2016 and future plans

2016 and future plans

As the season comes to an end, I feel that now is a perfect opporutnity to round-up my 2016 season and thank all of those who have helped me.

As a first year junior, I was eager to see what the season would hold for me. I felt better-prepared than ever; I had just returned from our team training camp in Limoux with my new team, Matrix Fitness p/b Corley Cycles. My first race of the year was a Dames Elite Kermis in Belgium, Koksijde to be precise. I was slightly skeptical as I hadn’t raced since October, so went into it with no expectations. After that race, I remembered exactly why I loved racing in Belgium so much. It was a step forwards in the right direction and my season was truly underway after a great weekend away racing in Belgium.

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A few weeks later I returned to Flanders in the colours of VeloSport to race in the Junior Gent-Wevelgem. It’s not even an exaggeration to say it was the windiest race I’ve ever done. It was fantastic to race against girls from across Europe, and was so different to anything else I’ve ever done. Junior women-only races didn’t exist in the UK until this year. I was lucky enough to be able to race in the first ever one, organised by Bourne Wheelers. As a female junior, this was such a special event and will be remembered by all of us for a long time- thank you so much for organising it.

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Throughout the year I competed in a real mish-mash of races; the early season ones were on tough and endruing courses, then crit season came along. I was learning new things at the rate of knots over the spring, and thoroughly enjoyed races like Tour of the Reservoir and Lincoln GP. Despite making silly mistakes here and there, I felt like I was getting better after each and every race. I was utterly gutted at the London Nocturne when my rear mech decided to compltetely pack-up- I had Di2 so couldn’t do much about it! However, racing rarely goes to plan, and I just had to accept my fate that day.

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Exams came along and I took a step back from racing- my A Levels are very important to me as I’d like to study Languages at University, so they were my principal focus. Once they were out of the way, it was straight back into racing. One of the highlights of July for me was the Rutland Cicle Classic, where I raced in the inaugural women’s event. It was such an amazing course and nothing like any other event on the British Road calendar.

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After college had finished for the year, I headed out to Belgium for my Kermis Block (there’s a whole blog post about it!)  It gave me a lot of independence and made me realise I want to race there more next year.

After that, I ended my season and had a couple of weeks away from regular training. Now, I am getting back to it and going out on those lovely long winter miles!

So, I have a huge list of people to thank for this whirlwind year on the bike.

Firstly, Stef Wyman. Thank you so much for inviting me onto the team and giving me the opportunity to race with you. This year has been truly unforgettable and has given me so many opportunities for next season. I could not have asked for a better team around me and feel so incredibly lucky to have had the chance to be part of this family of cyclists.

Secondly, my incredible teammates, notably Harriet Owen, Alice Cobb, Amira Mellor and Corinne Hall, all of whom I raced with this season. We’ve developed friendships to last a lifetime and supported one another throughout the year. I had the best time with you in Limoux and couldn’t have wished for greater company at races.

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Our amazing mechanic Caroline has played an enormous role this year. Being at nearly all of my races, you’ve been an absolute star. I was so well looked-after and had everything I could’ve possibly asked for. Additionally, thank you for being such a good friend through it all. It’s been a roller coaster of a year and you’ve been brilliant for the whole thing.

Thank you to everyone who looked after us whilst we were abroad: Chris Georgas, our host in Limoux; James Spragg and Margriet Kloppenburg who hosted me and Baz in Belgium; the Languedoc Roussillon team that we trained with in France. The list of people we met and helped us really is endless, but thanks to them we’ve had a brilliant season racing overseas.

Our sponsors this year have been brilliant- we loved our Trek bikes and our Milltag kit that made us look really smart. Furthermore, thanks to USN for our fantastic nutrition and to Bailey for our team campervan- it was great! Cyclefit Manchester was a perfect location for our team launch and they tweeked our positions to make sure that we were both comfy and fast. Additionally, Corley Cycles were amazing in turning around our bikes so fast after they were delivered so that they could come to Limoux with us.

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There are so many more people that deserve recognition for everything that they’ve done for us. Without them, our season wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful as it was!

I am happy to announce that I’ll be racing for Isorex Ladies Team in Belgium next year. I’m excited to race abroad even more and gain more experience, as well as a few results along the way! And as far as a UK team is concerned, well, watch this space.

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Belgian Kermis Block

Belgian Kermis Block

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The Paterberg

A few weeks ago I wrote my latest blog post prior to my trip to Belgium. I got home yesterday morning, so decided to let you know what I got up to whilst I was away!

I am currently a first year junior, so I can do either junior and youth combined races (Dames Jeugd) , or the women’s races (Dames Elite) as long as there are no junior races on the same day. I did mixture of events as I wanted to get in as much racing as possible and challenge myself.

