Well when I woke up yesterday at 6.30am to slashing rain in rural East Yorkshire I could never have predicted the team would get a 2nd and 3rd on the Under 23 National Podium, that is the stuff dreams are made of. Looking down the start list there were, as always, some big names to beat. I knew this race was a big aim of Team mate Penny’s, so naturally after all her hard work for me at the Tour Series, I would do everything in my capability to help her out! Oh and to throw a curve ball into the mix, I had forgot all my cycling shorts. Yes, that’s right! On the morning of the national champs I was waiting for my poor dad and brother, who had got up at the crack of dawn, to make a shorts delivery to the HQ in Ampleforth. In my whole 8 years of cycling this was the first time this has happened…and hopefully the last.
So, to the race! The course was described as ‘rolling’, which personally I think is only applicable if you’re comparing it to the Alps! It was Hilly! 2 big ones, 1 up through the start/finish and one round the back of the course which was where all the decisive moves were going, the most significant move being when the AA drinks ladies rode out of sight after approximately 10 minutes of racing. I say rode out of sight, but I was in a world of pain with my head down so never actually saw this destruction take place, although I definitely knew it was happening! So 5 had gone, but significantly no U23 had escaped, so it was all still to play for! We still had the likes of Nicole Cooke, Catherine Williamson, Emma Trott & Katie Colcolough pushing the pace of the peloton, although it was at around lap 3 or 4 when these riders broke away up the big climb. It was frustrating because me and Penny were almost in this split, we could see them for the rest of the lap! But hanging in no mans land between them and the peloton took its toll and we got swallowed back up after a brutal chase, where the negative racing began! I was gassed, but angry to see those 5 ride away due to lack of chase from the peloton!
So plan B had to come into action for me and penny, as only 1 U23 was up the road, so with 2 podium places still to ride for we needed to ride a clever race. Penny took a gutsy solo dig, where she got out of sight fast up the start/finish hill, this just wasn’t to be for poor Pen, but it did give us confidence that if it came down to a sprint then Penny had a good uphill kick on her! But we wanted to get away, and we knew we could use the big climb to our strengths. So the plan was to sit in until the last lap and go for a ‘Double Do or Die’ attack up the last climb to get us out of the peloton away from rival U23’s such as Hannah Barnes and Corrine Hall. We had recruited the very strong Claire Galloway to come on the attack with us, no threat to our podium but ridiculously strong, she drove us into the bottom of the climb and we just went for it! The 3 of us just drilled it heads down, I was waiting for my legs to give way or the threatening cramp to take hold, but to my surprise my legs actually felt the best they had all race.
I drove it up the second half of the climb and at the top I could see the gap had gone out, the 3 of us were away and we had even caught 2 strong escapees who contributed to the rapid pace we kept for the rest of the lap. Knowing that me and penny were potentially riding ourselves onto the podium just spurred us on until the end! We came into the race arena with a healthy gap, with Claire Galloway deservingly winning the sprint, with Penny a close 2nd in the group and me a not quite as close 3rd. But most importantly 2nd and 3rd on U23 Podium!! Personally, I couldn’t believe it! For me it consolidated my improvements this year and gave me confidence that I’m not just a crit rider but I can drag my sorry ass up hills too!
It was an amazing display of team work to be a part of, when Penny commits, it’s 100% like me, and together this was a winning formula. We were 13th and 14th overall as well, and with (this is an educated guess) 9 of the riders ahead of us being professional or at least full time, this makes me even prouder of our results.
Next for us is Curlew Cup next weekend on my local uni roads of Northumberland and we can go to the race with a bigger team and a whole lot of confidence.
We will keep you posted