felt a lonely feeling of “what the hell am I doing?!”

The next morning I made my way down to Chamonix, unable to use sat nav in the van because the lighter plug doesn’t work I had to get on wifi in service stations and memorise the motorways and big town names to head for. Eventually I arrived and hooked up with Nina, a girl I had met at my first and only proper race this year. I had contacted her on Saturday to ask if she wanted to ride with me….and it’s still the best decision I have made this trip!!

I was made super welcome in her boyfriends little flat, where they pulled out a bed for me and took me in as if we’d known each other forever. Together we talked about my plan and it started to come together. I knew I had to get to Eurobike in Germany at one point and I contacted a few race organisers that I had come across thanks to a facebook shout-out and as I waited for the replies we could then just concentrate on some local riding.

Riding. That’s what I came out for after all.

I got my Go-Pro fixed at Epic TV in Chamonix and took a ski lift up Brevent with Nina and Spencer to check out the riding on their door step.

From here, it’s really best to look at the pictures on facebook as the words can’t describe the variety and enormity of the riding I have done in the last few days. Chamonix, Le Tour in Switzerland, Pila in Italy and Tignes/Val D’Isere in France. There have been times that my little London brain has felt fit to explode with the views and the magnitude of the mountains, to get to the top and then let loose ride, ride and skitter down the rocks and paths to the bottom is truly an incredible, incredible thing to do.

It has been taking me a while to get back into the flow after a long time off of my mountain bike in the UK, but each run I felt more confident and relaxed.

The thing that has really fucked my brain up is the cliff edges. Here it seems to be normal to find tracks away from the main Bike Parks and off the beaten track and no-one seems to bat an eyelid at the mountain drops along the side of the path, shrugging it off with a simple “yeah, you just can’t commit to riding at 100% when you are here as the consequence is too high”
But somehow riding at 90% seems totally fine!!!

After a few days in Chamonix and no positive response for a race for the first weekend, Nina decided to join me and show me around Val D’Isere and Tigne and it appears that I have picked up a little riding and travelling buddy for the next week or so. It’s AWESOME!!!

We had some good days riding, we started with a black run and then moved on to blues and reds. Bit of a backwards decision, but decision making does not seem to be the strong point of this trip!

At one point we came across a big ladder drop, about 2 metres high. Higher than any drop I have ever done before. After looking at it for a long time Nina decided to go for it, her analysis being that it looked fine from the top and she had done bigger drops before. I was unsure, but trusted her judgement and took to the camera to film her.

I was inspired and impressed that she went for it but without having seen someone do it ahead of us she hit it with too much speed and landed miles down the landing. She held on but the speed and rutted landing was too tricky to maintain and she hit the floor a second or two later with a big bruise developing immediately.

I was then even more unsure and after some more deliberating decided not to do it, we had the last ski lift to catch anyway. Which we made with less than 2 minutes to spare!

I went to bed that night feeling really annoyed with myself. I think I have a really strange brain and all I thought about that night was doing the drop. It was annoying me because I felt the only thing holding me back was will power, not ability. I was absolutely determined to do it.

So the next day we went to it first thing because it was far away and we needed to make sure we were able to ge the ski lift back, which meant i couldn’t practice on smaller ones first. I was feeling scared but steely determined. Thanks to her crash and general “meh” mood Nina wasn’t up for it again so I couldn’t just copy her (which is a favourite of mine when it comes to new things!)

On the run in my brain said something like this “No, yes, no….oh fuck, yes…”

And then everything slowed down, I heard Nina telling me it was perfect, but I knew it wasn’t, I was dropping the front end and I knew I was gonna crash.

The thing that saved me  (aside from my Lazer Helmet) I think was the fact that I am good at relaxing when I crash on an MTB, I rolled pretty far and hard, smashing my helmet and goggles on the way. I sat up and Nina got to me and I was pretty scared as I knew I’d hit my head pretty hard, I was shaking and I wanted to get to the bottom of the mountain straight away in case I started passing out and before the pain kicked in. Nina convinced me to stay still for a bit. I dunno, both choices have their pros and cons, if I had been more badly injured I didn’t want to be stuck in the woods with nobody around. As it was, I was OK, just really, really sore.