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Racing in Bambrugge- photo by Kevin Buyssens

I had decided to go and race in Belgium as it’s so different to the UK and offers some really exciting opporutnities to race with UCI teams like Topsport Vlaanderen and Rabo-Liv.  It seemed like everyone else from around the world decided to race in Belgium throughout August too; at a race in Heusden on Saturday, 70 of the 130 starters were from outside of Belgium. We had riders from the UK, Germany, Austria, Lithuania, Denmark, The Netherlands, Canada and Italy to name a few.

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Kapellen Criterium- photo by Paul Hinnick

Throughout my trip I encountered a wide range of new and different experience; from taking myself to a race by train for the first time, to racing in one of the largest pelotons that I’ve ever been in outside of the Jeugdtour Assen. I now feel a lot more independent and have already started planning trips with friends for next year!

The racing was really tough, but that was to be expected. Most racing has finished everywhere else now, so everyone turns there attention to doing as many Kermises as possible. However, because we’re nearing the end of the season, I started to feel very drained and tired, so decided to miss two races in order to feel more motivated and fresher for my kermises last weekend. This worked out to be a good decision, as I really enjoyed my final race on Sunday due to its varying course. In total I did 7 races; 2 Dames Jeugd and 5 Dames Elite.

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Warming up for the race in Roeselare- photo by Julien De Bock

Away from the racing, I went and explored the local countryside around Oudenaarde, and rode up three of the Ronde van Vlaanderen’s most famous climbs; Koppenberg, Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont. I was joined by my friend Lauren and her Dad on their way home for Assen- none of us expected the Koppenberg to be as tough as it was! My team mate Harriet and I had our fair share of rubbish weather whilst riding along the Schelde, but all in all enjoyed our rides.

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We still managed a smile even after all three climbs!

My time away was so much fun and something a bit different to my usual trips during the summer holidays. On Saturday I will be competing in the National 10 Mile TT Championships, and on Sunday I’m at the Sudbury CC Road Race, which is also our Eastern Region Championships.

 

 

Days 1 and 2 in Belgium

Days 1 and 2 in Belgium

On Friday I had my first race of my block here in Belgium. It was an Elite Women’s race in Bambrugge (Erpe-Mere,) with around 90 of us on the startline. It was slightly hectic as we went from a wide main road to a sharp bend, where the road halved in size. It went hard and fast from the gun; there was constant fighting for positions as there was a tight techincal section at the end of the lap, making it punchy with constant sprinting out of corners. On the second lap there was a crash out of one of the bends on a slight uphill, causing the group to split. Many had already been dropped due to the high speed of the race, and I ended up in a chasing group of around 15. It took a while but everyone eventually started working togehter and we were closing the gap between us and the small group in front. We were given a bell with one lap to go for our group; several people tried to go off the front of our group but were brought back. I led the group round the final bend into the finishing straight, and had a good sprint with a very close finish.

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Yesterday was a Dames Jeugd race in Roeselare. This was my first ever race supporting myself- as I can’t (but am learning to) drive, I got the train over and rode to the sign on. Again, there were a lot of riders with a variety of different nationalities represented, so it was a strong field. Unfortunately, as we started the heavens opened; the corners were like ice, and people kept slamming their brakes on. Despite the care being taken around these slippery bends, there was still around 5 crashes, so there was constant chasing to get back on to the main group. I tried my best to keep moving up, but there were even crashes at the front of the peloton. I stayed in until about a lap to go when I just had absolutely nothing left.

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All in all, I’m fairly happy with the start I’ve made to my racing block here. I’ve been feeling strong and confident, and love riding my bike in Belgium. My next race is a crit in Kapellen on Tuesday, then Oostkamp on Friday. I had a great easy ride today where I stumbled across some cobbles and the local carboot fair!

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Pre-Belgian race block ponderings

Pre-Belgian race block ponderings

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Lucy Harper and I tackling the Manor Farm Segment at the inaugral Women’s Cicle Classic

Sitting on my sofa half an hour before I start heading off for three weeks in Belgium, I decided to give you a run-down of what 2016 has had in store for me thus far.

I’m a first year junior, which means I’ve had to juggle a lot so far this year. I sat my AS level exams in May and June, so with the newfound rush of freedom I decided I was going to spend half my summer holiday in my favourite place: Belgium. A few weeks ago I realised that this time last year I was zipping across the channel most weekends to race there, yet this year I’ve raced there only three times. Therefore, I wanted to get back to Belgium and get as much cycling under my belt as much as possible.

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The smiliest team you’ll ever see!

I’m incredibly lucky to be supported by my team Matrix Fitness p/b Corley Cycles, as they have great links with other riders in Belgium, so I have somewhere to stay for three weeks! I’ll be doing a mixture of junior and women’s elite races there to make sure I make the most of my stay.

