Skoda UK invited me to take part in the SKODA DSI Cycling Academy at Lee Valley Velopark to see if I had a chance of being part of Storey Racing.
Rolling up to the pringle shaped building that is the Lee Valley Velodrome, the weather was still as grey as when I was last there before the hustle and bustle of the 2012 London Olympics. On a school trip with school, my eagle eyes were out for olympic athletes, but at the time the Olympic Park was still in construction so unfortunately I wasn’t very lucky! We’d gone to the top of the Olympic Tower glad to be inside spotting all the Olympic Buildings.
With the London Olympics having left a big stamp in history, everywhere felt rather quiet when hoards of people would have been there a few years before. Another stark difference being the Skoda branded signs around the main entrance, because I was here for the Skoda Cycling Academy.
A few weeks ago the advert popped up in my feed thanks to Skoda Ambassador, Juliet Elliot, giving it a share. With a spot on Storey Racing being a possibility after the academy, I had no expectation whatsoever on getting a spot on the day at Lee Valley Velopark. After luckily not missing the ‘Congratulations’ email in my Junk inbox (thanks email inbox…this email was certainly NOT junk!), I confirmed my attendance to the day. With the women I race with on a regular basis, I did not feel in any way good enough to take part! Yet here I was, a second trip to London this year, signing on and picking up my number 4 that I would later pin onto my jersey.
I’ve not even been back on my bike that long…how was I going to cope with fitness testing on one?!?
Nerves aside, there was a certain changing room I had to go to as they’d split us up by surname. So I walked into a buzzing changing room with a few of the other girls eagerly getting into their Skoda Le Col jerseys and peeking in the Skoda bags full of goodies, me paying particular attention to one that will become rather useful when out mountain biking!
Jersey numbered up and cycling kit on, we all made our way to the Velodrome. Our bikes were dropped off at a secure container, as the first lot of testing was going to be on Wattbikes. With an introduction from Skoda UK and Dame Sarah Storey, thanks to being number 4 I was one of the first to head over for the 12 minute test! Out of all the tests, I for some reason got it in my head that this was the one I didn’t want to mess up. I wanted to ride consistently for the 12 minutes rather than go off too easy or too hard. When it got tough I took myself back to running down the Mall in April. I think that will also be a memory that sticks with me as motivation when the going gets tough. With injuries, I’d mentally endured those 6 months of Marathon training, so I could get through 12 minutes. I also battled the Welsh hills for 57 miles a week or two previously for Welsh Champs, a lot of it solo, which would have been unthinkable last year. I was getting through this 12 minutes!
Arms on the TT bars, my head kept bobbing up to see the Wattbike screen, battling to keep my average power over 200 Watts. I knew it was possible, I just needed to dig deep to get there. My eyes were closed. Sweat dripping off me from quite early on. Even breathing felt like it wasn’t helping with the air being so dry.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1…STOP.
I looked up to the Wattbike screen and there was an average power of over 200. Possibly 207 Watts? My head was such a mess I can’t really remember ha!
I’d done it. The adrenaline started pumping as a result after doing what I’d set out to. Week by week I’m gaining confidence in my mental ability to push myself on the bike. Running round London in 4 hours has benefitted me more than I thought!
There was a quick chat to Cycling Podcast about cycling, whilst trying to get my breathe back, I was talking at a million mph, so I’m surprised any of it made sense. With all the questions, it made me realise just how much I’ve accomplished in cycling now. From the events I’ve organised to racing downhill, to now standing in an Olympic Velodrome with so many amazing women.
So yea, to the Cycling Podcast, I hope even just a small amount of what I said made some sort of sense. I enjoyed chatting to you!
It was a good while before the next lot of testing, as they had 40 women to get through the 12 minute test. Then it was a 3 minute test followed by a 6 second peak power test. After some time chatting to the other women, who hopefully I’ll be able to organise some rides with soon, I was called up for the next lot of testing. For any of the riders reading this and want to come on a ride, just drop me a line! There were so many amazing cyclists there, I really hope we can all stay in touch.
I didn’t feel like the 3 minute test and 6 second peak power test went as well as the first test, but I still gave it my all. Most of it come from not knocking that resistance level up high enough. Never mind, I still gave it my all!
Then the fun really kicked up a notch with 2 flying laps round the crit circuit outside. It was windy. It was chucking it down with rain. And I still had deep section carbon rims on my bike from racing at Darley Moor the day before, I was looking forward to the carnage that would unfold on this one…ha! If there was even a time to rely on skills I learnt from mountain biking…it would be now!
Kitted up with bikes and helmets, we had two sighting laps around the circuit from which we got wet and muddy rather quickly! Regardless the circuit was ace. Lots of ascents, descents and tight corners. I’m hoping I can go back in the future and see if there’s a race on there! See how close I can get that knee to the floor Moto GP style…ha!
I can’t say I was particularly graceful on my way round with how I was throwing my bike left to right on the sections I could sprint. I nearly decked it twice, including an up hill corner where I just kept drifting to the outside of the corner making my way to the finish straight. It was a relief when I got to the finish line without hitting the floor!
Ryan laughed at the huge grin on my face when the inevitable adrenaline came back. I was soaking wet, but grinning from ear to ear. With events I do in the future, I’m certainly considering throwing some timed flying laps in there if funding allows! It’s a great way to give riders nervous about racing a taste of what it’s like, but give more experienced riders a chance to go flat out against the clock.
Glad about the chance to change out of our soggy (slightly smelly…) cycling kit, I could get warm and grab a good cup of tea. I’d avoided caffeine all day due to having no idea how my body would respond to this sort of fitness testing. You can’t not have a cup of tea in London I guess.
With closing messages from Skoda UK and Dame Sarah Storey, we obviously finished with a group photo!
Now I’m looking back on the day, I just wanted to thank everyone for making it so memorable. I’ve never been around so many female cyclists at once, it was ace! Without Ryan I wouldn’t have been able to make it down there in the first place. Meeting Dame Sarah Storey and Storey Racing rider, Chanel Mason, was amazing. They were so encouraging, albeit a little intimidating when they’re looking over your shoulder watching the numbers you’re throwing out on the Wattbike!
One of Skoda UK’s sales managers, Alan, also needs a big thank you for giving me a lift back home, cutting Ryan’s journey back to work by over half!
I hope I can stay in touch with all the amazing female cyclists I met and regardless of whether I go onto the next stage or not, I’ve got an even stronger focus on collecting BC points to get my 3rd Cat license. Road racing gives me such a buzz, I can’t wait to get the next one booked.