Unlikely Friendships

Unlikely FRIENDSHIPS

I feel like we hear a lot from the pro peloton on what racing is like, but for amateurs like you and me (I don’t think any pro’s read my blog!) racing might pan out a little differently…

What happens in the amateur peloton? And by amateur I by no means degrade the girls in any way. The girls I race with are strong and certainly know how to play the game.

One of the weirdest things to get your head around in the peloton is the unlikely friendships you’ll make on your way round. Cycling racing as an amateur can be quite tough. You see girls on the tv working together, but when it comes to our races, you’ll probably find yourself on your own. 

I often feel that’s probably one of the most intimidating things about cycling racing. The big question of ‘what if I don’t know anyone there?’. Turning up at the racing HQ and not having a clue what your suppose to do or where to go. 

Do I warm up?

Where do I sign on?

Those sorts of questions.

You can go through all of the pre-race drama and not speak to a sole, yet after the start line you can find yourself making unlikely friendships with riders you’ve never even spoken to before. 

This is exactly where I found myself going up the Nant y Garth in Welsh Champs. Two of us had dropped off the back and the rider I was with was having trouble with her gears. Regardless, we worked until we caught another rider who had also fallen foul to a stacked field pushing hard from the off. 

My minimal knowledge of peloton tactics when it comes to working with other riders meant I didn’t feel much use. Being such a small rider meant I wasn’t much of a block in the head wind either. I wanted to be useful…but just wasn’t! Either way, I was incredibly thankful to not be riding on my own from the off. 

Despite not knowing the people you find yourself working with, you somehow manage to work together and push each other on. It wasn’t completely flawless (mainly my fault and not being that strong) but we worked together for a while.

Then there’s other races where I’ve bridged across to the lead rider where she ended up taking thewin. 

So I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t be surprised if you find yourself working with people you’ve never even met. You’re in the race together, so you may as well make the most of it. The craziest thing? You might not even speak to them again, but you helped each other get to the finish line.

Have you got any interesting storied from the peloton?

Tactical Numpty or Bad Luck?

The past two weekends have seen me racing, which I’ve not done anywhere near enough of this year. The first weekend was Welsh Road Champs, but in hindsight I should have tried the TT instead. This weekend was a crit race at Darley Moor Motor Circuit.

I probably should have written about Welsh Champs sooner, but I come away from it slightly embarrassed if I’m honest. I went down with Ryan the day before as he was doing the TT too. Around the HQ I was surrounded by girls much stronger than me and I started to wonder what I was letting myself in for. Some might not be staying around for the road race the following day, but I still felt I was in a little too deep.

Phil Bulkeley Photograhpy

I entered Welsh Road Champs thinking we’d be going round the course on our own. Getting to the start line I found out we were starting with the Veteran men. Needless to say I got dropped 5 miles in…

But I still can’t work out if it was bad luck or me just being a tactical numpty.

Had I just sat behind the wrong people, or was I just not fit enough to be in the race?

When the race convoy passed and a number of women dropped off the back of the field, I couldn’t work out if the race convoy passing meant we weren’t in the race anymore.

I ended up riding round on my own for a lap at a pace I don’t think I’ve ever ridden at before. I wasn’t sure if I could still get to the finish line and place, or if once passed by the broom wagon that was it.

Long story short, I bailed after one lap as I still didn’t have a clue if I was suppose to still be on the course or not. So I finished with a big fat DNF.

When I went to Welsh Champs to at least finish, that was a bit gutting.

To get me out of my grump, Ryan found a race at Darley Moor Motor Circuit. 16 laps in a field of 20 women.

Something I didn’t do for Welsh Champs was warm up, so I made sure to chuck the turbo in the car for Darley Moor. I may have only loosened my legs for 10 minutes, but it definitely made a difference.

My headphones and turbo just get me in the right mindset for racing.

Whatever race I go to now, I need to make sure I’m armed with my turbo to warm up. I could use rollers…but I definitely haven’t mastered them yet! Maybe I should work on that over winter!

The field was strong whilst we were on the track and I was just hoping I could stay on the back of the group!

A far cry from what I ended up doing at Pimbo a few weeks ago ha!

After getting too carried away in the corners and seeing how far I could lean my bike over, we were soon on the finish straight in a bunch sprint.

I still don’t know what position I finished, but I finished…which was an improvement on Welsh Champs.