Looking back on what has been a rather packed season so far, I can say I’m happy with where I am at the moment. I’ve had a lot of new experiences in my first year of racing as a Junior, which I feel has made me become more prepared for each and every race. Although I haven’t got amazing results, I’ve had a lot  performances that I’m really proud of. I’ve learnt over the course of the year that as a development rider, results aren’t everything, and achieving your targets is what really matters.

We’ve had the first ever Junior Women’s Road Races this year, with loads of riders competing and some really fun racing. Last week’s OVB RR was a good race for me as I didn’t make loads of unworthwhile attacks and carried out my plan exactly how I wanted; I still felt really fresh on the last lap so decided to try a counter-attack. Unfortunately this didn’t work, so I recovered as much as possilbe before the sprint.

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All smiles at the start of the OVB Junior Women’s RR- Photo by Huw Williams

Over the course of the season I’ve learnt not to be scared of trying new things to see whether they’ll work for me or not. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m slightly bigger than a lot of cyclists simply because of my height, so I needed to find a way of climbing that suited me. For ages I climbed out of the saddle for the majority of hills, but I realised that I was going into the red too much by doing this. I decided to put an easier inner-ring on my bike, so that I can remain seated- it has made such a big difference! One of the major things I had to get to grips with was feeding during races. Youth races were too short to worry about gels and bottle changes, so I had to suss-out what would be best for me during races. It took a couple of months for me to get completely used to, but I’ve found having a mix of energy drink and water, dates and gels is my best race fuel.

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Bradley making sure I stayed hydrated at last weekend’s race- photo by Marie Law

I’ll aim to give you regular updates of my racing in Belgium, as well as what I’m up to when I’m not on the bike! It promises to be a fantastic opportunity, and I hope to spend a lot more time there in my year off after I have finished my A-Levels.

 

More people than you may think support Women’s Cycling

More people than you may think support Women’s Cycling

Today, Peter Kennaugh made a very bold claim about women’s cycling. This seems to be a very common trend at the moment- most people commenting tend to regret what they said, too! Funny how he deleted his comments later. Here are the following tweets that have made me a very angry lady:

How come he gets to be the judge of whether people know about it or not? Has he asked around? Was there a survey? And if so; why wasn’t I asked? The point is, don’t make claims you know absolutely nothing about, in order to prevent offending people. He later said “apologies to anyone I’ve offended;” well wait- why did you become a keyboard warrior if you’re going to back down and delete your tweets? I think it’s because he realised what an enormous group of fans and riders he enraged and let down.

Up until today, I really rated Kennaugh as a rider. Not that my opinion matters in the broad spectrum of things, but I feel quite heartbroken and let down by him. He’s an inspiration to many, young and old. Moreover, the top male riders forget what an enormous influence they have over the world of cycling. They have a lot of media coverage in comparison to the women, which means their voices and opinions are heard. Kids want to be like them, yet they’re being told that women’s racing isn’t something that matters as much as men’s- and in some cases, they’ll continue to hold this opinion.

But looking beyond all this, we have a serious problem. It’s become engrained in people’s minds that men’s racing is more popular and more widely talked about, and the women’s sport is just an afterthought. For example, lots of men’s races have women’s supporting races too. In some cases, it seems like these races only go ahead so that the organisers aren’t seen as sexist; they need a women’s race just to say that they’re promoting equality and doing the right thing. At high profile events, it’s common for the support events to be significantly shorter than the main race. I think any form of women’s racing is awesome, as obviously I do races like this and I cannot thank the organisers enough for all their work they put in. Women’s cycling has come such a long way thanks to people like this. However, if equality was something etched into the minds of the public years ago, it’d be totally normal for women’s races to take place alongside men’s with equal social media coverage and in some cases, television coverage too. Furthermore, in an ideal world both races would get equal viewing figures and participation numbers; this is what we’re working towards.

Unfortunately, this isn’t happening- yet. From a young age, girls and boys are taught that yes, we can all do sport if we want. However, more little boys aspire to be football stars than girls, and more little girls want to be pop stars or celebs than boys (in my experience growing up.) It seems to be part of people’s nature that boys do sport, and girls go and do something else. This has dramatically improved in recent years, and women’s cycling has grown exponentially. However, as male riders grow up, it seems like they’re the centre of attention for several reasons: 1) more boys race bikes than girls at the moment; 2) men’s racing is mostly faster than that of the women’s, therefore deemed ‘better’ (what a load of rubbish); 3) they receive more money and more TV coverage when they turn pro. And honestly, you can’t blame them for being 100% focused on mens cycling, as currently better-paid and regarded as more popular than the women’s sport by a lot of people, sadly. However, some of the top male riders support women’s racing, which is amazing, as they can provide it with so much extra publicity.

