Now in its third year, Thundercrit has proven itself as one of the top fixed crit events of the race season. It was so great to see all the riders arrive from all over the UK and from across the globe, this event gets bigger every year and watching it grow makes me feel proud to be part of the team setting up and organising the race. The fixed gear community is so awesome and getting to hang out with friends from all over the world made this day brilliant!
I felt ready for the race this year, I know the circuit at the Lee Valley Velopark well, I've ridden it a good few hundred times in all weather as part of my training. Luckily on race day the weather was good. I felt strangely calm on the morning of the race, packing my stuff and leaving the house used to have me in a blind panic but this time I was buzzing with excitement. On arrival at the circuit I was straight in to organiser mode, I grabbed the megaphone and bossed everyone around for a few hours and helped to make sure we got set up on time. This was a good way to distract myself from the races to come.
Once the men’s qualifiers got underway it was great to see the fast pace set and cheer on my teammates. There were a couple of crashes in the men’s qualifiers which set timings back a bit and I finally got a huge rush of nerves about 15 minutes before my qualifier, seeing the crashes didn’t help! I jumped on the rollers to warm up and tried to focus on my game plan, I just wanted to stay with the bunch and not do anything silly. The only bad thing about my qualifying race was I didn’t manage to clip straight in from the start line. I had to do the hairpin one legged and finally managed to stamp my cleat in after making it round the bend, oops. I was on the front row though so it didn’t really matter, all those single-legged drills in training were paying dividends. The pace of qualifying was fairly calm and no-one was trying anything too crazy so I just stayed with the pack and finished 11th at the back of the bunch. I probably could have finished higher up but I didn't feel the need to battle for places in qualifying.
After our qualifier there was a break in proceedings so I ate some pasta and hid in the shade whist chatting to some friends. The next race was the Men’s B final. A bad crash stopped play for a long time whilst the first aiders attended and an ambulance had to be called. This definitely freaked out a few people but the reality is women are much more risk-averse so I knew it was unlikely to be replicated in our race. I just put it to the back of my mind and tried to stay positive and calm.
The uncertainties in timings caused by the crash and restart of the men’s B race meant myself and the rest of the women’s field had to warm up a bunch of times based on when we thought we might be racing. I got on the rollers 4 separate times, I was very warm by the time we lined up for the final! The woman’s final was shortened from 24 to 20 laps due to time running out in the day, to be fair I easily covered the extra difference on the rollers...
As I finished 11th in my qualifier I was in the 3rd row lining up for the final, I was a bit worried about starting off behind people and not managing to clip in before the hairpin again but it turns out I clipped straight in this time, phew. Game was on, it was fast from the off but when the bunch surged, I went with them, my gearing allowed me to catch fairly easily and I tried not to let anything get away from me, I wanted to stay in the wheels and I managed to stay this way for the majority of the race.
I was sitting in the bunch comfortably to start with but I quickly grew tired of having to moderate my speed in to the corners. It is the slowing down and speeding up that tires me quickly so I decided to do something about it. I moved up and got on the front. I did a couple of laps and tried to drive up the pace of the race. Once I wanted to move back I had a fight on my hands, the women behind were sitting on me like glue despite my best efforts to shake them off by shooting sideways across the track. I did move up again and do a bit more on the front because it was so much fun but this did come back to bite me at the end.
There were plenty of near-misses in the bunch with people fighting for wheels but thankfully the skill of the women racing was such that there were no crashes, I rode around one of the corners shoulder-to-shoulder with Juliet Elliott when space was tight but we were able to laugh it off, sorry Juliet! My closest near-miss was completely self inflicted when I took the famous Thundercrit hairpin around the timing hut far too wide and ended up on the grass. I managed to hold it and get back on to the tarmac without too much drama, much to the relief of the spectators stood on the edge of the circuit!
With about 3 laps to go I was still in the mix but the sprint after the hairpin down the back straight was taking it out of me with the all-out standing sprint needed each time. I stayed in the wheels but coming round to the bell ringing in the last lap the pack surged one last time and I just didn’t have anything left to maintain my position in the bunch. I watched the gap increase enough to know I wasn’t getting a top 10 but I pushed on as hard as I could and rode over the line. in 11th place again just like qualifying. If I hadn’t done so much work it could have been a different story but I won top antagonist for my efforts and that felt great.
It’s a great feeling knowing that I’m now a stronger racer and I loved competing against such a strong field of women. The effort all the riders are putting in behind the scenes was evident from the level of skill and strength on show. I can’t wait to race again at the Nocturne on Saturday and I’m looking forward to the rest of the fixed crit season at races like Minet Crit as well.
Full results are published at thundercr.it