MDLCA – Time Trials for Women – the Original Girl Power

If you’ve seen my recent articles, you will know that I am trying to encourage women with their first steps into racing.  Well this article is about an organisation that has been doing that since 1949 – Manchester & District Ladies Cycling Association (“M&DLCA”).  And the good news for women starting out in cycling who may not yet be certain which club they want to join but still want to have a bash at time trialling, well you can join the  M&DLCA as an individual, which will then enable you to ride time trials as an M&DLCA member – good, eh?

M&DLCA Best All Rounder Competition

The organisation runs a number of events, including a Best All Rounder (“BAR”) competition, which is based on performances at events run at 10 miles, 25 miles and 50 miles with the performances being calculated in m.p.h. and the average taken of the resultant speeds.  When choosing your counting events, the 10 mile time trial must be one of the events promoted by the M&DLCA (see below).  For counting events at 25 and 50 miles, there is no restriction except that it must be on any “J” course (the Cycling Time Trials Manchester division, which are all courses based in Cheshire).  Once you have completed your counting events, you just need to submit a copy of the entry form and result sheet to the BAR Secretary before 1st October of the current season.

This BAR competition is a great way to try out time trialling, as the women’s British BAR uses 25 mile, 50 mile and 100 mile events as counting events, which could be a step too far for people new to time trialling.

The winner of the M&DLCA BAR holds the B.S.A. Best All-Rounder Trophy for one year and receives a medal. Medals are also awarded for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th places and certificates to remaining qualifiers.  There is also a team event, with the winning Team holding the B.A.R. Team Shield for one year and each member of the winning Team also receiving a medal.
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Handicaps
Yes, this is a genuine phrase for use in time trials.  The M&DLCA are keen to encourage riders, and all of their events are “handicapped”.  This means that if you have a time for whatever distance you have entered, you will be allocated a handicap time, with the fastest lady being put as “scratch”.  For a 10 mile time trial, the scratch time is 17.00 minutes, and the organiser will work out what your handicap time is based on your previous results (for example, I entered one of the M&DLCA 10s in 2011 and my previous best was 28:50 and I was given a handicap of 11:03 minutes, which meant that when I completed the distance in 28:36, my time based on handicap was 17:33, which meant that I was third on handicap).
There is also a Handicap Championship, which is based on your handicap times over the 10, 25 and 50 mile events.
What about age categories?
This is where the M&DLCA is extremely useful – not only is there a championship for schoolgirls (under-16s), there is a BAR championship for Juniors (under-18), which yours truly has won in the past, as well as a Handicap Championship for Juniors and there is a Veterans Championship for ladies aged 40 and over.  The Schoolgirl Championship is over 10 miles only, whereas the Junior and Veterans Championships are over 10 miles and 25 miles.
When are the events held?
Hopefully, this is making you think, I could have a crack at that AND win a certificate.  With that in mind, you’ll want to know what events are available no doubt.  Many thanks to Carol Pardoe for providing this information:
  • 27 April – Invitation “10”
  • 4th May – “10”
  • 1st June – “25”
  • 22nd June – Invitation “10” again, and GHS (School age) heat
  • 29th June – Open “50”
  • 13th July – “25”

These events are only open to women however at the “Invitation 10” events you can invite a man, but you still ride on your own. Your combined times count for the prize.  If you don’t know a man to invite, don’t worry as the M&DLCA will pair you up with somebody.

The overall vibe at these events is for everybody to have a go, do their best and then celebrate at the end with a cup of tea and a slice of cake.  Everybody is friendly and welcoming and if you are thinking of doing a time trial and you are based near Manchester, I would seriously recommend the M&DLCA events for one of your first.  Just remember that you have to enter in advance for time trials, there’s no entry on the day, with the closing date generally two weeks before the event.

For more information, please visit http://www.mdlca.org.uk

The Buxton Mountain Time Trial – an early season challenge with a difference

If ever there was an early season challenge, Buxton Cycling Club Mountain Time Trial is arguably one of the hardest time trials you can do in the UK.

The time trial is based around Longnor in Staffordshire (about 10 miles south of Buxton) and incorporates some of the toughest roads available for use in any time trial.

It starts just outside the village school, turning left and pretty much starting with steepest climbing section of the course.  The climb continues up to the main road, where riders won’t be able to view the spectacular scenery if they’re trying hard enough. The course joins the A53 for a rolling few miles before a left turn and the start of an exhilarating, technical decent back into Longnor. The race is 3 laps (33miles) for men and 2 laps (22miles) for women and juniors.

