The blog post...where I tell you about the start of the season.
Start Lines are usually a bubble of nervous chit chat. We all stand around, huddling under our jackets, waiting till the very last moment to throw off our leg warmers and brave the elements. There is a low-level murmur of light conversation. Energy gels have been had, roller warm-ups have been completed, the last last-minute toilet trip has been and gone. It’s about to start...
A few weekends ago I lined up for my first race of the 2021 season. VCL had organized two days of racing that consisted of four 30 minute races across the weekend. My race bike had been fairly untouched for a few months and I was having some issues with my headset. So, in the run-up to the race, I took the bike into my new local bike shop, SE20 cycles. Winnie and the guys there kindly fixed it up so that it was running smoothly and ready to race.
I was, as you might expect, a little nervous. But I was looking forward to racing again. It was a local race and so the pressure was off. It was a chance for me to try out my legs and get back into the swing of things.
The first 30-minute race was great. I felt strong. The pace was REALLY slow to begin with. I was not up for rolling around at this speed for the entire race. So I went for it, breaking away from the group on a short sharp hill out of a hairpin. Eva Callinan, a friend of mine and someone I train with fairly regularly, came with me. We spent the rest of the race out front. We worked pretty well as a pair and got a comfortable gap. I opened up the sprint on the long straight to the finish and just took the win.
The next race started similarly. The pace was agonisingly slow. But I didn't think it was worth slaving away on the front just for the sake of speeding it up. I wanted to get away again. And this time, I hoped to make the jump on Eva as well. This was a trickier task than it had been in the race before. The other riders were more alert. I wasn’t as fresh. I made a few attempts to get away. Perhaps too many. I was tired by this point. Then I punctured. I pulled off to the side, and, after a fairly swift wheel change (with the help of Eva’s Dad, of all people), I set off again. The hunt had started. I wasn’t sure how much ahead the group was. I was riding blindly, imagining they were only just around the corner. With less than two laps left it would have been a monster task to catch them. My aim now was to limit the time losses for the general classification. I came in 33 seconds down on Eva in GC. I had a task to do the following day if I wanted to win overall. And it wasn’t going to be a piece of cake.
I returned on the next day with a clear and simple plan. I needed to get away without bringing Eva with me. Eva’s teammates, The LIV-AWOL girls, marked me well. Each taking turns to make sure any jump I made could be brought back. In order to get away I needed to attack in such a way that made it impossible for anyone to get on my wheel. I tried a couple of really solid digs but they all got brought back. I had been attacking mainly on short sharp rises and I decided it was time to try something new. There was a lull in the pace at one point and I saw my opportunity. I went hard into a sharp corner and sprinted out of it again. Eva could get on my wheel but we left the rest behind. I started to think about how I was going to distance myself from Eva now. I tried. It didn’t work. With less than half a lap left to go it was probably too late to gap her. We had a comfortable lead on the group behind and we began to slow. We danced around each other. I opened up the sprint and took the victory.
Before the final race I had a chat with my coach on the phone, Peter Georgi, and decided that I was going to try and go from the gun. I was frustrated and a little upset after the last race, but I needed to put that to one side and focus on the task ahead. I had one more opportunity to try to take the win. I got away from the gun. I went hard and dropped the bunch. It worked because it was both surprising and explosive. I took the first tight hairpin well and powered up the next rise. However, on the next section of road, a long exposed stretch of road into a headwind, Eva latched onto my wheel. It wasn’t ideal but it wasn’t surprising. Eva’s a strong rider and she’d been able to play the upper hand all weekend. Her sole job was to make sure I wouldn’t get away from her. And she did it really well. After a prime (a sprint thrown in mid-race with the opportunity to pick up bonus seconds on the line) I jumped on her and got a gap. I really put her in the hurt locker. But she got back to me again. I tried once more the lap after and got an even bigger gap on her. We were both hurting by this point. But she clawed me back, on that same exposed descent. I couldn’t shake her. We came into the final half lap. I put in a dig on the short rise to the finish and held the sprint to the line.
I didn’t end up making up enough time to win overall. And so in this sense, I was a little disappointed. I always want to win, of course. But I can in no way be disappointed with my performance. I am pleased to come away with a solid three out of four wins. I felt strong. I really enjoyed racing. I’d had to try and figure out how to win and hopefully the stuff I’ve learnt this weekend will help me when I get onto bigger races.