I managed the three hour drive back with some singing along to the radio to boot and now it’s time to go and have my bike checked over. I’m hoping it’s A. able to be sorted fast B. Not extortionately expensive.

The best thing of all? it was all caught on camera! Go check it out here:

The next stage of my trip starts tomorrow as i head north with Nina to Switzerland and then Germany, with my next race booked in back in France this weekend. Fingers crossed the plan continues to (sort of) stay together…..

Monday, 21 July 2014

A Day in the Lakes .

Well after Texas 70.3 triathlon, I decided to race a little closer to home and enter an half iron distance race in the Lake District - a 1.9k swim 90k bike 20k run. This was the complete opposite end of the spectrum to Texas. The hilly, off road run and pretty god dam brutal. The swim started in Ullswater, a beautiful setting and a great opportunity for me to start the race well. I was the first lady out of the water and 2nd overall behind the lead male, I didn’t really get the lead I was hoping for with two ladies about 1mins behind me, but still a good solid start and on to the bike. It seemed to take me a while to settle into the bike, probably because I started out at the very front of the race and felt that loads of people were overtaking me, however I wasn’t really it was just the top end male riders that were trying to establish their positions in the field. Around 12miles into the ride we hit the first major climb Kirkstone Pass, here I settled into my zone catching a few men up the climb and getting into the feel of the race. The descents were fast and really enjoyable except for the odd sheep getting in the way. The bike route was on some fast country roads with spectacular scenery anyone riding over there I would definitely recommend the route for a general ride the route can be found on the website and map my ride
I came off the ride with a 7minute lead on the other ladies, which really pleased me. Now it was to the run, it was a fell run with two fells reaching 1500m I knew it was going to be tough but I do enjoy off road running and decided maybe the steepness might help me. At the top everyone was walking / crawling I just kept telling myself to keep going I kept reminding myself I was fine at least it wasn’t the 3 peaks, I didn’t have to carry my bike. Keeping positive at 8mile I was still leading and carefully descending as fast as I could. However downhill running doesn’t come to me as naturally as others. People were catching me, the real fell runners were flying it was amazing to watch they literally fall in style, however I was struggling to keep pace. I was over taken by a lady that literally jumped over me, she was amazing and there is no other way of bigging this up, she just left me for dead. All I could do was push on hard and maintain 2nd place, which I did. I was pleased with 2nd and every credit to the winner Jenny Latham she put an exceptional run in.  I felt I raced a well-paced consistent race with no major problems. I loved wearing the new kit from Wildoo, I decided to wear my jersey on the bike over my blueseventy trisuit as it gets pretty chilly on the tops in the lakes, also my new lazer helmet was great for my support team to spot. The custom colours are great, especially with the Oakley Radars. So now I am going to take a little bit of recovery time then before we know it the cross season will be upon us.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

An update from Dr Sneds

I have been having a superb summer so far. Following on from the mule bar girls training camp I have been riding and training at home in the peak district. I'm not particularly that excited by road racing so I am more than happy to support the other girls whilst they slog themselves round various courses. I particularly enjoyed acting as DS at the Stoke Tour series. It gives me such a warm fuzzy feeling to see the girls gelling so well together as a team and suffering together (especially whilst I sip coffee and cheer from the safety of the roadside). This year I have had a bit of a break from the trials and tribulations of being a full time doctor and have been working part time in A&E. This has allowed me the flexibility to plan an adventure and catch up on the all the events and excitement I had missed out on the past two years when I was working nearly every weekend. This summer I wanted to do something different with my bike and I decided I would try touring. Charge bikes very kindly helped Chris and I get our touring bikes set up ( the super sturdy Plug 5). We looked at a map of the world and decided where we would like to go. We ended up choosing Vietnam and Cambodia. Without much of a clue about what cycle touring would involve - I packed my bikinis in to my panniers and boarded a plane to Ho Chi Minh city, South Vietnam. From there Chris and I pedalled our way across the Mekong delta exploring rural villages, waterways and floating markets.Surviving mainly on noodles in broth with floating mystery meat and mini bananas. Thankfully this part of Vietnam is pan flat we barely needed to change gear all day. It was dammed hot and it soon became to the norm to stop every hour or so for a cold drink and take in the scenery. On reaching the coast (following a few days of sunburn,mild heat stroke and dicing with death with the motos), we boarded a boat to Phu Quoc island and spent a few days relaxing on the beach. After a sunset proposal on the beach and celebrations we then returned to mainland engaged and headed across the border into Cambodia. I absolutely loved Cambodia the people are so friendly, the food is fantastic and the scenery spectacular. we spent a great deal of time learning about their fairly recent genocide and civil war, the country has a tragic pasr but now seems to be thriving. Following a week of risking our necks on various dusty dirt roads we made it to Angkor Wat home to the world's largest religious site (the temples where tomb raider was filmed). It was here in the town of Siem Reap we finished our trip enjoying endless happy hour cocktails and 30p beers with a number of gap year students who had finally "found themselves, got a tattoo (terrible) and discovered Buddhism" This was our final destination before flying home and it made an unforgettable end to our trip.

