It might have been a little while since my last blog, but I sure have been busy!
To make sure I was in shape for last weekend’s Tour of Bright, I have been training up a storm. Spending so much time on the bike can be a lot of fun, but I occasionally find it catches up with me all of a sudden and I can feel a bit run down. This is where the coaches’ expertise comes in handy; they have a good understanding of my limits and when I’m feeling particularly tired, can suggest a way of altering a session that means I still ride with the group.
The coaches are also really good at helping me plan my riding in the lead up to important events; they have a good understanding of what the upcoming Lead Out training rides involve, and the other rides and races outside of Lead Out that I enjoy participating in. I can always check in with Mark or Mick to get their suggestions on which combination will prepare me best.
A couple of months back, I raced for the first time in Women’s A Grade at the Victorian Road Series Midlands Tour. Toeing the start line representing my Trek Fondo team, I found it a bit daunting sitting in the A grade group alongside some very speedy girls. I didn’t finish the race with the bunch but it was good experience and I know that it’ll provide me with some valuable confidence when I line up for the next race.
Although my ride at the Midlands Tour wasn’t very eventful, I had a much better result at the local crit racing recently. I lined up with the Women’s B bunch alongside Lead Out regular Suzy as coach Mick watched from the sidelines.
Before we started, the commissaire explained that there was an addition to the day’s race; two intermediate sprints, each to be indicated by a whistle blown by the race organisers. On the face of it, I knew I wasn’t a good chance to win those: sprinting is something I just can’t master, despite attending almost every Lead Out sprinting session. This was going to be a tricky one!
When the first whistle sounded 10 minutes into the race, most of the bunch sprinted towards the finish line and I went with them, just hoping to keep up with everyone. Once the sprint had been won, the bunch sat back a bit to recover and I saw an opportunity to launch an attack off the front.
Attacks happen quite often in racing – there are lulls where the pace slows and people take that opportunity to try to break away off the front. Often, it doesn’t stick – but in this race it did. Another competitor had seen my initial break away and ridden hard out from the bunch to join me. Together, we shared time on the front with short, fast turns that I know so well from lots of Lead Out training rides. Each time we passed coach Mick, he’d tell us how far away the bunch was; “15 seconds”, “20 seconds” – we were doing well!
The whistle sounded for the second sprint and as we completed the lap together, I was able to time my turns on the front so that I was in a position to win the sprint point. But there wasn’t time to celebrate – we had to keep on working together if we wanted to keep our lead.
My breakaway partner and I were getting tired by this time. We gave each other a few encouraging words between breaths and passed the “3 laps to go” sign. Soon after, we came around the final corner together and the finish line was in sight – we raced hard for the final sprint and I passed the checkered flag only a few inches ahead, it was a close finish!
I was really pleased to get such a good result and reflect on how far I’ve come since my first few rides with Lead Out when I didn’t even know what a criterium was. We’ve had some new faces in the Lead Out bunch recently and it’s really great to see their confidence and fitness improving already –
perhaps they’ll be my next breakaway partner, or will it be you?