This year for the first time there was a separate women’s fixed crit at the Rapha Nocturne. It was my first time racing the circuit and I was excited and nervous to see what I could do against some really fast women!
The race was set to be 25 minutes plus 3 laps. There was one neutral lap at the start led out by a “moto” (guy on a cx bike), we we had to stay behind. The “moto” peeled off near the end of the lap and from the last corner we then had a rolling start up to the start line for the race.
The commentators hyped up the start of the neutral lap and counted us down from 10, this made everyone go off quicker than I had hoped when I had not had chance to ride the course before this point! I stayed near the back and wanted to get a feel for the corners, there were a few chicanes that required some thought to pick a line and the speed in the first lap made me think twice about going off too quick to start with, this was not a good move on my part!
As soon as we set off I could tell my shoulder strain injury was going to be an issue, the aggressive position on my track bike combined with some technical corners meant that I was hesitant to smash too hard as it was uncomfortable. My race head was not properly engaged and I ended up off the back fairly quickly as can happen in fixed crit racing.
I fought my own battle and tried to make up the gap between me and the riders up the course, I had a few in sight line and I was battling to reel them in every chance I got. I was running 48/15 and felt OK on this gear but lurching out of the saddle to sprint was not making my shoulder feel good.
A few laps in there was a bad crash a few seconds in front of me. I got yellow flagged to warn me of an incident and came round a sharp left hand bend to see the pile of riders on the floor in the middle of the track, I rode round them and carried on soon to realise a black flag had come up. The black flag meant that the race had been stopped and we had to regroup at the start line. I got back round to the start of the course to find out some riders had been lapped, this made me feel a bit better as I hadn’t been lapped.
We sat at the start line whilst they cleared the injured riders off the course, the race time ticked down and we lost about 8 minutes of racing. When the race was restarted it was just a 5 lap race. My shoulder was already hurting and I had nothing to lose so I fought hard to stay with other riders this time. The main bunch stayed away at the front and then there were the chasers.
I got to the front of the chasing riders by sprinting past each group to try to make sure no one took my wheel and followed me. The first small group I passed latched on and I took them to the next rider, not what I planned! The next surge I tried to drop this group and caught up with a few other riders.
One last push and I got past these riders and passed one final solo chaser. I had picked my way through and past the chasing riders until on the long start/finish straight all I could see was the main bunch up the road from me. This was the start of the final lap. The crowds were amazing and really spurred me on, it was surreal having my name yelled at me the whole way round the circuit!
I dug deep to keep the other chasers behind me. I went full gas the whole way round the final lap and saw the bunch go over the line. I looked back and had a good gap on those behind me so I put my head down and sprinted again to get over the line on my own.
It was a brutal race and not having ridden the course beforehand definitely made me conservative with speed through the corners earlier on. After the restart I had a good feel for the course and felt much more confident picking my line through the corners.
I raced my own race and ended up in 14th position over the finish line out of 20 finishers. I really loved this race and the crowds made it really exciting, I can’t wait to race the Nocturne again next year.