Aline Coaching  - they can coach the uncoachable
Arriving home it was back to work in A&E, like I had never left and back to getting some speed in the legs. This past 12 months I have suffered a couple of nasty crashes one on the road and one breaking my elbow in the 3 peaks. Following these my nerve on the bike off road seemed to be suffering. As many of you will know in mountain biking it is particularly hard to ride with your boyfriend who is far superior and who continues to shout totally unhelpful things like "let the brakes off" until you consider whether or not you have the physical strength to strangle them using a bike chain. I spent quite a few frustrated weeks contemplating what the problem was. When skiing I'm not scared and when I want to improve I have a lesson with an instructor - so why not have a session with someone whom I won't be tempted to murder. I was browsing twitter one day when a tweet came up stating places available for mtb skills in Sheffield - I looked into it, called them up and spoke to John of Aline coaching John completely understood what I was talking about. I've had a couple of session with John who previously coached out in Whistler and helps out some of the top DH and enduro riders and it has worked wonders. John breaks things down, fixes the bad habits and constantly encourages (rather than criticise). I am so grateful for him helping me get my mojo back on the mountain bike. Hopefully Chris and I can now ride together without a hint of a murder or nuclear meltdown. I would urge any of you out there wanting to improve on the MTB but not quite sure how to do to check him out. You couldn't find a nicer more supportive chap.

Last Sunday I took part in the Eroica Britannia - this was a British version of the Italian Eroica on the Peak district's very own Strada Bianca or as we call it disused railway lines. The event is ridden on vintage bikes (pre1987) and in vintage kit. My dad has been building up to this event for the past 18 months and for it to take place on our very own home roads was the cherry on the cake. Thee vent could not have been better. This is the first year they have run it in the UK. The weather was glorious the free festival in Bakewell was a huge success and the ride - well I'm not sure I can put into words the joy of riding around the peak district on my vintage Mercian with 2000 other enthusiasts, the feed stops included free Pimms, beer and sparkling wine. I am already preparing myself for next year.

As we've passed the summer solstice my attention has turned to preparing for the cross season which always comes round faster than I expect and my bikes are usually still in bits. I have to go back to work full time in August so I'm trying to squeeze every last moment out of my spare time in June and July to ride my bike. Working in medicine makes you realise how short and cruel life can be and why it is paramount to enjoy as much of it as you can doing the things you enjoy with the people you love.

PS for those people that keep asking - no I will not be riding the cyclocross 3 peaks this year - I promised myself if I crawled to the finish last year I would never make myself do it again. I'm sticking to that promise. However I will be there to cheer on the rest of the riders probably with my running trainers on instead.
For those of you excited by the prospect of a wet and muddy winter filled with cross racing check these teasers out

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

It's been a while...

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to write a blog.  V will no doubt be cursing me in her sleep but I am finally sat in a comfy chair with a cup of tea ready to pen a little about the past couple of months.  It’s been a hectic one, with a lot of racing, a lot of driving, a lot of recovering and generally a lot of hanging about with the team eating a lot of MuleBars.

