The event was based near Selby in Yorkshire, as VCUK PH-Mas are a Yorkshire based team, and so I traveled down to the ‘shire the day before the race to meet up with team management, Neil & Nicky, and team mate Sinead Burke. It’s always nice to head to theirs as it’s such a lovely part of the world – perfect, relaxing pre-race preparation!
On the day of the race we got down to Selby nice and early to set up, including putting up plenty of banners in aid of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance – who our team support and who this event was in aid of. The YAA provide an invaluable service, if you have the time please do check out their site and donate if you can!
The weather blessed us, with the temperature being perfect for racing, little wind and despite a grey start the sun busting out in full force by mid morning. As ladies began to arrive in the car park of HQ the excitement grew. A few ladies would be racing for the first time which was very exciting indeed considering the overall caliber of the field, we had folks ranging from first timers to seasoned racers representing the likes of Matrix Fitness, WNT, Fusion and Team 22 – as well as WattCycle, VCUK PH-Mas and plenty of others. The race itself was for category 2, 3 and 4 licence holders, after a few ladies couldn’t make it this meant the field was nicely evenly distributed and made for exciting racing throughout the day.
After warming up the field of around 38 starters gathered to follow a neutral service car to the start/finish for a quick promo photo. Before we knew it racing was under way. The road race itself was 6 laps of a 5.8 mile flat circuit, with some twisty turns but overall a fast course on great tarmac. From the gun the front markers in the pack began to unleash digs to test the legs of the peloton. Happy with how I’d been feeling in the run up to the race I kept myself as close to the front as possible from the start, doing what I could to make sure there were no dangerous moves. I’m no sprinter and I certainly wouldn’t be strong enough for a break, so with my more sprint-akin teamies safely tucked up in the pack it made sense to do what I could to work with the others at the front to keep everything together.
Looking back on the conditions of the day and the simplicity of the course, I don’t think any would have succeeded in getting away but that wasn’t for the love of trying. Many strong women put in dig after dig, especially coming out of corners where we knew a lot of the pack would need to slow down. After three laps of it I began to feel the strain. Happy with my performance so far I let myself slip to the latter half of the peloton, still strong in numbers (kudos to you ladies who are newer to the sport!!) my team mates Amy, Nat and Sinead were all in and looking good. The best thing about our Champion Systems kit is it’s so visible, it’s impossible to miss your team mates which is great!
Over the course of the following laps the group continued to bend and flex as the ladies at the front continued to pressure the group, a testament to women’s racing – we do love a good attacky race! By the last lap I have to admit I was just about chewing my stem sitting in the pack – coming out of the corners and clinging on to that position became more difficult as my legs started to remind me of the holiday I’d had a week prior. The pace upped. Knowing we had a long stretch of two corners and a few straights before the finish I began to think about where I’d need to be for the sprint – as I’ve mentioned I’ve not got much bottle when it comes to bunch sprints so my usual tactic is to find a wheel I know well and do what I can to stick to it. We came round the penultimate bend and it was clear the “sprint” had begun a little early as the pace increased even more. The group was about to lap some riders and I was about to start shifting my bum to a safe place when we hear a crash, some legs and bikes fly about in front of us – all I can remember is realising that I was in exactly the wrong place to be able to ride around the cluster of bikes and women on the floor and simply having to allow myself to take the fall.
My team mate Nat had landed on top of me and our bikes were some ways ahead of us, mangled. You could hear groans of pain from other ladies around us which added to the experience somewhat! The pair of us realised we were uninjured and quickly sprung up to gather our rides. Team boss Neil was thankfully on hand to help me plop my chain back on and we were both soon on our way to timetrialling our way back to the finish line. I was so desperate to make sure we finished, but felt gutted knowing we’d missed out on our top 15 spots and without a miracle would probably miss out on points for the GC.
After a quick break for food, and medical attention for those that required it, the time trial was underway. My legs thankfully still felt good but following the crash I’d pulled some muscle in my upper body and was feeling pretty worse for wear. I put my head down and got as low as I could on the drops and powered away from the start line. My mind wondered a little with the pain and despite riding well I was still only 17th in the end. A respectable time and I’m pleased with the position now considering the events of the day, but as TT is my ‘thing’ I’m always going to feel a little gutted with myself for not going quicker.
Despite the unfortunate crash, everyone was in really high spirits throughout the day and this is obviously down to the wonderful organisation of the event. Plenty of prizes and freebees to be had, plus BC points up to 15th place as well as a wonderful buffet (thank you Sinead for sorting!!) – this is how races should be! The whole group of women involved worked really well together, everyone chatting away at the end, this is what I love to see in bike racing – it may be a competition but it makes it all worth while when you see folks getting along and smiling throughout. This great vibe made even more sweet by the fact that some great funds were raised for the charity!
After Sunday I also had a circuit race on Tuesday – which also went well up until yet another crash! There’s a whole other kettle of fish to chat about on another day though. That’s me for a couple of weeks and then I’ll be racing my final three events of the season, the Bickerstaffe RR, the Manx E2E MTB race and finally (my personal, masochistic, favourite) the Isle of Man Mountain Time Trial.
Until then, happy riding!
1 Sam Burman (WNT) 10pts
2 Mel Lowther (Matrix Pro Cycling) 8pts
3 Karen Poole (Team WattCycle) 7pts
4 Julia Van Campen (Sheffrec CC) 6pts
5 Angela Hibbs (Team WattCycle) 5pts
6 Elizabeth Stedman (Fusion RT Gearclub Bike Science) 4pts
7 Gina Riley (Team 22) 3pts
8 Evgenia Ilyinskaya 2pts
9 Sarah Burke 1pt
10 Rebecca Holland (Chester RC) 1pt
1 Angela Hibbs (Team WattCycle) 10pts
2 Mel Lowther (Matrix Pro Cycling) 8pts
3 Elizabeth Stedman (Fusion RT Gearclub Bike Science) 7pts
4 Emma Coldwell (Vertex) 6pts
5 Gina Riley (Team 22) 5pts
6 Karen Poole (Team WattCycle) 3pts
6 Ruth Taylor (Manchester Wheelers) 3pts
6 Julia Van Campen (Sheffrec CC) 3pts
6 Vanessa Whitfield (Team 22) 3pts
10 Nina Benson (Ilkley CC) 1pt
Overall General Classification
1 Mel Lowther (Matrix Pro Cycling) 30pts
2 Angela Hibbs (Team WattCycle) 25pts
3 Karen Poole (Team WattCycle) 21pts
4 Elizabeth Stedman (Fusion RT Gearclub Bike Science) 17pts
5 Julia Van Campen (Sheffrec CC) 14pts
6 Gina Riley (Team 22) 12pts
7 Sam Burman (WNT) 10pts
8 Emma Coldwell (Vertex) 8pts
9 Ruth Taylor (Manchester Wheelers) 7pts
10 Evgenia Ilyinskaya 6pts
11 Sarah Burke 5pts
12 Rebecca Holland (Chester RC) 4pts
13 Nina Benson (Ilkley CC) 3pts
14 Laura Seary (Newbury RC) 2pts
15 Madeline Verdegaal (Boston Wheelers) 1pt