Four Years On…

Over the last four years, one of the major regrets that I have had is the sport’s inability to retain female riders.  I’ve seen some really promising talent appear for half a season, never to be seen again, some have been around for even less than that.  Many find the sport hard, or just want to have a go to try it out only to disappear a week later.  But if we want women’s cycling to grow, everybody has to stick at it, so with that in mind, I thought I would share my reasons for competing with you, in the hope that if somebody like me can do it, maybe you can too.

A bit of background

It’s been four years since I started competing again.  Back then, I was working restricted hours, suffering from chronic fatigue, which meant that I had no energy to train after work and, even after the 45 minute circuit race, I fell asleep on the way home as I was so tired.

A Woman’s Guide to Racing (Part 1)

Time trialling on V718 in 2012

Following the 2011 season, I swapped medication under the guidance of my consultant neurologist.  I have epilepsy, which is controlled, but my new consultant wouldn’t let me come off medication whilst I wanted to ride my bike and do all the things that most people take for granted.  After being on sodium valproate for 15 years, I swapped to levetiracetam, which was a relatively new drug.

By March 2012, I had lost over two and half stone and for the first time in longer than I care remember, I could think much more clearly.  I was still tired (I had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue in December 2010) but the cognitive behaviour therapy that I had had to undergo as the treatment for the chronic fatigue had helped me to manage things much more effectively.

A slow start

The first few races I did in 2012, I got dropped the first time, had a woman shout at me because she didn’t think I knew what I was doing (I did, I was just shattered), and all I could physically manage to do was ride in 9 events, three of which were men’s road races, with the rest being closed circuit races.

A Woman’s Guide to Racing (Part 3): What training should I do?

Racing at Salt Ayre in 2012

One of the problems, I came to realise, with losing 20% of my own bodyweight, was the loss in power and strength that came with it.  We went to Majorca in September 2012, and we had to change the chainring to a 36 because I wasn’t strong enough to use the 39. The longest ride I could manage was about 60 miles, which was to and from Sa Calobra, not only because I wasn’t particularly fit, but also because of the remnants of the chronic fatigue.  Looking back at it now, that holiday helped my recovery as it kick started my winter training block, and reminded me that I could actually ride a bike!

Development, development, development

One of the good things about being involved in cycling in years gone by is that it meant that turning up to races, you knew what you were talking about.  However, I soon found that if it hadn’t happened on Facebook and Twitter, it hadn’t happened.  At this point, I was only a third category rider, so if I suggested something to anybody else, I always got the response “what do you know?” which got on my nerves no end.  So, I paid my entrance fee and qualified as a coach through the Association of British Cycling Coaches, as I couldn’t afford the pathway through British Cycling and there was no funding available for me as I live in a region where there’s a plethora of BC coaches.

By the end of 2012, we were getting a women’s road race league set up for 2013 as well as a development team for women in the North West, both of which are different stories, but it became obvious that the development pathway in women’s cycling was missing, and is something which we have hopefully started to build on now for the rest of the UK.

Coaching with Huw and Carley

Coaching with Huw and Carley

National Series and National Championships

In 2013, I took part in a few National Series races, but it became increasingly obvious to me that there were limits to what I was physically capable of achieving.  I was working over 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, and with the additional work that I was doing trying to develop women’s cycling in the evenings (mainly articles, meetings and phone calls about the best way to improve the women’s scene with various people) and the odd bit of coaching and mentoring, it meant that I was doing probably around 60 hours a week, including my day job.  I still struggled to do any mid week training and racing in the evenings was an absolute no-go, so I was basically stuck with a small amount of time, which meant that I couldn’t do enough quality training to keep up with the better riders.

In 2014, there seemed to be a change in start times too, which saw many of the events with a 9:30 am start time.  One of the problems with epilepsy is that seizures occur as a result of triggers.  One of my triggers is tiredness and I find it extremely difficult to get up early to go and ride my bike (not even racing) as it takes my brain longer to wake up than most.  So it came to pass that I couldn’t afford to do all of the National Series events, for three reasons – I couldn’t afford it financially (I am self-funded and therefore it becomes expensive staying over before each event), I couldn’t afford the time off work (I only have a finite amount of holidays available) and I couldn’t afford it physically (in the event that the worst happened and I had a bad reaction to the early start), which is also a massive mental obstacle for me to get over.

But it isn’t only road race events that this affects – I can’t enter any time trials on Sundays because they all start too early, which also means that (on the whole), I can’t enter National Championship events either, or the RTTC Classic events.

(c) Ellen Isherwood

(c) Ellen Isherwood

What training do I do?