May and June were down to be the busiest months I think I have ever had on my bike.  It makes my brain ache to think that far back but the start of May saw the Bedford 3 Day, a gloriously sunny affair where a good TT and a well-timed breakaway placed me in 3rd on GC going in to the final stage.  Sadly a badly timed loss of concentration and even worse tactics lost me a few vital seconds on that very stage and I slipped back into 6th.  At every race you learn and with my head held bowed low I learnt a lot at that one.

For all that the sun was out for the first bank holiday, May’s second one returned to form and it was cold and rainy.  Torrential rain in fact, and we were camping.  In prep for the National Championships I trekked over to Wales for the Tour of Carmarthenshire.  A race that was hard last year stepped up a notch this time around; 70miles of climbs and undulating roads finishing at the top of the Black Mountain.  It was tough going but a fantastic race as always with teeth gritted on the 10km climb to the end. 

It was actually pretty refreshing to see Commissairres in this race committed to ensuring riders race safely by removing those who repeatedly broke the highway-code from the peleton.  Unfortunately, riding on the wrong side of the road is a familiar sight in women’s races which is not only dangerous but also unfair for those who keep to the rules of the road and are disadvantaged as a result.  

Although the annoyance for anyone who was asked to leave and return to HQ was clear the racing was safe and the problem quickly became self-policing.  It would be nice to see this happen elsewhere.  We are often told off for racing on the wrong side of the road but as there are never any consequences for those who do the problem persists.  I’m certain I’m not alone in my worry that one day it will not end well when a peleton extending across the width of the road goes round a blind bend.

Back to May and it was also the start of the eagerly anticipated Tour Series.  Last year I learnt to love crits and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in again.  I’d been training harder and focussing on the series so was keen to get racing.  That is until I woke up in the morning of the first round in Stoke with a sore throat.  My boyfriend had brought me home a nice little present from his training camp in Mallorca – a cold (and I bottle of wine I should add but he proceeded to drink that himself.  I didn’t get so much as a quaff of it!).  I felt pretty ropey so was super pleased to finish in 4th place, missing out on the podium in a sprint for the line from our chase group of 5.

By the next round in Peterborough I’d spend a couple of days on the sofa and a couple more persuading myself that I was well again and everything would be fine at the race.  A blocked up nose and not able to breathe you say?  Just a little sniff I say.  I limped home scraping into the top 20 after dangling off the back the whole race but still in 4th place overall.

Next up was Edinburgh (with the trip to Wales in a wet tent sandwiched in between) a road trip of epic proportions for a 40 minute crit race.  It was worth it though, the race was fantastic.  The course was brutal with a cobbled climb that went from a drag to a steep kick that seemed to go on forever and the crowds were brilliant.  Being in a group with Eileen Roe, Claire Thomas and Charlie Joiner; all Scots, meant they got the cheers but it amused me every time to hear constant shouts of ‘Come on Eileen’.  The party sounds of Dexy’s Midnight Runners whirled round in my head for days.  I placed 7th in the cobbled sprint from the chase group. 

Then over to Redditch.  I did not enjoy this race.  This is totally unlike me as usually I have something to smile about even if I’m not happy with the result.  We nearly had a car crash on the way there after a lorry’s load became lose and flew straight in our direction, only a quick reaction to avoid the huge metal plate looming down on us saved our bacon.  Then my wheel was broken so I had to use the spare except it had a 10-speed cassette on it, cue frantic changeover in the pits which resulted in me dropping it all.  Finally I fell off the rollers in the warm up.  It was a little damp and a chap asked me if I found it difficult in the wet to ride them.  To which I replied that it simply required a little care and attention and then promptly stacked it.  Suffice to say the race went no better than the build-up.

That weekend it was on to the London Nocturne, one of my favourite races in the calendar.  A twighlight crit in my home town with huge crowds and a fabulous atmosphere.  I was really looking forward to it not least because I had a number of demons to put to bed after Redditch.  I had a good starting position and was in the top 10 coming out of the first corner, everything was looking up, except that it wasn’t actually.  I did not feel myself at all.  In a matter of minutes I had dropped back at least 20 riders and was hanging just to hold onto the wheel.  After a few laps my back started killing me.  

