Guest Blog: Anna Marie Hughes – Winning the Imperial Women’s Winter Series

AM1Having raced for the last time at the beginning of August, my 2014 racing season came to an end before I had realised; I had a two week holiday in August expecting to come back and do the final Women’s Team Series race (Coalvile Wheelers). Unfortunately I was ill and that was the end of my season. Having had a break, it was time to start my winter training with my new coach.

When the Imperial Winter Series races came round at the start of December I was looking forward to doing something different to my winter training! It’d been for months since my last race, and I wanted to test my race legs. I entered the Women’s 1/2/3 category, racing alternate weeks to the 3/4 Women; the races being short, roughly 40 minute races (I’d prefer longer races).

These races were refreshingly lively, with plenty of attacks by a number of riders, but all attacks were brought back apart from in the third and the final races. As the series went on, it became apparent that, for each race, I was in a small group of about five or six riders who were generally dictating the pace and at the front in the sprint finishes.

AM2I used the first two races to get used to racing again, and to experiment with tactics by attacking and chasing down attacks. In the second race, I was frustratingly impeded in the final sprint by a rider who was slowing down as she’d been off the front and tiring and another rider taking the corner too wide; sandwiching myself between the two riders, I had to pull on my brakes … not the best situation to be in 200m before the finish line. After coming to almost a complete halt, I managed, relatively quickly, to manoeuvre myself out of the problem, enabling me start sprinting. Despite starting my sprint a few metres back, I managed to overtake a few riders just before the line to finish 5th.

AM3The third race would have to be most interesting of the series. The conditions were awful; it was a horribly wet, windy and freezing day. I wasn’t well prepared for the conditions, having left my long-fingered gloves and overshoes at home, oops!. About 10 minutes into the race Abbie Dentus (De Ver Cycles) and Helen McKay (Les Filles) attacked off the front, instantly gaining a decent gap. Some riders started to chase them down but weren’t making much progress. I could see that Abbie and Helen were working well together, so I put in a big effort to bridge the gap, with Gabriella Nordin (GB on my wheel. Eventually there were 7 of us well clear of the main group. As the pace was kept high in the breakaway with a number of attacks, eventually there were only 5 of us in the breakaway with a few laps to go. It was definitely not one of my best sprints at the end of the race; I paid the price for not being properly prepared for the race, as I wasn’t able to really get going as my fingers and legs were frozen. Nevertheless, I still finished 3rd. All in all this was an interesting race and nice to be involved in an active breakaway.

The final race was slightly different to all the other races in the series … much more tactical because the final series positions would be decided. There weren’t many attacks off the front, with most riders seeming to want to save themselves for the final sprint. I followed Helen Ralston (Les Filles) who went off the front in the early stages of the race but we were pulled back to the main group fairly quickly. However in making this effort I realized that I wasn’t feeling fully fit after recovering from a virus earlier in the week. I tried to conserve my energy for the rest of the race, sitting towards the front of the top third of the group most of the time, whilst keeping an eye on all my closest rivals for the series; whenever they attacked I was right on their wheels. Just over half way through the race, Ruth Summerford (PMR@Toachim House) went off the front of the group, she wasn’t in contention for the series win so I didn’t immediately chase her down. Relatively quickly she had gained a good lead and no one in the peloton seemed to want to chase her down. I certainly wasn’t going to risk my series win by putting in a massive effort in to bridge the gap to Ruth, especially as I knew I wasn’t feeling too well. A couple of riders did try to bridge the gap, but the group chased them down and then annoyingly slowed down when they caught them. At one point a small group, including myself and the other three main contenders made an attempt to bridge but it fizzled out as not all wanted to share the work.

AM4This meant the pace of the main bunch was up and down, making it impossible to close the gap on Ruth. I did some turns on the front, trying to keep the pace high but hardly anyone was willing to work. With the board showing 5 laps to go and Ruth still way ahead, I decided to conserve my energy for the final sprint. Ruth wasn’t going to affect the chances of me winning the series, so I just made sure I remained tactically aware for the rest of the race. I had to position myself for the sprint finish in order to ensure that my nearest rivals didn’t score enough points to stop me from winning the series. Leading into the final corner, I was second on Ralston’s wheel, and I knew that, barring an accident, the series was mine. I kicked in the sprint, sprinting alongside Helen, but with 50 metres to go Clemence Copie (Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International) and Detta Guerrini came flying past the both of us to claim second and third respectively. However, this did not affect my series win.

Overall it’s been really useful to do some racing over the winter period, with decent sized fields, strong riders and interesting races. I’m really pleased to come away with the series win. I now plan to get back into another good block of training in preparation for the first Women’s Team Series race in March! This series introduced some fun into the winter season, has proved that my preparation is on track, and shows that all bodes well for what hopefully will be a great season!



Anna Marie is riding for Bonito Squadra Corse in 2015, and Neutral Service believes she’s going to bring her team plenty of glory this season. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook; she also has a blog. Follow Bonito Squadra Corse for all the latest on how she and her team mates are getting on.