This year has the added incentive that Matt Botrill can equal Geoff Platts record of 7 wins in the MTT. It will be interesting to see if he can break the course record while matching the record of wins.

It is kindly supported by Detail Design Engineers Ltd, Veroli Limited, Cooper Hartley & Williams Solicitors and Sett Valley Cycles.

In addition to the normal prizes on offer in time trials we have a generous ‘athletes prize’, which is for the fastest rider on a road bike (no aero assistance, see the website for the rules).

The event regularly attracts top class athletes, with this year’s event expected to be no different.

Matt Botrill 2012

Want your chance to compete against champions? Or want to prove you’re tough enough!? There is still time to enter either through the Internet entry on the CTT website or via a CTT entry form to Richard Towse, 14 Jodrell Street, New Mills, High Peak, SK22 3HJ. Entry fee is £8.00 with cheques made payable to “Buxton Cycling Club”.  The closing date is the 19th March 2013.

We have set up a website specifically for the MTT at www.buxtonmtt.co.uk, giving all the information on the course and history of the event.

There is also a twitter, @BuxtonMTT, which gives regular updates on the run up to and during the event (phone signal permitting).

For Facebook users we also have a group, Buxton Mountain Time Trial: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001127056730#!/groups/236375376455888/

Whether in for the win or just going for the best ride you can do, there will be a support group available providing tea, coffee and cakes.

A Woman’s Guide to Racing (Part 6) – Race Day

 

A Woman’s Guide to Racing – Part 6

Race Day

Finally, we have come to the last in our series of racing guides, and you’ve woken up, opened the curtains and race day has dawned.  I could go on for hours about this topic, but I will refrain from boring you all too much.  Instead, I will endeavour to explain some of the jargon that you will come across, with the help of a British Cycling Commissaire.  I will also try to guide you through what to expect at the race headquarters (“HQ”) and I have also enlisted the help of a couple of top female riders to give you their tips on what to do when you get to the event.  So, without further ado…

“Signing On”

When you arrive at the HQ, the first thing you have to do is “sign on” – this is regardless of whether you have entered a road race, time trial or any other event – and (in the case of British Cycling events) it is here that you will have to hand over your racing licence.  You then get to pick up your number (make sure it is the same number that your name is allocated on the signing on sheet).  If you remember, in one of my previous guides I mentioned about safety pins – this is when you will undoubtedly need them, unless you are going to have a flapping number (which is NOT cool)!

© Ed Rollason Photography

Warming Up

In order to perform to your best ability, you should ensure that you warm up properly.  Some people take rollers or a turbo with them to warm up on, others content themselves with a ride around the circuit or a 10 minute spin up the road (don’t go too far though!).  Keep warm and drink fluids (but not too much that you’ll end up needing the toilet half way through the race).  Some people also put embrocation on their legs to warm them up, which can help especially early season, BUT bear in mind that embrocation tends to stay on your hands unless you wash it off PROPERLY (with soap and water).

The Commissaire

Cycling has a lot of jargon and one of the main words that you may come across in your racing careers will be “commissaire”.  A commissaire is the race referee and there is usually a chief commissaire and an assistant commissaire on most road events.  The chief commissaire will be in the second car behind the bunch at a road race, with the assistant commissaire in the vehicle immediately behind the main bunch (some events also have commissaires on motor bikes, called “Moto Commissaires”).  Before the start of the race, the Chief Commissaire will give a rider briefing, which all riders have to attend.

© Ed Rollason Photography

The Start of the Race

In events which are held on a closed circuit, the start will be on the finish line, with everyone setting off once the flag is waved or the Chief Commissaire tells you to go.  However, on road races, it is quite normal for the HQ to be away from the actual circuit, which means that you have to ride out as a bunch from the HQ until an appropriate point on the circuit.  This section of the race (from the HQ to the circuit) is often “neutralised”.  This means that the racing does not start until the race is “de-neutralised”.  Cycling uses a number of flags to communicate things to riders, and the neutralised flag (a red and white checked flag) is held out of the assistant commissaire’s car until the race proper.  Having said that, it can be difficult to determine at what point the race actually starts if you are in the middle of the bunch, but a rule of thumb is that riders will generally ride close to the commissaire’s car (who usually does around 20 mph in the neutralised section) during the neutralised section but will accelerate quickly away once the race starts.