In 2011 I slipped a disc in my back while I was racing in Germany and low and behold, it had gone again.  It was radiating pain all across my lower back and down my legs.  It was all I could do not to stop every time I went past the pits.  It was the National Masters Road Race Championships the following day where I was hoping to defend my title and I had no choice but to miss them.  I knew this injury and I knew a few hours was not going to fix it.

A hastily booked trip to the GP & chiropractor on Monday confirmed my fears that my disc had indeed gone again.  Not only is it painful but the gel that bulges out of the disc presses onto the nerve of my right leg.  This prevents signals being sent to it which means a big loss in strength in that leg.  Over the previous few weeks I had been feeling that something wasn’t quite right and I was missing the edge I’d had in previous years.  I was worried I had overtrained but didn’t feel burnt out and in fact it had been really stressing me out.  I am usually an attacking rider but didn’t have the extra zing to do it.  This explained it all.  It was no wonder I didn’t feel as competitive when I only had one leg at full strength, my right one was very noticeably weak.  It was no wonder I felt so bad at Redditch.

Sadly this means I’ve had to step away from my bike for a few weeks.  Not an easy thing to do.  Not least as it meant I missed the last round of the Tour Series in Woking when I was sitting in 4th place overall and Woking was worth double points but also as I’d have to miss the National TT & RR championships that I’d been training all year for.  Gutted does not describe it.

I’m lucky to have fantastic support from my chiropractor Nick Metcalfe at The Chiropractic Clinic in New Malden who is doing everything he can to get me back on two wheels as soon as possible and it’s working.  It’s already improved loads quicker than in 2011 and I’m itching to get back on the bike.  In the meantime it’s been a case of finding other things to keep fit and distract myself.  I’ve dusted off my goggles and started swimming again and spent the weekend at the beach walking, sea swimming and canoeing.  Things I never get the chance to do usually.  Meanwhile my Cannondale is waiting patiently for the day when we can head out again, it won’t come too soon!

Natalie x

Friday, 23 May 2014

Midweek win for Adel

With only 7 girls signing on for the local midweek race we were set off amongst the 85 3/4 category racers. Now normally I'm the first to be keen to race in with the men but this year I have found the fear and have the jitters bunch racing so the prospect didn't fill me with enthusiasm.

I decided the front was where I needed to be and actually settled pretty quickly only slipping back through the bunch once which was enough to ensure I didn't do it again! Having said that really there were a few 'hold your lines' and 'whoa's' but with an ave speed of over 25mph the racing was relatively safe and controlled.

At this point I would just like to say, when someone asks you to hold your line it's because you are veering in a sporadic manner and causing a ripple of sporadic veering behind you but actually not going anywhere, when I then move through the bunch into spaces that have appeared, taking a moment for a quick check over my shoulder to ensure I'm not about to take anyone with me, its not necessary for you to aggressively repeat my previous comment although it did give me a mid race chuckle :-)

There were, I believe, 3 ladies left in the bunch in the final stages of the race and my nerves got the better of me. I hadn't seen much of the girls during the race so I wasn't sure who was still around, but coming through the chicane to the finish line the bunch got pretty twitchy and I moved myself into the wind and out of it, sure enough a few came down taking youngster and daughter of the race organiser Ruby with them. I know Ruby has a decent sprint on her and seems to getting stronger each year so I am pleased to come away with a win on the night but no one likes a race to finish up this way.

Best healing wishes to all involved but I think it was just surface wounds.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A humbling experience

It's safe to say that I was really nervous about my first race, the French National Gravity Enduro Series. But not for the reasons I should have been.

I have been riding more than I have for years and actually had time to think about entering a race season that had lots of races in it. I know I am a pretty decent rider, but I have never been fit enough, nor had the logistical time nor headspace to put it to the test and see where I stood in the real world of racing. The only races I did for the last couple of years I was doing for a TV shoot or I was ill or I was late. So it was pretty cool to arrive in France on the correct day, with the correct bike and definition in my calf muscles!