My training is pretty limited, as I have to keep an eye on my energy levels.  I don’t get home until six o’clock and I generally have admin to do with regards to the Racing Chance Foundation (from sorting the management accounts, to writing/updating the website, to trying to organise races), so mid week it’s generally limited to 40 minutes, three or four evenings a week.  At the weekend, if I’m racing, I’ll generally do a two hour ride on the Saturday (if I’m racing on the Sunday) or a three hour ride on Sunday (if I’m racing on a Saturday).  If I get to do more than 120 miles or 8 hours in a week, that’s a big week for me.  During winter, I tend to aim for 150 miles a week, but again that’s based on the majority of my riding being at the weekend (usually about 7 hours a weekend).

Racing at Tameside 2015

Racing at Tameside 2015

Why do I race?

It has since become apparent that the chronic fatigue that I suffered from between 2006 and 2012 was a side effect of taking sodium valproate.  After coming off that drug, I was like a different person, mentally and physically.  That being said, that drug was 40 years old and we knew what the majority of the side effects were (which is why I don’t have any children of my own).  The new drug only came into existence about 10 to 15 years ago, so it’s relatively new in the grand scheme of things.  I don’t know what the long term side effects of this drug are, but I intend to remain as fit as possible in order to keep any horrible side effects at bay (one side effect of taking anti-convulsants is a tendency for depression) and, unfortunately, I don’t know what I’ll be able to do when I get older as I don’t know what the long term effects will be on my kidneys and liver.

But in the meantime, I intend to support, help and persuade as many women as possible to take up competitive cycling as it not only keeps you fit, it gives you the self confidence you need to be assertive in every day life, which is where the Racing Chance Foundation comes in.

Every time I get on a start line, it’s an achievement.  I’m not bothered about points – I know that I’m never going to be a world beater because I don’t want to be, I just enjoy taking part.  I do know that it keeps me fit – since 2011, my resting heart rate has dropped my around 30 bpm, which I choose to take as my heart showing me that it’s fitter.  Unfortunately, I need something to keep me motivated and the racing fills that gap, even if a lot of the racing I do is actually training!

If you want to find out more about how to take the next steps in competitive cycling, visit the Racing Chance Foundation for some handy information and help make a difference to women’s cycling.

Anglesey Women’s Team Bid for Island Games Spot

In January this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Annie Glover and Karen Ager from Holyhead Cycling Club.  Both had travelled all of the way from Holyhead in Anglesey to attend our women’s race training session in Tameside, just outside Manchester, which I thought was pretty impressive!  But that was just the start…

Annie, Karen and their club mate, Jasmine Sharp, are all keen cyclists, and are active in North Wales and Anglesey with encouraging younger riders to take up the sport.  All three women are British Cycling coaches but until this year, they have only really participated in their local club time trials and, in Jasmine’s case, Audax events.

This year, for the first time, the women have decided that they want to step up their involvement in competition, and they used the Racing Chance Foundation’s women’s race training to give them the helping hand they needed.  But there was also another reason for starting to race – for the first time this year, Ynys Mon (Anglesey) are fielding a women’s cycling team in the Island Games, which take place in Jersey at the end of June/beginning of July.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, without further ado, I asked Annie what the Island Games was all about (coming from Manchester, I had no idea).  Here she explains:

“The Island Games were founded in 1985 in Isle of Man and take place every 2 years. It is a friendly competition between small islands from across the world. It creates an opportunity for sports people from smaller communities to compete in international competition.

“The Island Games are a catalyst for sport & cultural exchange and aim to increase youth participation in sport. It presents an opportunity to represent the region & community whilst building links with other regions and promoting Anglesey & UK.

“Ynys Mon Island Games Association (YMIGA) was a Founder member, YMIGA was established in 1985, Island-wide consisting of Voluntary sports association – members are all volunteers. YMIGA promotes participation in Island Games sports”.

As YMIGA is run by volunteers, the each team has to fund its own way.  Knowing from a personal perspective how much it can cost to get to a bike race, I asked Annie to give me some further detail about the costs involved:

“As well as training hard for these events we have to raise our own funds for the travelling, accommodation & logistics of getting the cycling team, their support team and their bikes to Jersey & back,” she explains.

“The team consists of a squad of 11 people, which includes a manager and assistant for logistical support on the road whilst competing and mechanical assistance.  The cycling team needs include transport of 2 bikes per team member to Jersey & back, (via van/ferry), logistics of travel for the team, accommodation, team kit (shorts jerseys, skinsuits). Total costs have been estimated at around £8250.”

Jasmine, Annie and Karen put a lot into developing younger riders, and the hope is, by raising the profile of the Ynys Mon team both on a local level (in Anglesey and North Wales) and by attending the event in Jersey, it will hopefully in future provide the aspiration and motivation for younger riders from the smaller islands to take up cycling competitively.

The team have been busy raising funds, with team member doing a 24 hour sponsored ploughing (yes, you read that right, and it wasn’t the ladies doing it either) but any help that you can give them would be much appreciated.

