Tuesday, 12 July 2011

June/ July update!

Apologies for the unimaginative title, having just had a convo with my housemates about what to call my blog I was told that use of lists of 3/ alliteration is totally uncool. So I couldn’t call it ‘road trips, reheated rice and racing’ or ‘train lines, tan lines and travelling’ even though it would sum up my recent experiences quite nicely!
Anyway, since my last blog… I came back home from a 3 week stint in Belgium in time to race the National road series in Capernwray, Lancashire. I was pretty crippled from my crash, but as soon as I could bend my knee sufficiently and rotate my neck 180 degrees again I was out training, and decided I should race! I really wanted to win at Capernwray because the course really suits me, but it wasn’t to be. I was worried about being boxed in coming up the climb the final time so kicked too early, Dani King tracked my move and passed me in the final few metres. I wasn’t too gutted; after all she is world champion! The race was a bit of a farce; with 5k to go it was neutralised because we got stuck behind a procession of vintage tractors crawling along preventing the lead cars from overtaking!  I got my licence withheld following the race as I was the worst littering offender apparently! So I went home with my tail between my legs!

Then it was back home for a bit then back up north for the millionth time this season! I went up early to Newcastle to start my preparation for the National RR champs, staying with some friends of madre’s from uni. Little did I know that I’d spent 4 days riding the course wrong!!  It was strange to think that this time 3 years ago I was staying in the same neck of the woods for the English Schools track and field champs, how times change! I finished 10th at nationals, whilst I was semi content to bag a top 10 I couldn’t help to feel a bit disappointed not to finish on the U23 podium. I wish I had held my nerve a bit better in the sketchy sprint for 5th/1st U23. But it does go to show the strength in the UK at the moment when not even the Olympic champion Nicole Cooke can win the title. It was a tough race, but the terrain wasn’t challenging enough to split the field more. I enjoyed my time in Geordie land, despite it feeling like I was abroad, not able to understand the local dialect.

So it was back home again for a few days before my next block away in Europe.  I managed to get in a visit to Wimbledon on my rest day; sipping Pimms on centre court in front of Murray, Nadal and Venus Williams was a nice way to relax after nationals. I was then able to knuckle down and get some decent double days of training in before my next race in Czech with the team. 26 hours on the road is never fun. I wouldn’t say the long road trips are a perk of the cycling package. Luckily we didn’t have to do an ‘all nighter’ again in the van. We eventually checked into an Ibis at 2am. This allowed us to get the Tupperware’s out at breakfast the following morning and stock up on supplies for the coming week (something I have become very skilled at!) Eventually we arrived at our luxury 5* accommodation in Varnsdorf. It was really nice of the UCI to put us up in the finest hotel Czech has to offer with Michelin starred chefs. JKs, we checked into our rooms on the 5th floor of a boarding school or rather something that resembled a prison. My personal favourite features of our accommodation were the rickety retro lift, undulations in the floors and best of all, the communal unisex/ curtain less showers. All character building stuff.  One was not amused however, when on day 2 the lift packed up and we were required to trek up 109 stairs to get to our rooms!  Some of my team mates didn’t sleep all week; kept awake listening to a fat mechanic next door snoring his face off. Cath Williamson resorted to sleeping in the van but still heard him from outside!  

The extent of my belly bloat!
The first stage was ok. With nearly 200 riders, maintaining the top 20 throughout was vital, and easier said than done! With a downhill finish it was going to really test my grandma descending and sure enough coming over the brow of the final climb into the finish, riders flew past me. The second stage was the same story - downhill finish with a hairpin at 200m to go! Stage 3 was a shocker, the reasons bringing me nicely onto the delicious food we enjoyed throughout. In hindsight alarm bells should have been ringing when you are served up rice for lunch and the same rice for dinner! Long story short, about 50% of the people staying in the school ended up with food poisoning, some in worse states than others. Unfortunately Miffy and Gaby had been hit the hardest and couldn’t even get out of bed that day so had to abandon the race. The rest of us left for the 20k TT in Poland, leaving at the crack of dawn to be escorted by the police over the Polish border where the stage was taking place. Team morale on the bus was pretty low to say the least, everyone just wanted to just get through it. 20 mins before I was due to start I was still lying fast asleep on the massage table feeling so ill. The TT was a struggle from start to finish, just fighting the bike the whole way. I got very close to shouting a few choice words at Emma Trott and Rene who were following me in the team car, non-stop on the horn! Stage 4 later that day was a case of telling myself to toughen up and block out how rubbish I was feeling. I was just glad to finish, riding on negative calories was not a pleasant experience. That day I had a total of 5 massages, I even had to have a stomach massage to deflate my belly bloat which had made me look like I was expecting twins!

By the end of stage 4 Cath Williamson and myself were the only riders left in the race from For VioRed. Not feeling well did force me to improve my bunch skills and use my granny ring  to spin up climbs instead of my trademark big ring gear grinding, so there were some positives! The final stage went OK; it had the same downhill finish as stage 1. This time I came over the final climb in the top 15, but only got passed by 8 riders on the descent! So glad that it was over! Started to feel more myself again and got my appetite back (there is something seriously wrong with me when I lose that!) I finished the race 29th on GC, would have liked to have been more up there but considering the circumstances it wasn't too bad. The final stage was the only one which we didn’t have to stop for trains at level crossings (which was carnage every time); with riders trying to jump the lights and barriers, couldn't help but wish I’d attacked before the barriers each time!

 A big thank you to everyone that helped with the trip. I am now staying in Belgium for a week with Ella and Gaby Shaw, having a nice chilled out time; catching up on sleep, detoxing  and doing a few kermesses to sharpen up before my next UCI race on Sunday!

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