The reason I think I'm a pretty good rider is because whenever I ride with other girls who do race, I can keep up (unless it's Manon, obvs!) and, you know, you see pictures and videos of what other people are doing and I am confident I can do them too. People tell me I'm good too, so I let it go to my head. I can get down stuff, sometimes I need to suss it out and think about it and analyse it, I often follow someone into something first too, but, well, I am pretty ballsy and a whole lifetime spent on two wheels has given me the confidence to go for gnarly shit.

And, I LOVE racing! I love, love, love it!!! I wish I did it more. So yeah, I was feeling pretty confident, and that made me nervous, having something to prove.

Here is what actually happened.

I sucked.

I have done a few downhill races and done pretty well at the Megavalanche, I went on a 4-day training camp at a rocky DH place in Spain, but I have never, ever experienced ANYTHING as bonkers as the Blausasc Enduro. I know I exaggerate stuff to make things funny, but I tend to downplay big things (oh so British) so please, if you are reading this, understand that I am not exaggerating. I was, and still am, completely shell shocked.


After a half hour ride/push up to the top of a small mountain in the scorching heat I stood at the top with the other girls (after trying my French on one girl who used to be an Opare and another who's hobbies included VTT and les Sports en general, before realising that they all spoke pretty damn good English and were super friendly. Some weren't even French!) I admired the view and padded up for the first timed downhill section. Around 6 mins after my start I crossed a river at the finish line thinking "Wow! That was rocky and steep as hell! Some of those rocky switchbacks I'd probably not normally have done without looking first if it wasn't a race. Thank God I only crashed twice"

I was then a bit sick and got left behind and had to race up the hill on my own to stage two.


Was up a MASSIVE mountain. An hour and fifteen minutes later my legs were screaming and if "Sweat is Fat Crying" is true, my fat was positively in mourning. The view would have been stunning from right up there, if my eyes weren't burning. And BOOM! Off I went. Only this time, the trail was even crazier!! I got knocked off by a cactus and flew off a blind drop that, yeah, OK, was only 2 foot, but, I mean, I'd never do a drop blind. It was bonkers. There were also loads of cyclo-cross style climbing that meant trying to sprint up steep, dusty banks whilst pushing your bike. It was around 8 mins long. It had taken AN HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES to get to the top ffs!! At the bottom of my run I bumped into my bro Deke, who was just heading up the mountain, his eyes were like saucers "this is freaking bonkers, I crashed three times already!"
( this is a video of someone getting knocked off by the same cactus: )


...Was after a lunch break. Lunch appeared after an hour long road climb, up hair pin bends, Tour de France style. On a full suss. We had around half an hour to scoff our faces before heading another 45 mins of climbing to the top of stage three. Feeling like I was starting to get the hang of the place I let loose at the top, over the rocks and swooping down and up these swoopy sections. But then halfway down there was a ravine to the side of the path. I mean, what the hell?! I felt fear pass through my body like a heatwave, starting in my legs, into my gut, up my arms and finally settling in my head, turning everything to jelly on the way. I don't do well at heights generally, but when I spoke to my brother Philip after, who also said he spent pretty much the whole section with one foot unclipped, I knew I was being reasonable. It is NOT reasonable to race a bike next to a ravine. Nope. That is just unreasonable. It's bonkers. I can feel the taste of wet fear back in my mouth just thinking about it now, sat at my computer in South London.

I got caught up by my twenty second girl too and that was upsetting (not to say that I made her pass on the ravine side of me, obvs!)


The good thing about doing a race blind is that you have no idea where the top of the next stage is. Ignorance is bliss. What kept me going was thinking that I was nearly there the whole time, for an hour and a half of brutal climbing. My new friend Nina and I spent the last twenty minutes pissing and moaning about how dumbass all this climbing was and only made it to our start with about ten mins to spare, pad up and go.

I got off to a flying start, getting in some extra cheeky pedal turns here and there, feeling a bit of confidence now that there was no opportunity to fall off a cliff. Then suddenly, it was like, just so crazy steep and rocky with drops to flat on 90 degree turns it blew my mind. I crashed, couldn't get back on as it was so steep, pulled over to let my twenty second girl pass again and carried my bike down a section. This makes me die to think about. I am not that person who carries my bike down stuff!! It's just too embarrassing! As I turned one corner the girl who had just passed me was stood on her bike facing me. It was really confusing. I think we were all just completely out of control.