However, women’s racing doesn’t need help from the men’s desperately- it’s doing pretty well on its own. The Womens Tour is going to be bigger and better than ever this year, the Tour de Yorkshire is providing a huge prize fund, and many Belgian races are now available to stream live online. Everything is going forward in the right direction, and I have never been prouder to say that I am a female cyclist for a team that has and will continue to support women’s cycling all the way.

The naivety of Kennaugh has given women’s cycling yet more publicity, in addition to the news that’s come spilling out of BC recently. If you haven’t ever been to watch a women’s bike race, just go and watch one! As the support grows, so will the sport. I am not saying I dislike men’s racing; I love watching it just as much as the women’s racing, as in my eyes, sport has no gender. I love cycling of any sort- however, what I do not appreciate is the sport star attitude adopted by some riders, who seem to pity women’s cycling and think they have complete control over its future. Well, you don’t. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean there aren’t thousands of people around the world that appreciate it.

Training Days

Training Days

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We’re now into the road racing season, which seems to come around sooner every year. With various winter series races scattered round the country, the spring classics starting and the recent Track World Champs, it’s not surprising more and more women want to pick up a bike and get riding. I have been lucky enough to meet some of these keen-to-race ladies over the past few weeks and get them on the right track towards their cycling goals. This is something I hold very close to my heart as my cycling journey started at a Fan-backed Women’s Cycling session instigated by my current team, Matrix Fitness, and coach Huw Williams.

The first of the two sessions I went to was the London Women’s Racing training day on Feb 27th. A staggering 100 ladies came along to learn technical, tactical and physical aspects of training and racing. We went through various drills, like moving through a bunch, chain gang riding and cornering. The difference the session made was brilliant- everyone was exuding confidence and had beaming smiles at the end! Spending the day with women from all over the Capital was so interesting; from learning about why they first picked up a bit to how they fit in their training into a busy working schedule, it was fabulous to hear everyone’s stories. There was a great feeling of community and I felt so lucky to help this group of ladies- you were all amazing!

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The next training session was held at Redbrige Cycling Centre, on Sunday 6th March for the Women’s Eastern Racing League. I helped at two of these sessions last year, so I knew a fun day was going to be had! The day had a similar structure to the week before, as both sessions were led by Huw Williams- the coach who first got me into road racing! Nevertheless, it was different as there were fewer riders, so I found it easier to get involved in the exercises such as cornering- it was really good practice! By the end of the day, everyone was riding well in a tightly-packed bunch around some really technical parts of the circuit. I had a really fun day with Ellie Cadzow and Caroline Stewart, who also helped out/ coached. Hopefully our joint experience was useful!

These two sessions made me feel really proud to be part of an ever-growing sport. Although not everyone will go on to race and be competitive, all the expert riders and coaches felt happy knowing a group of 140 women went home feeling slightly more confident than they did before. If that means they go on to race, that’s great- if they don’t, hopefully they’ll enjoy riding their bikes that little bit more. Women’s Cycling is such an awesome thing to be a part of, so I encourage anyone to go and watch a women’s bike race soon!

Dave Hayward’s photo for LDN women’s racing: https://instagram.com/p/BCZ3nkPyY2W/
Make sure you follow them on Instagram!

Ipswich Road Race 2016

Ipswich Road Race 2016

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Sunday was my first ever open road race in the UK, organised by Ipswich Bicycle Club. It was also the first round of the Women’s Eastern Racing League this year.

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The race started off at a good speed with various attacks, all to be brought back again by the group; my positioning was good as I was close to the front, so I could close down any breaks. However, I made sure I didn’t do all the chasing as this was going to be the longest race I’d ever done- 90km roughly. This is quite a big step-up for junior riders, I believe, as it’s tough going from an hour of crit racing as Youth As to nearly three hours of racing on a rolling course. Fortunately, racing in Belgium last year helped me prepare for similar durations and intensities. There was great communication in the group and the work was shared out well- the first few laps were really enjoyable and productive for me.

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After roughly 2.5 laps of racing, the decisive attack went; the group became strung out quickly, and people were going off the front to try and close it down. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t quite make it, along with many others who ended up coming back to the main group. The lead rider Sophie Coleman (Drops Cycling) and chasing group were moving fast, and created a gap very quickly.

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For the remainder of the race, various attacks went, few successful but contributed to an exciting race. Unfortunately through my own misjudgement of not drinking enough, I suffered cramp which affected my sprint at the end. However, I was pleased with the race for several reasons: I helped animate the bunch, I was moving up well and I felt strong and confident throughout the duration of the event.

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I’m pleased with how my first open RR went, and am excited to guest for Team Footon Velosport at the Junior UCI Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday.

All photos by Steve Rush.