The “Race Convoy”

That sounds very grand, doesn’t it?  But yes, in every road race (as opposed to closed circuit race) there is a race convoy.  This includes a lead car, which usually maintains a distance of around 1 minute to the lead riders, to warn the marshals on the circuit that the race is coming.

Next is the Assistant Commissaire.  This official is the eyes at the front of the race to ensure the riders are racing to the rules of the road as well as the rules of road racing under British Cycling ( if it’s a BC event). This vehicle will slot in behind any break away that reaches over 1 minute gap. They will also move forwards again if this gap is closed so as not to interfere with a chasing group, so be aware that they may pass you again.  A simple ‘toot’ of the horn repeated rhythmically will warn riders that they are coming past. Normally on the right hand side of the riders but may also pass on the left if the riders and road allow.

The third vehicle will be the Chief Commissaire, who is essentially the overall ‘manager’ of the race. This person is in radio contact with all vehicles and is in charge of their movements. They keep the timing of break aways, with the assistant commissaire calling time check points that are landmarks on the route. This is also the person who has the authority to impose penalties for any racing infringement.

The next vehicle will be neutral service, if it is being provided (usually only at bigger events), who will offer a wheel if you puncture – but beware that the neutral service will generally follow the lead riders if the race splits, so if you puncture and you’re at the back of the race, it may be the end of your race.

The final vehicle will be the first aid provision.

There is also the National Escort Group (“NEG”) on some road races, who are the outriders (on motorbikes) that guard side roads and assist in making the roads safe for you to ride and will, if asked, act on the commissaire’s behalf to supply riders with information such as time gaps or even disqualifications.

© Ed Rollason Photography

Top Tips from Top Riders

I have asked a couple of ladies for their top tips for those of you new to racing.

First up is Lydia Boylan, elite category rider for Team CTC, who is the Irish National Track Sprint, 500 metres and scratch race champion:

“My best advice would be to have your race day planned in advance so that you won’t panic before the race has even started.  If you know where the HQ is, know when the race starts and what and when to eat, you’ll feel more prepared.”

Second up is Karla Boddy, winner of three stages of the Ras na mBan (stage race for women, held in Ireland every year):

“I started racing 2 years ago this March, I remember turning up for the race and struggled to write my BC number on the sign on form as my hand was shaking so much in fear of what to expect! It’s that unknown part which is, and still can be, quite daunting. I would say my top tips for racing are:

  •  Always give yourself plenty of time to get ready! If the race is at 1400 then get there for 1300 at the latest. I made the poor mistake of leaving too late for the SE Regional champs last year and almost missed the start! It is not a good way to start your race and leaves you panicked and rushed!
  • Always check your tyres for any little flints etc.  A lot of punctures are caused by flints already embedded in your tyre already so if you can get them out it lessens the risk of a puncture in a race. In a crit this is not so much of an issue (as you can take a lap out), but in a road race you set yourself up for a harder ride in trying to get back on.
  • Be ready to go hard off the line. There will always be someone who goes ballistic off the start (it might even be you!) and it will mean your body needs to be primed and ready for an early intense effort. It is worth having a decent warm up, get out of breath, get warm and be ready to race from the whistle.
  • Think about your own food and nutrition; don’t listen to other riders who say ‘you don’t need a bottle for a crit’ or ‘you don’t need a gel the race is too short’….you do exactly as you want until you find what suits you. If you want 2 gels in an hour’s race, you have two gels! Part of starting to race is learning what suits you; not what suits others. There will be a lot of opinions/banter but if you have more confidence in following your own regime with this then do so; confidence is key. No point being on the start line worrying that you haven’t had a gel because someone else has said you didn’t need one. For reference I always have 1 gel in a 1 hr crit and take 1 small bottle….and people still tell me ‘you don’t need a gel!!!!’
  • When you have your first race you don’t need to try and be a hero and break in your first race. You may actually benefit from sitting in, watching the wheels, watching for who is strongest etc. Even if you feel stronger than the pace suggests, perhaps hold back and get used to the bunch. I know plenty of people where the excitement of racing has overcome them in the early days, they feel strong, attack, die, blow, out the back. To be fair, this is usually men and us ladies are a tad more sensible! But, it can happen to the less experienced. Just keep it in mind! And if something does pull off then great, but realise if it goes wrong it can back fire!
  • Everyone will tell you to keep near the front; it’s safer, there is less surging effect at the front and less chance of getting caught behind someone who leaves gaps you can then not close. However in reality this is not always possible as you yourself may be suffering. If you get dropped then don’t be demoralised. Use it as a time to work with others who may be in your position. And if the bunch lap you, keep out there way, technically you shouldn’t jump back on but I would and just keep at the back out the way!
  • Finally, you never stop learning so don’t ever start  being complacent about how to race, it requires 110% concentration at all times, ultimately your safety is paramount to yourself and everyone else so keep focused in every race you do. I have been racing for 2 years since March, year one I think I only did about 15 races, and last year I did about 40/50 races. And I still have so much to learn.”

