Racing The Tour Series
I’m very much all or nothing. I tend to love things or hate them, commit one hundred percent or quit and see things in black or white with no shades of grey. God only knows why I’m like this, but I guess it’s the reason I’ve had so many different adventures in life and gone for it with all of them. I don’t think it’s worth doing things unless you do them properly.
I get a real thrill from learning new skills, from delving deeply into the unknown, researching, practicing and trying to discover my limits. I also don’t actually enjoy activities that much if I’m not very good at them, so I’ll do whatever I can to get better. That’s why I train my butt off. And never go bowling. I suck at bowling.
I’ve thrown myself whole-heatedly into bike racing over the last two years and the more of my time I devote to my passion, the more I enjoy it. Not only is it fun being able to hold my own in race, the more committed I am, the greater the opportunities I’m rewarded with.
Racing the Tour Series
One incredible opportunity came along just recently – the chance the ride the Tour Series as a guest of the team Liv CC – Epic Coaching. In case you aren’t familiar with the Tour Series, it’s a big, national, city centre criterium series that runs for roughly two weeks and it’s attended by some of the top men’s teams such as One Pro Cycling.
The women’s race in the Tour Series is called the Matrix Fitness Grand Prix and like the men’s race it is televised (on ITV4) and ridden by a select number of Elite teams such as Storey Cycling, Drops and Team WNT Pro Cycling who count Olympic champion Katie Archibald among their ranks. It was a real treat to be asked to ride at three of the races, in Stoke-on-Trent, in Croydon and in Bath.
My first race with the team was last week in Stoke-on-Trent where despite my best attempts at organisation, I managed to leave my race license at home. I didn’t notice until we’d driven nearly an hour from home and when I realised, I screamed so hard and panicked that I’d miss the race and let down the team. I find it so annoying how forgetful and ditzy I often am and I try really, really hard to manage things so that I don’t make mistakes, writing lists, laying out all my kit in advance and going over things again and again, but it’s futile. I’ve always been like this – I used to forget my PE kit nearly every single week at school and lost my cardigan and blazer so often that the lady managing school’s lost property just used to give me another one whenever I needed, knowing that soon enough, the one I’d lost would get handed in.
Anyway, I did make it to the race in the nick of time and I was so relived to be there that I wasn’t even nervous, just grateful I’d get to race. I was quite surprised by the circuit’s hills, for some reason imaging Stoke-on-Trent to be flat, but the descent and tight corners made for an extremely fun, technical course – exactly the kind of thing I like.
Focus on the experience
The first lap was what’s known as a ‘prime’ (pronounced preem) which means that the first rider over the line wins extra points, so it was lightening fast. My not so lofty aim was simply to keep going and not get stuck out on my own without a wheel to follow or a group to work with. I wasn’t able to stick with the lead group and fell in with a chasing group made up of a few different riders, taking a couple of turns pulling. Then it fell largely to a rider from Aprire HSS, once it became apparent no one wanted to come through.
Despite my screaming lungs and legs, I loved every minute of it. Even when I’m in pain, I like to make sure I sure I focus on the experience of being a part of a race, after all, what’s the point in doing difficult training sessions for months on end if you don’t relish every second in the main event – it’s what you’ve been working towards all that time. Riding through the city centre in a race with so many women I admire, with crowds cheering, bands playing and live commentary was unforgettable.
When it came to the final sprint, Katie Archibald took the win for her team and in our bunch sprint, the aforementioned Aprire ride came out on top. It was an incredible experience and I can’t wait to race the Tour Series again with Liv CC tomorrow in Croydon. Look out for the recap from last night’s race in Wembley on ITV4 tonight at 7pm – spoiler alert – one of our riders wins!
All photos: Dave Noakes