Les Filles is one of the best-known teams on the British circuit. Their emphasis on having fun in addition to challenging for race wins, as well as their friendliness, has also made them one of the most popular.
Like all the Les Filles riders, Nicole Oh is always happy to chat with cycling fans online and at events – about cake as well as about her sport! She’s been racing for four years, so it comes as something as a surprise that until recently she’d never won a race: she told Neutral Service how it feels to taste victory the first time.
A win’s a win!
Before last week, I had never won a bike race. You think I would have managed to after 4 years of road racing and at least 120 races. I put it down to a number of reasons. Firstly, I don’t really have a sprint. Well, I can kind of sprint, but that jump or kick that true sprinters have I definitely lack. I am an appalling time-triallist. So even if I can get off the front, my chances of staying there are pretty low. I do tend to work for others in my team rather than going for the win myself. I love the tactical side of racing, working out plans on how to get the strongest member of your team to win (which is often not me). I am genuinely as happy to help get a good result for the team rather than for myself, especially if it is the result of a well-devised plan! Lastly, I tend to opt for the bigger, harder races which attract high quality fields. I would much prefer to get my arse kicked in a National Series race than go to a local circuit race where only a handful of women show up.
I signed up to the VeloPark Winter Series race last Thursday mainly because I am lazy. I love racing. I am not so keen on training. It was either VO2max intervals in Regents Park, which I am quickly getting bored of, or a 1 hour crit at VeloPark. I know which one would make me try harder. Racing yourself fit is always a much more fun option. There were 17 women signed up when I entered online at 11.30pm the night before, but disappointingly, only about 12 showed up. Still, a race is what you make of it, so I attacked straight off the line to set the tone.
My first plan was to try to get away, which I tried numerous times without success. There were quite a few strong riders in the field, and any potential breaks that loomed were quickly shut down. I went for the prime not only to test out my sprint legs, but also with the intention to keep going whether I won it or not. I did win it, and opened up a bit of a gap with another girl, but not for very long.
I did really want to win, so when the 5 to go board appeared, I decided my best chance would be in a sprint finish. With two to go I positioned myself in 2nd or 3rd wheel, then coming into the last half a lap, I made sure I was 2nd wheel, and on the inside line so that I could be first into the last hairpin corner. I made sure I moved to the front just before the corner, accelerating into it, knowing that some others may not want to go into it that fast, and those on the outside would have further to go to pass me. It was all a bit chaotic at the finish – the 4th cat race had passed us on our last lap as we were winding up the pace, and were still within spitting distance when we started our sprint. Anyway, I saw a gap open on the right, and went for it, yelling as loud and aggressively as I could for the men to stay left. Luckily they did, and I was first over the line. No time to take my hands off the bars though.
So, only a small midweek race, and since I was one of the only 2nd Cats in the race with loads of race experience, I guess I should have won. But after so many years/races, I am very happy nevertheless. Now I want to win at Palace, which is my favourite race and always brutal, with enough of a gap to take my hands off the bars for a victory salute.
And then I can retire.