I’ve been working with a coach since late last year and the structured training I’ve been doing all seemed to click in to place for this final race of the season. In the weeks leading up to Milan I spent most of my training time in virtual hamster wheel land on my turbo in my living room. Many sweaty hours were spent shouting at my laptop on sprint 22 of 44 up a pixelated version of Box Hill. This might not be everyone’s idea of an evening well spent but I do get a certain sense of satisfaction every time I finish a session on the turbo and don’t die.
The trip to Milan was the first time I’d flown with a bike I’d have to build up on my own at the other end, I managed to take the bike apart and put it back together again and nothing fell off, achievement unlocked. On the morning of the race we walked to the circuit with all my kit and a load of food I’d cooked up that morning, pasta makes you faster! On arrival it was clear that people weren’t messing about, loads of teams had liveried vans and gazebos, sun loungers and even personal masseuses. Most of the London teams had flown over rather than driving so we set up for the day sat on the floor in the spare spaces in the car park, minus the fancy gazebos and deck chairs. We made the most of what we had and there was a good sense of camaraderie between the teams with people happily sharing tools and chatting away. Big up the crit family!
When open practice started all the riders got on the course to test out their lines and get a feel for the circuit. It seemed wide and none of the corners were particularly technical, the course was also pan-flat. I was excited to race as I guessed it was going to be fast, I wasn’t wrong!
I was in the first women's qualification group but this wasn’t until after 4pm, the apprehension of racing hit me about 2pm and I spent the next two hours before my qualification trying to stay calm and not fly in to a massive panic. Qualification went well, I managed to make up places after starting near the back by staying in the wheels and not getting dropped. The course flowed well and I felt good amongst the other women racing. There was no really sketchy riding and no crashes, always a win in a fixed crit! I qualified in 22nd, my best placement in qualifications at Red Hook yet, I was buzzing for the main race.
After my qualification I watched one of my teammates, John, fight hard in the last chance race. The guys were flying around the course but John put in a brilliant performance after starting near the back of the grid.
The main women’s race wasn’t until 8:30pm, it had already been a long day and my nerves were really setting in ahead of the main race. I chatted with some of my friends who were also competing in the women’s field, the usual last minute gearing chat meant some people were flying about fitting different chainrings and cogs but I had decided early on to go with my gut and keep the gear I was used to. Sitting in parc ferme ahead of the race time seemed to slow down, I’d done my training and now was my chance to put it in to action. Looking around at the assembled women’s field waiting to set off was great, having the chance to race with 60 fast women was an incredible feeling.
After the neutral lap the pace was fast from the beginning, I focused on staying in the race and not losing the wheels ahead of me. The pack strung out fairly quickly after repeated attacks off the front but I made my own race with the women around me and was managing to not get dropped, if felt great! The reality is I have been lapped out of every other Red Hook race I’ve competed in, but not this time. It was absolutely amazing hearing the crowd roar on every corner throughout the circuit, my fiancée and team mates were shouting at me every lap and the atmosphere was electrifying. Crossing the finishing line at the end of the race I was ecstatic, it was a brilliant end to my season and I finished 38th out of nearly 60 riders, time for a beer!
2017 was incredible and I couldn’t have got through the season without the support of my family, my friends, my team and our sponsors. I can’t wait to race more fixed crits next year.