The final section was steep as hell and in reality pretty fun, some of the switchbacks were so steep you could have probably put your hand out and patted the head of the person on the one below. I wasn't relaxed though, I just didn't know what was coming and was more relieved than anything to ride down the village steps through an alleyway and onto the finish line.

I finished day one in 10th place out of 13. I don't know what that means. Who are these girls? I dunno, I didn't understand the presenter when he called out their names and told us about them. Are they good? Should I be disappointed? I guess I just need to get real.

That was some crazy ass riding. To do it is a big deal. To do well at it, well, I guess I am just not there yet.

So it was with the attitude of taking this opportunity for experience and training, and start to just enjoy the really cool company of the other girls and to race up and down some seriously mountainy mountains that I entered day two.


My buddy Nina was one place behind me and I hoped to keep that and maybe, possibly, creep in on the girl in front. My other new friend Sandra was ahead of me which meant we got to ride the transitions together a bit. My legs were already tired from the day before and stopping only meant that starting again made it even harder. Having seen something once is enough to really, seriously give you confidence and I flew down stage one. I tapped my foot down a couple of times, but no crashes and I finished with a massive grin on my face.
But then I was sick again, the medics came and helped out a bit and Sandra stayed with me despite the fact that she then had to steam up to stage two and was battling for a podium spot. I really appreciate that. Girls really do seem to stick together in Enduro, it's lovely.

After that I was wiped, the hardcore-ness of it all anyway, combined with being sick, just drained me down to nothing. I crawled up to the top of stage two at my own pace, on my own, and missed my start time. They let me in, presumably with a penalty, but I had nothing left, I was wobbly and all over the place, you know, even on the easy bits. I completed the run and started the hour long climb back to lunch, still alone. As I came into the paddock Sandra and Nina were already heading out for stage three. I knew I was finished. I had kind of known earlier, but that sealed the deal. I needed to eat, so would miss my next start and for me, it was Game Over.


The French seriously know how to give you your money's worth. The race entry was 50 euros and we got fed and watered and a full two days of times racing, closed roads, spread all over several mountains. The local council get involved and love showing off by feeding you. For the slight extra money spent on getting to France I think the value for money is amazing.

I want to do more!! I want to improve. But everything is booked up! What can I do? Suggestions please!

I need to ride more. Get faster and faster. I really wanna improve. That stuff is FUN. If you're not terrified, I bet it's even funner.

I loved it hated it loved it. Hated it....Loved it. I dunno. But I wanna do more. So I guess I loved it.


Saturday, 3 May 2014

Bedford 3-Day 2014 - Stage

Today was the team’s first race in a full set of new kit. It’s a similar design to last year, but a lot better and we love it!! Thanks Wildoo ☺ 

Stage 1 was a relatively short 55km road race and we were very lucky with the weather. Last year the weather was horrible and started raining as soon as we lined up for the start. We rolled out a bit early with some confusion in the neutralized zone as we had left riders behind.  One girl had to sprint from race HQ to catch the bunch as we left 5 mins early.  Perhaps not such a bad thing to get the legs warned up but ‘neutralised’ was a heady 23mph and 18mph up the rise! We were all well positioned up the front of the bunch; after the crash on lap 1 last year we were a bit wiser to the course and knew what to look out for.

Epic Scott and Pearl Izumi Sports Tours had a strong through-and-off going at the front of the bunch, trying to keep the pace high and thin out the bunch a bit. Laps 2 and 3 were the sprint laps and Louise did really well and won one of them after coming off Clem’s wheel when she went a bit early and placed 3rd in the other, putting her joint leader in the sprints competition. We were very lucky to have Abbie Dentus guesting for us again and she finished with a really strong sprint, to come 5th, after being held up by a crash on the last corner!! It’s her 17th birthday today so we definitely think she deserves some cake after that ☺ 

Thanks to Sigma Sport for lending us the very swish team car, Natalie had a big smile on her face as she drove in to race HQ ☺

At Mulebar Girl, we take our recovery very seriously and as soon as the race had ended, the foam rollers were out…

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Race Report: Cheshire Classic

Natalie takes a look back at today's Cheshire Classic...

