"For the numbers geeks - like me - my power trace showed 33 spike of power over 800 watts with the highest being 1,129 watts!"
The second Saturday of June has, in the last two years anyway, been the traditional date for me to start the John O Groats to Lands End route alongside 600 or so participants sponsored by Deloitte. This year, however, I was doing an epic journey of a different kind and hoping that my powers of recovery would stand me in good stead for a double header of racing in two of the best UK women’s races of the year.
With Cheshire Classic being my all-time favourite event close to home, I soon discovered that I also thoroughly loved the fast and frantic circuit of the London Nocturne at Smithfield Meat Markets, and the lumpy course on heavy roads of the Capernwray circuit in Lancashire.
With the help of my lovely team mate, Gaby Shaw I headed over to the Capernwray circuit on the Tuesday before the race and we did four laps, checking everything from road surface to corners and also working out how to attack the changing gradient of the finishing climb. It was a recce well worth doing and one that fellow entrants to the race, Claire Rutherford and Nicola Butler did at the same time.
Making a plan of attack
After a leisurely lunch we headed in to London to find our spot in the pits of the circuit and enjoyed catching some of the support races that were held in the run up to the elite races.
The plan was to attack from the gun and try and get the fastest speed across the finish line, something I did manage to hold for a short time, before getting beaten by just 0.4km/h.
The field was strung out in one long line for the first few laps before gaps started to appear and there was a smaller group of 15 or so riders off the front. Belinda got caught in a crash on one of the bottom corners, but after a lap or two out to straighten her bike, was straight back in and we were still losing riders from the front group as we started to lap the back markers.
For the numbers geeks - like me - my power trace showed 33 spike of power over 800 watts with the highest being 1,129 watts! Many of the in-between spikes were also between 500 and 800 watts too! It is little wonder we were lapping so fast!
By the bell lap it was a case of hang in there and take as many places as possible as the speed lifted again, I ended up crossing the line in 10th place and couldn’t have been happier. It’s not often I get to ride a race with that sort of power requirement, I spend most of my time working on best average power for the long races, breakaways and medium distance time trials. Belinda had taken a well-earned third spot too.
Recover and press on
A warm down and recovery shake from CNP Cycling started the recovery process, and then it was straight into the car for the 250-mile drive to Lancaster. We had pre-warned the hotel we would be arriving after 2am and so when we pulled up at 2.05am, we knew we’d had a good run.
I ate my breakfast in the car on the way to the HQ and then at 10am we were in the fastest neutralised section I think I have ever experienced at a bike race! The Capernwray course is just short of 10 miles long and with 5 and a half laps to do, six times up the Sunny Bank climb to the finish line, it was going to be a war of attrition to whittle the group down to a manageable size for the narrower lanes on the back end of the circuit.
Claire Galloway and I were straight to the front with Claire keeping the pace high on the hills so I could take over on the downhill sections and make sure no one had a chance to recover. The group was strung out as we had hoped and by the time we reached the finish climb for the first time, Claire was back to the front and the group was noticeably a lot smaller.
Around halfway through the race there were just 13 riders left at the front and so Claire and I took a breather and allowed some of the other riders to take up the pace setting. The race got very negative at this point, with the speed dropping significantly as everyone seemed to be taking the opportunity to recover.
My fellow breakaway partner from Cheshire Classic, Molly Weaver, was again showing strongly at the front alongside Laura Murray, but didn’t have any teammates to help and everyone seemed happy to risk the group behind coming back to us.
Waiting to launch an attack
Sarah Byrne attacked at the bottom of the climb with two laps to go and this split the race up, and by the top of the climb there were only five riders left. I decided to attack whilst we got over the brow and took Tamina Oliver from Abergavenny with me. We gained 50 seconds in the first lap away and another 40 in the second lap, so by the time we reached the bottom of Sunny Bank for the finish there was no way we could be caught.
I had spoken to last year’s winner Dani King about the race and she had told me you couldn’t attack the finish too early, so I waited until I thought it was almost too late before sprinting for the line. It’s not often there is a gap to give you the confidence to get your arms in the air, but I was delighted to be able to and take the win after what had felt like an epic weekend of racing!
Claire Galloway had given me so much in the first half of the race and after her superb ride in the National 25 the day before showed her awesome powers of recovery to finish inside the top 10 in the race as well. It was a fantastic weekend for the team and the final UK race we will do before the National Road Race in 2 weeks in Yorkshire.
I am now back in the Altitude Chamber at Manchester Metropolitan University for a couple of sessions this week and also looking forward to spending some time with one of my main charities, The Children’s Adventure Farm Trust. We have their Annual Ladies Lunch at Mere Golf Club on Wednesday and I will be appearing on the catwalk for the Fashion Show!