Having missed the last couple of races for one reason or another I was ready and raring to go for this one; my dad came along to cheer me on, and my mum came too (first time she's seen me race!). We arrived nice and early so there was plenty of time for a practise lap and with leeway for doing bit multiple times (to find the best line) or fixing any mechanical issues. But everything went pretty smoothly - there was one tricky off camber section which I walked last year, I attempted to ride this on my practise lap but didn't quite get it.
So I had just over half an hour to kill before the race began, thankfully the sun was shining (although there was a nice breeze so it wasn't to hot!), so I chilled out and chatted to various racers.
Then it was time to race, having had a big bottleneck at the start last year they opted to send us off in 3 groups (ladies last) and get us to do a small circuit before we entered the tight stuff. I got off to a much better start than I have done previously and for the first bit of the lap I think I was 3rd or 4th.
Unfortunately my flat pedals (although confidence inspiring on the tricky sections) meant that I couldn't get as much speed as I'd have liked through the first rough section (it was really quite bumpy!) but I managed to stay at the back of the fast group as we headed into the first section of singletrack. I was just starting to plan my overtakes for the next (short) open section but my plans were thwarted by one of the grand vets who got stuck on the sharp slope out of the woods as I was just behind him. I was still behind him in the next bit of singletrack, but knew I could get past and make up some time in the field. He decided to walk the off camber section but somehow still lost control of his bike which then knocked me down, so I did my best to run up the hill and back into the open.
The group had quite a lead on me now but they were still in sight, so I pushed for the next lap and a half but just couldn't catch them. Then the leading men started coming through, I did my best to jump out of the way but without losing too much time. I kept pushing on, as much as I could until the final lap, my legs were shouting at me but I did my best to keep up with the men for as long as I could when I was lapped, just to try and get some more speed. I thought I might just catch up some of the ladies but unfortunately, having cleared the off camber section one of the lapping men thought pushing me onto the back and off the track was OK so I had no choice but to stop, and then run up the top of the hill. There was no one to catch but I still finished with a sprint.
9th postion on the night which (unofficially) puts me 8th out of 21 ladies overall so although there is room for improvement I'm happy with that! Highlight of the evening was definitely clearing that off camber section to cheers from the "crowd" (about 5 people, although they did know my name!), whilst some of the men couldn't do it, made me feel like a pro!
The "Recovery" Ride - Why I don't stick to training plans
With the sun shining this morning I thought a recovery ride was probably a good idea, the plan was a steady 20 miles just to give the legs a spin. It started off well, the first 5 miles were nice and steady and I was feeling good. But then I got carried away!
I ended up doing 30 miles at a not too shabby pace, including various intervals and hill sprints! Why did I do that you may ask? Because I enjoy riding my bike; I race because its fun, getting good results is an added bonus. So although I go out with the best intentions if my legs and my head are feeling good then I was want to make the most of it, and thats what I did. With the Tour starting today perhaps is was fitting that I was thinking of those riders when I was sprinting to reach the top of a hill, or seeing what speed I could achieve on the flat (although definitely couldn't ride as fast as they do, or for as long!).
Definitely an enjoyable ride though, one of the best I've had on the road bike for ages! I expect there'll be a few more like that to come in the next few weeks!
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So maybe instead of sunbathing this weekend you should see how much fun you can have on a bike!