I even finished the weekend with a loop I made up as I went along, which ended up being a hilly ride to start with, then levelled out a bit. I felt weirdly good on the bike.

How have you got over races you’ve performed badly at?

#GirlsAtMarshTracks – What You Need To Know

If you’ve been following me on social media you’ll know the next event I’m organising is #GirlsAtMarahTracks. A day of crit racing for women at the North Wales’ closed cycling circuit, Marsh Tracks in Rhyl.

I’ve not been road racing (or road cycling!) long, but it’s clear to see that women’s road races are hard to come by, which can be understandable when they’re not always the easiest of races to fill to make them viable to run. But I’m taking the jump and doing a full day of women’s racing anyway!

For anyone new to road or crit racing, what does this all mean?!?

First off…Criterium Racing,

More commonly known as ‘crit racing’, this is essentially closed circuit racing, whether that be on closed roads or closed circuit. You race for a certain amount of time, then so many laps after that. For example, the 4th Category race is racing for 40 minutes plus 5 laps. So as soon as you reach 40 minutes you know you’ve got 5 laps left! You’ll know you’ve got to the 40 minute mark as a board will appear at the finish line counting down from 5 until the last lap is indicated by a bell!

But what do all the race categories mean?

I’m not going to lie, the race categories alone can be enough to put you off giving racing a go! The senior women’s races are either the E/1/2/3 or the 4th Cat.

E/1/2/3

How road racing works with British Cycling is you buy a licence and depending on where you come in race you can get points, eg you win a race and get 10 points. Over the course of the year these points can build up and a certain amount of points will mean you move up at category. For example, I’ve been chasing 12 points this year to go from 4th Category to 3rd Category. I’m nowhere near, but you get the picture!

To put it all into context, I’m a 4th Category rider and I’ve just started road racing. The women racing in the OVO Energy Women’s Tour are in the Elite category, so ‘E’.

4th Category

If you’re new to racing then the 4th Category race is the one for you! You can enter with a day licence and give racing a go! 4th Cat is also for those chasing those 12 points to get to bumped up to 3rd Category if you already have a British Cycling race licence.

So, how do you go about entering the 4th Cat race if you don’t have a British Cycling race licence? To put it simply, you need to enter on the day by paying for the entry to the race and for a day licence.

Day Licence Fees

The 4th Cat race is a Regional C+ categorised race. If you’re a:

– Bronze British Cycling Member, Ride British Cycling Member or not a member of British Cycling, a day licence will cost £10.

– Silver or Gold British Cycling Member, a day licence will cost £5.

Obviously if you have a British Cycling race licence you won’t need a day licence, you just need to check what race category you are and enter the correct race accordingly.

For Junior and Youth riders it works slightly differently. If you’re child is under the age of 16 they will be a Youth rider and therefore a day licence will only cost £1.50.

Over the age of 16 will class them as a Junior rider and they can race in the 4th Category race with a day licence. These will follow the same guidelines as the adult prices, but be half the price. So:

– Bronze British Cycling Member, Ride British Cycling Member or not a member of British Cycling, a day licence will cost £5.

– Silver or Gold British Cycling Member, a day licence will cost £2.50.

You won’t be able to sign up online if you need a day licence, so just drop me a message if you’re planning on racing so I can get an idea on numbers! Drop me an email at lifeandbikesblog@gmail.com.

What bike can you ride?

For various safety reasons, British Cycling stipulate what bikes can and can’t be used in road and circuit racing. For the senior races, so 4th Cat and E/1/2/3, a drop-bar road bike will only be allowed to be ridden in the races. Working gears and brakes are a must too! Don’t forget to check the tyre pressures, high tyre pressures make pedallig so much easier!

A drop bar road bike looks something like this…

These rules apply for the Under 16 and Under 14 races also, but allow cyclocross bikes to. Drop bars are a necessity though.

When it comes to the Under 12’s, 10’s and 8’s, British Cycling allow any type of bike to make it easier for younger riders to have a go! I must say these bikes have obviously got to have working brakes and be in good working order. Again, for safety during the races.

What category will my child race in?

