I returned to Manchester at the end of August following a successful racing block in Belgium ready to begin track training in preparation for the winter track season. After 4 weeks of hard training it was time to put the track legs to the test for the first time in competition at the National Track Championships!
There were strong fields entered for all the women’s races over the week. First up for me was the 500 meter time trial on Wednesday. This is a sprint event but would be a good test of my speed as part of my preparation for Team Pursuit. I did a time of 36.3s, which was 0.6s quicker than my personal best and also good enough for 5th overall! I was really pleased with my time and it was a great activation effort for the Individual Pursuit the next day.
Having not ridden an Individual Pursuit for over 2 and a half years (not since I got 4th at the World Championships in 2009) I was unsure about what time to expect. I decided not to over think it, go out fast and see how long I could hang on! To my surprise I finished with a time of 3:30.4s, 4.6s faster than my previous personal best! I then had to wait for 3 more heats to see if my time would be beaten and if I would make the gold medal ride off. The rest of the girls continued to post very good times but my time remained the fastest, with my nearest competitor half a second slower. This meant I had made the gold medal ride off in the evening!
I felt good going into the second ride and was confident I had another good ride in me. I geared up, having felt a little undergeared in qualifying, and started fast again, keen to get in the lead of the race as soon as possible. My coach was giving me feedback for the second half of the ride so I knew I was in the lead but didn’t know how much by. I raced all the way to the line to finish with almost exactly the same time again (3:30.4) and won by nearly 3 seconds!
I was over the moon to take my first senior National title! I also learned my time was the fastest time the British Nationals have ever been won in! With the Individual Pursuit no longer in the Olympic Games the Team Pursuit is my priority but my times show how much my fitness has improved and I am confident I am back to my old self after all the bad luck/illness/injuries of last year.
The next race for me was the Points race the following evening. I hadn’t ridden my bunch bike since breaking my elbow last winter so was a little nervous but keen to use my good form and go on the attack! About a third of the way through the race I went on the attack and gained a lap on the field. 4 other riders also gained a lap and coming into the last sprint I was in bronze medal position. The gold and silver were out of reach but 4th and 5th placed riders very close so I knew I had to win the last sprint to ensure the bronze medal. I managed this (see the video of the last sprint here) and took the bronze medal, which I was really pleased with in an event I don’t usually ride.
My final race of the week was the Team Pursuit, my favourite event and the event I am aiming for in London. I was riding with my Horizon Fitness Prendas Ciclismo team mates Dani King and Sarah Storey. With varying degrees of tiredness we rode a controlled qualification ride to post a time of 3:25.2, knowing we had plenty more in the tank. We were 18s faster than the 2nd placed team so were looking forward to a catch in the final! We geared up and went out fast with the aim of catching the other team as soon as possible. We caught them before half distance, having ridden at quicker than World Record pace!
It was terrific to win my second National Title of the week and it’s always great to win with my team mates. All the girls are going well so we have got an exciting winter of racing ahead of us as we prepare for the Olympics!