In Conclusion

Hopefully you have found my articles of use and hopefully they may have inspired you to have a go at road racing.  If you want to try some road races, Cycling Development North West have a women’s road race league, aimed at second, third and fourth category female riders, whose first event is on 1 March 2014.  They are aimed at women trying to get in to racing for the first time, and the distances range from 30 to 40 miles.  For more information, visit http://www.cdnw.org/road_race_league.html

My thanks also to Ed Rollason, of Ed Rollason Photography (www.edrollasonphotography.co.uk) for the kind donation of photos, Jon Taylor, Lydia Boylan and Karla Boddy.  Also my thanks to Huw Williams and Michelle Evans for their contributions on the coaching side of the guides.

Enjoy your season!

Click below to read:
Part One – Where Do I Start?
Part Two – What Do I Enter?
Part Three – What training should I do?
Part Four – Practice! Practice! Practice!
Part Five – Are You Ready To Race?
Part Six – Race Day
Part Seven – Circuit Racing

A Woman’s Guide to Racing (Part 5) – Are you ready to race?

 

A Woman’s Guide to Racing – Part 5

Are you ready to race?

 

So, you’ve done the training, entered the races, got your licence (if required) and your first race is fast approaching.  But how do you prepare for your first event?  Here is my survival guide to getting ready for racing…

1) “No Licence, No Helmet, NO RIDE!”

Those words never fail to fill me with fear – I go into a massive panic and start searching through my bag about five times to check I’ve got both of them.  It’s a bit like going on holiday when you’re rushing around at the last minute looking for your passport and tickets.  Take it from me – do as I say, not as I do – and get a list together (see below).

Obviously, if you’re riding a time trial you won’t need your British Cycling licence (unless it’s the National Championships), but I keep everything together so that they go everywhere with me – I get too confused otherwise!

2) Packing your bag

So, we’ve got two essential items for your list already – helmet and licence – but what else should you take?  Here’s a few more items that you should always have with you when turning up for a race:

  • Helmet
  • Licence
  • Cycling kit for racing (if you’re going to get changed when you arrive)
  • Long sleeve jersey to warm up in (sometimes called “track tops”)yc
  • Leg warmers
  • Arm warmers
  • Rain cape (or jacket) – these three items are to help you in inclement weather – I’ve seen far too many people turn up to races in short sleeves and shorts when it is freezing – look after yourself and invest in some arm warmers – you’re worth it!
  • “Start sheet” – if there is one available – print it out off the internet if the organiser doesn’t send you one in the post so that you know where the headquarters are (it does help!)
  • Cycling shoes and socks
  • Track mitts or full gloves (depending on the weather) – you want to ensure your hands are protected in case you come off
  • Safety pins – for the race number that you will be given (trust me, you can never have enough safety pins!)
  • Food for during the race – whether this be energy gels, energy bars or sweets!
  • Drink for during the race
  • Drink and food for AFTER the race – remember you will need to rehydrate and refuel before starting the journey home
  • Sunglasses
  • Hair bobble and a brush (if you have long hair)
  • Towel and toiletries for getting changed post-event
  • Plastic bag for your used kit
  • Clothes for post-race (can be forgotten if you’ve travelled in your cycling kit!)
  • Change for donation box for post-race cake and tea

Whilst I am at it, you may want to have a think about the bag you’re going to use for your kit.  I spent 18 months lugging a 90 litre cargo bag to races with me, but I could never find anything as it was all dumped in the one compartment and it was also pretty heavy.  In the end, I swapped it for a holdall with wheels (I couldn’t afford a posh one) but it has loads of pockets and now I can find everything!

3) Check out the Race Headquarters in advance

The beauty of living in the 21st century is that you can look at where the race HQ is in advance, using the internet.  Some headquarters are better than others and unfortunately, some can be somewhat lacking in space to get changed.  So, it can sometimes be worth being at least half ready before you set off to the event, depending on how far you have to travel.  Otherwise, be prepared mentally for the concept of having to get changed in a toilet cubicle, or in the car under a towel.  Luckily, some places have really good facilities nowadays where that isn’t a problem, but there are still some village halls that are a bit worse for wear.