I'm writing this on a very small screen on my phone in a very packed van being driven by Clem. You'll have to excuse the typos as I pause to scream at her about her driving. We all have tired legs so tried to rig up a system where Clem would man the steering wheel with her feet up and I would lie at her feet operating the accelerator and brake but decided it was probably safer if I sat by her side and penned this instead :)

Today saw the iconic Cheshire Classic Road Race. Round 2 of the National Series. Lengthened this year to 12 laps of the cliff. 92k of windy yet sunny racing. If you've never seen the cliff it's pretty darn steep and pretty darn sharp. Riders were grinding to a halt left righ and centre. It's great! Organiser Andy Wood has done a fantastic job with the race bringing in phenomenal prize money. With a very strong line up and all that cash up for grabs the pace was bound to be a killer from the start.

Race prep had gone well last night with Lou making use of the restaurant's 2 meals for £10 offer by having both meals to herself. Sigma Sport had kitted us out with some amazing wheels, Mavic Cosmic Carbones, little beauties that they are and a perfect addition to our Cannondale SuperSix, or should I say SuperSexy. I was very glad to have them when the first few laps went off like a rocket. All eyes were on Laura Trott (WiggleHonda) and it looked like her sister Emma (Boels Dolmans) was doing a lot of work on the front for her. A dangeous looking break nipped off the front of Sarah Storey & Katie Archibald (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Intertional) and Hannah Walker (Scott Epic) and I was pretty surprised when after a lap they were reeled back in.

Credit: Andy Mitchell
My brain is a bit addled with hard work and one too many MuleBar Cafe Cortado caffeine gels so it's hard to remember exactly what happened when. As Lou has just so eloquently put, you know you're knackered when you're eating a porridge pot made with cold water and using your fingers as a utensil!  She assures me it doesn't taste that bad! It's always going to taste better than an air freshener. That might sound strange but believe it or not yesterday on the way up we overtook a man on the M6 who was eating his Jelly Belly one. Weird. We even had to slow done in the fast lane to make sure that was really what we saw.

Credit: Andy Mitchell

I had a few digs off the front. I wasn't feeling great on the climb so with the fast pace all through the course I used the stretch up the duel carriage way to attack. The draggy gradient into the wind was suiting me much more. With about 3 laps to go when the eventual winner Katie Archibald and break away companion Hayley Jones were already up the road but still within sight I made a big attack and got a reasonable gap and felt like I was gaining on them. I had a Matrix Fitness Vulpine on my wheel who very frustratingly wouldn't come through. We were equidistant between the break and the bunch but without sharing the work there only so much I could do and eventually the bunch brought us back in.

I should mention the moment when I was being swallowed up by the bunch after one of my digs off the front and Penny Rowson kindly gave me a shove to get me back up to speed. This would have been marvellous except she shoved me straight into Alice Barnes' back wheel. A few doddery moments later I and everyone else was thankfully still upright. Molly Weaver exclaiming afterwards 'We're all going down!'

I really enjoyed the race, it was fast, attacking and the riding was good. Sadly I didn't have it when it mattered, the last time over that white line. Race finishes from a bunch is something I am not great at and this season changing that is a priority. I had a great position about 500 metres out from the last corner but found myself there too early. As ever I always learn a lot from a race and Clem was highest finisher from the team placing 13th in a fast, hard race. Bring on Bedford I say. Katie Archibald showed her might as a World Champion. Chapeau to her for being in a fair few breaks. Overheard in the changing room 'That girl is a monster!'

Right, so it looks like my assistance as co driver is needed. We've stopped at the M6 toll booths and Clem is struggling with clutch control. Thanks to her, Lou, Adel and Emily for being such great team mates another race and road trip of flipping hard cycling and lots of smiles and laughs.

Link to results and British Cycling race report here

Natalie xx