Neutral Service aims to show women’s cycling for what it really is – fast, tough, extremely competitive and very, very hard work. The reason for that is there’s no point in trying to persuade anyone to have a go at it if they’re going to give up in the first couple of hundred metres of a race; it’s only worth selling it to people who enjoy a challenge. A very good example of that sort of person is Gina “Smiley” Riley of Chester RC, who races for the best reason of all – she loves it. Here’s her report from the Cheshire Classic.
I have always erred on the side of realism (negativity?) in terms of my cycling abilities and after seeing the start list for the Cheshire Classic I certainly wasn’t expecting big things! I think I entered thinking ‘may as well, it’s only 30 minutes away from home’. Being given a reserve spot is a bit tricky because you automatically feel less worthy and less good, but I was given 10 days notice which is plenty – and we were blessed with beautiful sunshine so the race was only ever going to be lovely!
Being a ‘lone wolf’ rider, I have to say that all the team bling-the car, the matching kit, bikes and warm up routines is *slightly* intimidating…but you can’t let that put you off! Gathering in the car park, I like the way Laura Trott and Katie Archibald both started at the back…this was refreshing compared to how riders push and shove to get to the front before the convoy even leaves HQ!
Now to be honest, getting to the front and being confident is my major weakness in riding, so I tend to hang at the back being exasperated at how many riders pass me (maybe I’m too nice?!) For this reason for the next 6 laps I didn’t have a clue what was happening at the front, I just had to try harder if the pace went up! On one of these laps I did get distanced after an attack up the hill so me and a GB Cycles rider worked together to get back on half a lap later on the main road…phew! I did notice a fair few had already been dropped by the main pack by this point which surprised me.
Going into the 6th (I think) lap, I thought to myself ‘my legs feel bad now’ and probably due to my rubbish positioning going into the bottom corner before the climb, I lost contact at the top and didn’t have the will or legs to chase back on, especially as there was a headwind after the climb. Instead I did a lovely solo 3 laps where spectators and marshals were so good in cheering me on, I felt like I was in Le Tour! So much support!
After my solo laps I decided to pull out and watch the others finish and take in the atmosphere.
Overall I thought it was a brilliant race. The standard of riding was great, no shouting and swearing and the marshals and organisation was fantastic. It was also nice that those of us who didn’t finish the whole thing got given a placing. I always go into these situations thinking ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ And to be fair I had a lovely time despite not keeping up for the whole race. I came away knowing I need to seriously work on moving up in the group and maybe some more hills wouldn’t go amiss either! And what an experience to be in my race with world class athletes 🙂