In addition, if you plan your trip in advance, so that you know where you’re going and how long it will take, that will take a lot of anxiety away so that you can concentrate on getting totally psyched up for the event in question instead.

Finally on this point, and this is especially important if you are riding a time trial – check out how far the HQ is from the circuit!  The general rule of thumb is that you must sign on at least an hour before you are due to ride, but if there is a 20 to 30 minute ride from the HQ to the circuit (which can happen a lot in time trials), make sure you factor in that time in addition to the time it will take you to get ready – the last thing you want to do is set off too late and miss your start time (yes, I learn from my mistakes)!

4) Check your equipment in advance

The last thing you want to do is travel all the way to a race, only to find that your gears don’t work/you’ve got a flat tyre, etc.  So check your bike works properly in advance.  Either pump your tyres up in advance (one of the last jobs before putting the bike in/on the car) or take the track pump with you if you have room in the car and pump them up when you arrive (make sure you have enough time to do this).  If you’re using a computer or heart rate monitor which needs to be charged, make sure you charge it in advance and don’t forget your heart rate monitor belt if you are going to use one.  Make sure all the lids are on your bottles properly (you do not want half a litre of energy drink spilling over the back of your car, trust me).

5) Are you mentally prepared?

Good question.  You may think that you are, or you may be absolutely bricking it.  In any case, I have drafted in Huw Williams of lafuga.cc to give you some advice on how to prepare yourself mentally for the race:

Where’s your head at?

“Psychology has long been known to be a key factor in athletic performance but recent successes by our cyclists at elite level in the Olympics has fired it into the forefront of our thinking. High profile wins by riders like Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton have highlighted personal mental issues overcome on the way to hitherto unconquerable targets and British Cycling’s chief sports psychiatrist Steve Peters has received almost celebrity author status for his work with metaphorically mental chimpanzees that all too readily pop out of their cages when you least need them too and scupper your best laid plans.

“At more modest grass-roots racing level, psychology is more often overlooked, but along with the other key demands of racing, physiological, technical and tactical conditioning, Developing riders’ confidence so that they can manage performance states successfully is an important objective.

“When it comes to a race you can be the most skilled tactician, best bike handler and the fittest rider on the grid, but if you’re a quivering, nervous wreck when the gun goes, and can’t implement any of your skills in the race, you aren’t going to perform. So whatever level you race at, psychology should play an important part of your training.  In the same way that your climbing technique or your power or your tactical awareness needs to be trained, so does your mental state. Think of it as developing ‘mental toughness.’

To help you do this here are a few basic truths:

1)      Sports Psychology is not Witchcraft or some new-age magic

2)      Mental skills, like physical skills have to be mastered over time

3)      Mental skills, like physical skills need to practiced in training before being implemented into competition

4)      Mental skills, like technical skills are an integral part of training and preparation

“As stated at the start of this article, there is a much greater awareness of the role that sports psychology plays in sporting achievement these days but success is not exclusively the preserve of riders with a strong mindset. Many other factors, some listed above, might contribute to the fact that even the most mentally tough rider might not win a race on a given day. What we concern ourselves with when looking at mental toughness is our own ability to perform at the highest level we are capable of and to do it consistently. Much else is beyond our control and not worth worrying about (and that in itself is a concept that many riders find it hard to get their heads around). For this reason, developing control of the emotional state in order to be able to perform optimally is often of more value than setting specific event goals. “I am going to win this race” is a positive mindset but any number of factors beyond your control might make this unachievable, whereas “I am going to perform the best I can” is completely within your control.

“Sports psychology is a vast area of study. As an example, pride of place on my bookshelf at home are two excellent industry standard textbooks published by Human Kinetics. The first is ‘The Physiology of Sport and Exercise’ and the second is ‘Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology.’ The psychology text is three times the thickness of the physiology text and also has an extensive online ‘further study guide’. I mention this as an example of how understanding the human mind and how to train it is a vastly more complex issue than understanding the human body and how to train it. There are no quick fixes here and given the individual character traits that differ widely from rider to rider, you’ll understand the complexity and scale of trying to cover the subject in great depth here is next to impossible. Instead we’ll look at a couple of areas most likely to be of benefit to the novice racer and how you can improve your mental state. The first is preparation and the second is performance.

1) Preparation.

