Having spent the first half of the summer training with the other Team Pursuit girls in Manchester, the last week of July was the U23 Europeans. Being too old for this now, this was a great opportunity for me to head out to Belgium for some racing! The timing was also perfect coinciding with the finish of the Tour just in time for the Post Tour Crits!
My first race on Tuesday was a post Tour crit in Holland at a place called Stiphout. I had never done this race before so wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the course but I was keen to get on with my first race of the week! The race was 33 laps of a circuit just under 2km, with plenty of corners made even more technical by the drizzle making the surface very slippery! A big bunch of girls took to that start and the pace was fast from the gun. There were a few crashes and girls coming out the back so the first few laps were a bit crazy before the bunch got whittled down. I got more comfortable as the race went on and got myself up the front but didn’t have much to give and ended up finishing in the bunch in 24th place. It’s fair to say this race was a shock to the system but I loved being back racing again!
My next race was Herentals post Tour crit on Thursday. It was 20 laps of a 2km circuit so overall a bit shorter than Tuesday’s race but about half of the circuit is cobbled which makes things interesting! Luckily the sun was out this afternoon so all the corners could be taken fast! The race was fast from the gun again with an attack going straight away. I got myself involved in all this attacking and before long there were only about 20 in the bunch. Then one lap as I came onto the cobbles I heard the dreaded sound of a tyre going down and soon realised it was my front wheel! Luckily in crits you are allowed a lap out but as I made my way to the pits, my helper with my spare wheels was nowhere to be seen! Starting to panic as the bunch would be coming round soon I took another front wheel that was in the pits and put it in my bike just in time for the bunch coming round! I got straight back in the race and continued attacking and making the race hard but this was to no avail as the race finished in a bunch sprint and I came 11th. I was disappointed not to have made the podium but really pleased my legs felt a lot better than they had on Tuesday and it wasn’t such a shock to the system this time!! I later found out the wheel I had taken was my team mate’s wheel so that was ok.
My last 2 races of the week were in another country again – this time Germany! On Saturday was a crit in the town centre of Bochum and on Sunday was the UCI 1.1 race Sparkassen Giro. This racing was up another level again with plenty of pro teams including some of the best girls in the World. And riding for our team was the multiple World Champion Hanka Kupfernagel! My job was to keep myself up the front and cover early moves. This meant I ended up in a break early on with Helen Wyman and when this got caught Hanka attacked and spent a number of laps away with 1 other rider. After Hanka got brought back it was my job to do some work on the front of the bunch to chase another rider who was away and then later I had another attack on my own on one of the climbs. This one didn’t last long but it set up Hanka well to counter. In the end of the race Hanka was away in a small group and finished 4th which was a great result. The whole team rode really well and helped contribute to this excellent result and it was great to be a part of that!
I am back in the UK now for a couple of weeks of training and some local races before returning to Belgium for another week of racing later this month. This is all about Team Pursuit preparation for me so hopefully I will have some good form going into the winter track season!