Guest Blog: Caroline Guest – Lee Valley VeloPark Women’s Track League

This Winter I decided to add track racing to my list of attempted cycling disciplines – thought it would be rude not to with Lee Valley VeloPark being my local track. There has been a woman’s league alongside the men’s A, B and C leagues and along with the C group men we have been racing alternate Thursday nights. Each night we’ve had 2 scratch races, an elimination and a points race. The learning curve has been pretty steep, the first week I was terrified at being on the track with 24 others in a race! With the gaps in between the races it has also been a chance to meet and get to know the other women racing, and the experienced track racers have been more than happy to share tips.

Last Thursday, the field was a little smaller at maybe 15 riders or so, as the outdoor season has got going. For once I did a nice long warm up on the rollers before the first race to get myself ready. The organisation had also kindly changed the order round so that instead of being up last we were racing first (would mean that everyone could stay for the last race instead of dashing off).

A few of the fast ladies not there (namely Dani Christmas and Abbie Dentus – who had been battling it out with each other over recent weeks) which opened the racing up a bit.

I somehow got myself 3rd in the opening 30 lap scratch race by managing to get onto the winner’s (Jayne Paine) wheel. This was my best result at track league to date.

Then it was the 25 lap Points race (sprints at 20, 15, 10, 5, 0). Unfortunately 3 went off the front very early and stayed there (and yet again I was too far back to be able to go with the split). The rest of the peloton was then fighting for the 4th place in the sprint (and last point scoring place) and the size of our group reduced each time. Tessa Pugh took 4th place in the first sprint I believe but then blew up; I took it in the next 3 sprints with Christine Robson taking it in the last. I also found that I might have a decent kick! Tanya Griffiths won the race after winning every sprint

Then the elimination, normally a bit of a disaster for me! I used the tactic again of going from the back and then round the outside on each sprint lap, buoyed by my sprinting in the points race and risking that with less riders my legs would not give out on me. I got into the last 5 successfully, albeit the hard way, and then it was just the final sprint. I moved up a bit on the outside ready for it to go, 2 went from the front, I caught up to them and then went past and won by a length (1st ever track win, 2nd ever win after a cross race). Still can’t believe I actually did it!

Last up was the 40 lap scratch race. There were a lot of attacks, but nothing stayed clear for more than a few laps. My legs were feeling it after all the sprinting I had done, and also ended up wasting a lot of energy riding on the outside of the bunch. With about 4 or 5 to go I was on the front and decided to stay there, tapping it out and watch for the riders going for the sprint (knew Tanya and Jayne would be). With 2 laps to go they went, I had been watching out for them so I also went, caught up to them and got 4th place. Again I settled for following Jayne’s wheel rather than moving straight to the outside (and was then boxed in by Amy Good who had caught up to us). Tanya Griffiths pipped a slightly fading Jayne at the line with Amy 3rd. Sarah Walsh came through in 5th, getting her first points at track league.

Overall it was a great night’s racing, I came away with so many things to work on and also more confidence. A number of women got their first points at track league which was also great. With one more Thursday night of racing to come it’s been a great way to spend the Winter and a nice change from turbo. I’ve made a lot of new friends and there has been a great atmosphere. Having people cheer up in the stands has been pretty cool too!.