Sarah Storey: Cheshire Classic Win

In her next blog, Great Britain’s cyclist, Sarah Storey, writes about winning the Cheshire Classic. 25 Apr 2012
2 athletes cycling during a race

Storey’s tactical racing paid off

ⒸSarah Storey

"If there is one race that is on my calendar every year, it’s the Cheshire Classic."

If there is one race that is on my calendar every year, it’s the Cheshire Classic, as you can always count on the fantastic Weaver Valley Cycling Club to put on a great event. In fact it was a member of the Weaver Valley Cycling Club that got me riding the track seven years ago, Paul West, and their road race was the first ever Road Race I entered outside of Para-cycling events.

With results ranging from 40-something in that first year when I was off the back in the bunch sprint, to second a couple of years ago after a seven-strong break and just getting pipped on the line, I have enjoyed all sorts of different versions of the race. For 2012, I was lining up in my first road race of the year. As part of a seven-strong team we knew we had strength in numbers and the chance of getting our riders either up in a break or providing a strong lead out should it all stay together.

The start of the race was really positive, with quite a few riders looking to whittle the peloton down and the For VioRed girls were ever present at the front of the group, staying out of trouble and looking out for any early escapees.

First time up the climb signified 10 laps to go and the race seemed to settle into a frustrating pattern of attacks on and at the top of the climb, then it all coming back together with the bunch too strong and always clawing their way back on as the riders up front seemed reluctant to attack the rise up the bypass to the roundabout. The bonus for us For VioRed riders was that as small numbers of riders were dropping off, we remained the largest team in the peloton and everyone took their turn to climb up front and cover the little attacks that were inevitably going to come at the top of the climb each lap.

Abergavenny, Node 4, Scott Contessa and Mule Bar Girls were some of the teams all showing their strength towards the front of the race and whilst frustrating for those trying to force a break, the depth of talent in women’s racing in the UK means it will get ever harder to breakaway. With the pattern of the race being as it was, I had decided there was probably only one more chance for an attack as we came into the last four laps.

For VioRed were still the majority of the peloton and it was this really strong team performance, which gave me the perfect platform to stage the last escape attempt up the bypass as the pace again slowed. Coming into the hill for 3 laps to go, there was a decent gap and I had been joined by Molly Weaver and winner of last week’s Team Series race, Natalie Creswick. The move was looking to be decisive with three such strong riders and I worried when we lost Natalie that it would all come back together again, so kept pushing on. Molly rode hard, especially as she was spinning out down the descent on her junior gears, she was a great rider to have in the break. I pulled some big turns out over the top of the climb and made sure we were strong riding up the bypass as I knew this was where we could pull out some more time on the bunch.

With the For VioRed girls doing a superb job at containing any attempts to attack me from the peloton behind, the final lap was a long slog and both Molly and I were on our knees and looking back at the computer power file was easy to see why, I had averaged somewhere not far off what I would expect to do in a time trial when there are no sudden changes of pace.

Crossing the line first, to finally win the Cheshire Classic, was an amazing feeling and being handed the trophy with so many illustrious names on there already was a fantastic moment. With the bunch fighting it out for the sprint for third it was great to see my team mate Gaby Shaw coming inside the top ten for the second week in a row and finishing off what had been a strong performance for the team. With just two riders in the team Node 4 – Giordana had an equally strong showing being the only other team placing two riders in the top ten.

On a personal note it also rounded off a successful weekend after riding the Manchester and District Time Trial Association’s 25-mile event on the Jodrell Bank and Chelford course the day before and finishing 7th in the men’s field. Finishing off my latest block of endurance overload training with a double header was always going to be a big test, but with the support of For VioRed and GB sponsor, CNP Nutrition, I have been able to find a perfect balance and maintain a strong immune system to cope with the workload and altitude sessions that have formed part of this latest block.

Linking back to the blog I wrote last week, about support network, the proof is in the people I get to write about week in week out. Without the support of these sponsors, event promoters and everyone who was cheering at the side of the road, winning these races and helping create my perfect run in to London 2012, would not be possible. Support not only comes from the core group of people I have around me all the time, but also from the wider cycling community and for that I am very grateful.

Weaver Valley Cycling Club celebrate their 50th Anniversary this year and the 2012 edition of the race also marked the retirement from event organisation for the promoter of the Cheshire Classic in recent years, Terry Veal. The superb event is going to continue on the calendar, thanks to Andy Wood and I know I speak on behalf of all the women who have enjoyed riding the race, in thanking Terry and the Weaver Valley Cycling Club and their sponsors for their amazing support of women’s cycling.

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