“Observing the pre-race ritual of a road race is a coaches’ dream. You get to witness a myriad of different responses to what is about to take place indicating the different emotional states of the riders. At a recent race in Kent there were girls staring fixedly down the track lost in their thoughts while others were laughing and chattering away at high speed to anyone who would listen. One girl was nervously sipping form a bottle every 5 seconds barely returning it to the cage long enough before taking it out again for another drink. Some were even doing last minute stretches while straddling the bike, waiting for the off. Clearly the emotional states of these riders was hugely varied, each had their own ways of preparing and coping with the anxiety of what was about to come. So what’s right?

“The key to consistently performing well is preparation. You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’ a number of times and although it’s something of a cliché its certainly a reasonable mantra for a novice racer. And although we’re talking primarily about mental development in this feature, ‘mental toughness’ isn’t just mental. It’s also being physically prepared and emotionally in control. If you’re on the line knowing that you are in peak physical condition and you’ve practiced all your technical skills then you know you are in a position to perform at your highest level. You can use this knowledge to control your emotional state in a number of ways.

Imagery

“Firstly is the use of imagery or ‘visualization’. Imagery is a highly powerful tool in developing confidence and you can use it boost your performance.  Let’s say you’re working on your bike handling by doing cornering drills. You work at it by repeatedly cornering at increasing speeds until you develop the ability to do it well over and over again. Before each pass, stop and take a few moments to ‘see’ yourself doing it properly. What’s your perfect road positioning and line through the bend? What’s your ideal bodyweight distribution like through the corner? Where are your optimal braking and acceleration points? Are you looking ahead through the bend. Ingrain this image of what you, doing the perfect corner looks like, and visualize yourself doing it perfectly before each time you practice a corner.

Self Talk:

“Let’s face it if you see somebody on the start line of a race staring fixedly down the track and talking to themselves you’re probably thinking they’re a bit nuts and one to avoid when the gun goes. But far from being the first sign of madness, whether you do it out loud, under your breath or in your head, talking to yourself can be a great way to focus the mind. Negative thoughts, distractions and Steve Peter’s chimps invariably start to infiltrate your thoughts at times of high stress like before a race, but self talk can be a great way to turn your thoughts back to positives. So you might look apprehensively at the rider with full aero-wheelset and tanned legs next to you and instead of the negative thought that “she looks a bit good” tell yourself “I’m looking forward to the challenge of competing against this rider as I have prepared well and if I concentrate on doing what I need to do I will be fine.” Or another example, we all have a particular section of road (usually a hill) or element of a training session that we struggle with, so instead of saying to yourself “I’m coming up to the part of the ride that always defeats me” say to yourself “I look forward to another chance of beating that hill/interval whatever.” Self talk is a highly valuable method of turning negative thoughts that can undermine your emotional state into a very positive mindset.

 

2: Performance

“Both Imagery and self talk are great techniques to get into a positive mindset pre-race, but even if you are the best rider at controlling your emotional state and getting your mind attuned to what is about to take place, if everything falls apart when the action starts all those pre-race coping strategies count for nothing. Racing, especially in the grass-roots categories is a very chaotic affair. To the inexperienced rider, the constantly changing shape of the peleton due to random attacks, riders getting dropped and high intensity surges, is highly confusing. The lack of any recognisable pattern often leaves those unprepared for it unable to make any conscious decision as to how to react to any given situation until its too late – they’ve missed a break or are in totally the wrong position and unable to contest the final sprint. It’s option paralysis, a state where when faced with so many choices you are so confused that you make none.

“There is a lot of very fast decision-making to be done in road racing so remaining calm amidst this chaos is essential if you are going to be able to make the correct calls and this is something that needs to be learned. Force yourself to look at yourself when you are racing and examine your emotional state. Are you so tense that you’re bending the handlebars in a white-knuckle death grip in anticipation of the next attack – or are you so laid back rolling along in the middle of the pack that you wouldn’t even notice if a break went let alone be able to respond to it. Your mental state is key to how well you perform and the decisions you make during the race and if you’re overwhelmed by the chaos around you, you won’t perform at your best.

“One coping strategy is implementing the classic “if, then” strategy, a simple but effective means of pre-identifying certain scenarios (the problem) which you then react to in a pre-determined way (the solution). So you might have identified a strong rider in the early laps of a race or from previous events and your strategy would be “if that rider attacks, then I will go with her” decision made, no confusion. Likewise if you know you are going well on a certain day your strategy might be “If I am in the lead group with 5 laps to go, then I will launch a solo attack at the top of the climb.” Again, all confusion about if and when you should attack removed. Having a few of these pre-ingrained strategies in place can greatly reduce your state of anxiety during the race. The chances are that some completely unexpected scenario will occur to scupper your intention and make you revise the plan but that in itself could be part of your “if, then” coping strategy; “If something happens that I am not prepared for, then I will not panic but remain calm and quickly re-evaluate my race plan.”