Have a look at the details below,

Under 16 if born in 2002 or 2003

Under 14 if born 2004 or 2005

Under 12 if born 2006 or 2007

Under 10 if born 2008 or 2009

Under 8 if born 2010 onwards

The obvious need for the Under 8 category is that your child can confidently ride a bike. British Cycling also stipulate gearing restrictions to protect young riders from using big gears that could be harmful to them. (ie too strenuous!) If you have any queries on gearing restriction or if your child can race, have a read of this document by following the link, or contact British Cycling via the details in this link:

Youth Gear Restrictions: A Guide for Riders and Parents

Facilities

From racing various cycling disciplines, I know facilities at cycling races can sometimes be an issue, so I just wanted to highlight Marsh Tracks has toilets and changing facilities.

For more information about #GirlsAtMarshTracks keep monitoring my social media pages and website for more blog posts! Thank you to everyone who has helped with the event so far, especially Cyced for designing the poster! You’ll be able to find out more about Cyced with a blog post that will be posted in the next few days.

Cyced: Where rides become cycling art

I’m also working with Andy from SDS Graphics on some stickers you’ll be able to take home with you! SDS Graphics have been supplying vinyl graphics and designs in the motorsport industry for 25 years. His vinyl graphics can be seen on Formula 1 cars, British Touring Cars and many others. So you’ll have F1 standard stickers you can put on your bike, to remember that time you took part in a day full of women’s crit racing.

I’ll drop some other useful links below, but if you feel like you can’t keep up to date on social media with the event drop me an email at lifeandbikesblog@gmail.com and I’ll email you any updates!

Facebook Event Page

British Cycling Event Page (you can enter via this link!)

Marsh Tracks Website

If you’re a company who fancies getting involved with the event, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Well that escalated quickly…

What the HELL just happened?

Rolling out of bed at 8am this morning I was unsure whether to race or not. A road race last Sunday and two time trials this week…I wasn’t exactly sure my legs would have anything left. Especially when those races haven’t exactly gone to plan.

I also felt guilty for dragging Ryan along because the men’s race was a 3/4 and he’s a 2nd cat now.

But my quest for license points needed to continue. I wasn’t going to get points if I wasn’t racing.

Getting to sign on for 11am, it was another lunch time race but this time organised by Croston Velo.

It was hot…obviously…and I was shaking with nerves so much on the start line I struggled to clip in when the start whistle went.

Off we went, a field of around 20 girls were making their way around the 2ish miles loop. 38 miles ahead…it was going to be a tough one.

Being my second road race, I just sat on the back. The massive faux pas that it is, I just wanted to finish really after dropping off the bunch last week. Just not getting dropped would have been an improvement!

The more the bunch eased off I’d end up rolling on the outside of the bunch to too the front. Girls tried to break away or tire the group out, but for most of the race the bunch stuck together.

I was at the back because I was only at the race to gain experience. Road tactics are all new to me, so I just wanted to watch really and see what the norm is in a road race. I’m use to racing through forests on Singletrack after all…

I’m not sure at what exact point in the race it was, but one girl had managed to break away. So I pushed to get on the front of the bunch to try and pull the group back across so we were racing as a full bunch.

So there I am munching my pedals…I had been for a while…only to look back and notice the group wasn’t behind me. I’d somehow managed to break away…by accident!

The group were reluctant to pull her back and my ego was not on for dropping back to the group with its tails between its legs. I was now committed to bridging across whether I liked it or not.

Catching up to her was SO hard. I’m not even exaggerating. It was like a max effort sprint for what seemed like for ever! I kept looking at my heart rate being 180+ BPM…I had no idea if I could hold this.

When I finally got across I wanted to work with her, but my legs just didn’t have anything left. So thankfully she let me get my breath back and then we got into some sort of rhythm. I had no idea what was a good stint on the front, so I let her lead and move behind me when she wanted to. I did the best I could to keep the bunch behind us.

With one lap to go we got told the bunch were only 12 seconds behind us. We thought about waiting for them with how hard it was to keep them at bay, but we’d come this far we may as well give it a go and see where it gets us.

So we pushed….hard. I thought I’d dig deep last week after I got dropped, but oh no….this was a whole new level of deep I’ve never been to before…

My head was that mushed by this point I couldn’t even remember where the finish straight was.

When I got my bearings again we we on the finish straight and I could see number 18 looking at me to see if I was going to sprint.

I just couldn’t!

And stupidly I forgot he bunch were likely to sprint too. So number 18 went to take the win but I lost second place to the bunch. But somehow managed to hold top 10 with 9th…provisionally!

Thank you to Croston Velo for putting on such a good race. The iced water at the end helped no end. Thanks to all the girls that were racing too, it was a pretty epic afternoon!