“Practice the above techniques in the areas of preparation and performance and instead of worrying about what the race might hold and underperforming you now have a preparation strategy whereby you visualise yourself doing the right things and can talk your mind into the correct place, as well a good basic race-plan that anticipates certain scenarios and how you will react to them, your first small steps to improving your mental toughness.”

Thanks to Huw Williams for the above, it is useful for every racer – male or female.

Finally, my thanks to Ed Rollason of Ed Rollason Photography www.edrollasonphotography.co.uk   for the photos.

Next week will be my final article in the series – Race Day!  In the meantime, enjoy riding your bike and stay safe.

Click below to read:
Part One – Where Do I Start?
Part Two – What Do I Enter?
Part Three – What training should I do?
Part Four – Practice! Practice! Practice!
Part Six – Race Day
Part Seven – Circuit Racing

Delamere Dairy announced as new Cheshire Classic sponsor

Delamere Dairy, producers of goats and soya milk products, has signed up as a major new sponsor for the 2013 Cheshire Classic Women’s Road Race. Delamere Dairy, whose products are sold nationwide in supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsburys, will sponsor the Sprint Prize Competition on Sunday 28th April.

Delamere Logo hi res

Race Organiser Andy Wood commented “this is a major signing for the Cheshire Classic, it’s great to have a company which is a key employer locally and one that has national exposure too. It’s also a good indication of how far Women’s cycling has come, the Olympics has really inspired people and we hope this year’s race will add to that”.

Patrick Brunt, Sales & Marketing Director at Delamere Dairy commented “getting involved with the Cheshire Classic was a no-brainer. Not only are investing in the local community but we produce, high quality, healthy products and being a long standing race with a great reputation it was the perfect match. Cycling is a great way to get our brand across”.

There is a lot to be said about goats’ milk and soya products; lower in cholesterol, high in calcium and small fat globules make it easier to digest. Delamere Dairy will be on hand on race day with some samples to try.

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The news follows the recent announcements of Breeze, Epic Cycles and Halfords’ support of the race. The race takes place on Sunday 28th April in Northwich, and is organised by Weaver Valley Cycling Club. Entries are now open with a large number of entries already submitted from around the UK. Last year’s edition was won by Paralympic superstar Sarah Storey with previous winners including silver Olympic medallist Lizzie Armitstead, Nicole Cooke and two time Junior World Champion Lucy Garner.

As part of their new strategy you can follow the build up to the Cheshire Classic on Twitter (@cheshireclassic) and Facebook alongside a brand new website at www.cheshireclassic.co.uk

 

A Woman’s Guide to Racing (Part 4) – Practice! Practice! Practice!

 

A Woman’s Guide to Racing – Part 4

Practice! Practice! Practice!

Last week’s article was all about training – general advice and more specific tips about women’s racing and how best to prepare for it.  I know that at the end of last week’s article, I said that this week would be about race preparation, but unfortunately, you’ll have to wait another week for that as I thought I would concentrate on something that often gets forgotten about – things to practice for when you are racing.  So without further ado, here we go:

1) Drinking from your bottle

Ask yourself a question – when you decide that you want a drink whilst out on your bike, what do you do?  Do you stop, unclip and then reach down and grab your bottle?  If so, the first thing you need to practise is reaching for your bottle whilst on the move, taking a drink and then putting it back, whilst still moving.

This may seem really simple to some people, but the point is that if you don’t put your bottle back in the cage correctly and you subsequently hit a pot hole, I have seen so many bottles take flight, which then means that you have either

2011 Bedford Stage 4 ©www.VeloUK.net (Larry Hickmott)

2011 Bedford Stage 4 ©www.VeloUK.net (Larry Hickmott)

inadvertently caused a crash behind you, as people swerve to avoid your bottle, or you have to complete the race without any drink – not the best idea!

Whilst I am on bottles, please do not throw your bottle away unless you need to in order to take another bottle on board.  And if you absolutely have to throw your bottle, be careful where you throw it as again it could end up in the middle of the bunch, with possible crashes as a result.  Carrying an empty bottle won’t make that much difference to the weight of your bike, and unless you are lucky enough to get an unlimited supply of free bottles, if you lose a bottle every race, the cost of replacing them soon adds up, AND you become a litter lout too, so don’t do it.

2) “Clipping in”

So you are on the start line, and the flag is waved to start the race.  You look down, check where your feet are and push off, again looking down to clip your other foot in.  When you look up again, the rest of the riders have already entered the first bend and you face a chase to get back in contention.  And it’s only the first lap.

Again, this might seem simple, but a race can be won or lost, or points gained or lost, on your ability to “clip in” to your pedals quickly. It is easy to practise, and your riding will benefit from it as you will get used to clipping in and out easily, so there’s no more worries then about stopping at junctions, etc.  Plus, why use extra energy chasing to get back in the race when you could be up there from the start?  It’s a no-brainer for me.

3) Eating on the move

Joaquim Rodriguez having a snack on his bike. ©William Perugini/Shutterstock

This doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) be a problem if you are doing a 30 or 40 minute circuit race as you should be able to survive on a gel just before the start and a bottle with energy drink in it, however, for anybody looking at doing road races, you need to be able to take food on board in order to replenish your energy reserves BEFORE they get depleted.

There are many ways to do this, and you should try different types of food to see what suits you best – some people will tell you to use energy gels, other people will say bananas, others will say sweets or chocolate.  I will give you some alternatives, but remember that energy foods can prove quite expensive and sometimes just toast and jam will do (that’s what I used to use in the 1990s!):

My advice would be to shop around, try different things and stick with what works for you, which may not be what your mates tell you!  Practice taking them out of your pocket, eating them and putting the wrapper back in your pocket – again no litter bug antics please!

4) Cornering

Hmm, now this is something I can tell you about from experience!  This can be a bone of contention at ANY race – circuit or road!  The first thing you need to practise is adjusting your speed going into the bend/corner – far too many people go into a bend at full pelt, only to realise on the apex of the bend that they have totally miscalculated their speed and brake

Image ©Huw Williams

to avoid going completely out of control. Not at all helpful for the people who are unfortunate enough to be following that person’s wheel.

When approaching the corner, look beyond the bend to see where you are going – do NOT look down at the ground.  If you look at where you are going, this will help you to hold your line (which I will explain in a minute).

If you lean in to go around the corner, this helps with fluidity and momentum, make sure you keep your inside pedal (in the UK this will mainly be your left pedal) up, which means that your opposite foot should be at the bottom, with your outside leg straight and your inside leg bent.  Also, keep relaxed to help you “flow” around the corner.

When you approach the bend, look first to see where you are going to exit the corner, brake as you approach the bend to reduce your speed, and keep your head up to see where you are going.  As you come out of the bend, do not drift to the other side (for example if you are going around a left hand bend do not drift to the right) – this is called “holding your line” – you must bear in mind that you will hopefully be in the middle of a group of riders at this point and any movements that riders to either side of you or behind you aren’t expecting could potentially cause a collision.  Even if you think you are on your own, hold your line as there may be other riders coming up behind you.

I think the key to cornering in a group is respect other riders – give them space (not too much though!) and keep an eye on what is ahead.

5) Mutual Respect

One thing you will notice in a race is that people can get a bit annoyed if you do something that they don’t agree with – rightly or wrongly – and it will also get on your nerves if somebody does something to annoy you.  But that is a part of racing – it is emotional whether you like it or not, and you are competing for the win essentially.  Respect your fellow riders, give them the space that you would expect but don’t let them walk all over you!  So, if somebody else who is nothing to do with you, shouts at you to do some work, think about whether it would be of benefit to YOU to work  – if you are in a bunch, and your strength lies in sprinting at the end of the race, why would you do any work to help other people who aren’t on your team (you wouldn’t see Mark Cavendish riding at the head of the pro peloton on the last stage of the Tour de France if he thinks he is going to win, would you?)?  On the other hand, if you are not a sprinter but would prefer to get in a break and win that way, then it might work in your favour to put the hammer down.  Far too often I have seen riders do what their rivals (on a different team) tell them to.  But why would you do that?  Remember that you are competing – don’t be overwhelmed by riders who are supposedly better than you on paper – you have entered the race for a reason.

Next week, I will be covering race preparation and the final instalment will be what to expect on race day.

In the meantime, keep riding and stay safe!

 

Click below to read:
Part One – Where Do I Start?
Part Two – What Do I Enter?
Part Three – What training should I do?
Part Five – Are You Ready To Race?
Part Six – Race Day
Part Seven – Circuit Racing

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