If you can support the team, please pledge funds via their Go Fund Me page, which you can access by clicking here or if you can assist them with kit, van hire or anything else you can also contact the team via the page.

Jasmine, Karen & Annie MT

 

Official 2015 Cheshire Classic Film by CyclingShorts.cc

 

 

Cheshire Classic Women’s Road Race 2015 Results

Delamere Dairy Sprint – Joanna Rowsell (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International)

Advanced Medical Solutions Team Prize – Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International

Your Sports Therapist Aggressive Rider – Sarah Storey (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International)

Position Name Team/Club Category
1 Dame Sarah Storey Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Intl Elite
2 Laura Trott Matrix Fitness Elite
3 Alice Barnes Betch.NL-Superior-Brentjens MTB Racing Team 3rd
4 Emily Kay Team USN 1st
5 Katie Curtis Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Intl 1st
6 Louise Mahe IKON – Mazda 1st
7 Charline Joiner Team WNT 1st
8 Laura Greenhalgh Les Filles Racing Team 2nd
9 Henrietta Colborne Bonito Squadra Corse 2nd
10 Emily Nelson Team USN 2nd
11 Nicola Juniper Team Giordana- Triton Elite
12 Eve Dixon Team 22 1st
13 Gabriella Shaw Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Intl Elite
14 Jennifer George Les Filles Racing Team 1st
15 Natalie Grinczer Fusion RT Gearclub Bike Science 2nd
16 Helen Ralston Les Filles Racing Team 2nd
17 Rose Osbourne Team WNT 2nd
18 Anna Christian Wiggle Honda 2nd
19 Susan Freeburn [email protected] House 2nd
20 Ellie Campbell Fusion RT Gearclub Bike Science 3rd
21 Gabriella Leveridge Velosure Starley Primal 2nd
22 Jessie Walker Matrix Fitness 1st
23 Gemma Sargent Racing Chance Foundation 2nd
24 Bethany Taylor Bonito Squadra Corse 2nd
25 Kayleigh Brogan Aprire Bicycles/HSS Hire 2nd
26 Elizabeth-Jane Harris Army Cycling Union 2nd
27 Ella Hopkins IKON – Mazda 3rd
28 Nicole Oh Les Filles Racing Team 2nd
29 Jennifer Hudson Fusion RT Gearclub Bike Science 2nd
30 Julie Erskine IKON – Mazda 1st
31 Rebecca Nixon Fusion RT Gearclub Bike Science 2nd
32 Gabriella Nordin GB Cycles.co.uk 2nd
33 Manon Lloyd Team USN 1st
34 Charlotte Broughton Corley Cycles – Drops RT 2nd
35 Chanel Mason Army Cycling Union 2nd
36 Rebecca Rimmington IKON – Mazda 1st
37 Rebecca Carter Team WNT 2nd
38 Annasley Park Team Giordana- Triton 2nd
39 Bethany Hayward Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Intl 1st
40 Amy Gornall Aprire Bicycles/HSS Hire 2nd
41 Louise Laker [email protected] House 2nd
42 Josephine Gilbert Velosure Starley Primal 2nd
43 Vanessa Whitfield Team 22 2nd
44 Frances White Team Jadan 2nd
45 Bethany Crumpton North West MTB Race Team 3rd
46 Hannah Payton Corley Cycles – Drops RT 2nd
47 Ciara Horne Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Intl 2nd
48 Lucy Shaw Matrix Fitness Development 2nd
49 Joanna Rowsell Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Intl Elite
50 Penny Rowson Matrix Fitness 2nd
51 Katie Archibald Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Intl Elite
52 Rebecca Womersley Corley Cycles – Drops RT 2nd
53 Joanne Blakeley Team 22 2nd
54 Hannah Walker Team WNT Elite
55 Lucy Harper Aprire Bicycles/HSS Hire 2nd
56 Helen McKay Les Filles Racing Team 2nd
57 Pia De Quint
58 Nicola Soden Carnac-Planet X 2nd
59 Elinor Thorogood Aprire Bicycles/HSS Hire 3rd
60 Ellie Coster Team USN 2nd
61 Melissa Brand IKON – Mazda 2nd
62 Nikola Butler Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Intl 2nd
63 Victoria Strila [email protected] House 2nd
64 Lauren OBrien Team Giordana- Triton 2nd
65 Alexis Barnes [email protected] House 2nd
66 Emily Attfield Velosure Starley Primal 2nd
67 Chloe Weller [email protected] House 2nd
68 Rebecca Raybould Poole Whls CC 2nd
69 Sandra Mackay Carnac-Planet X 2nd
70 Ruth Taylor Manchester Whlrs Club 2nd
71 Emma Grant IKON – Mazda 2nd
72 Keira McVitty Team Giordana- Triton 1st
73 Sarah Rose Team 22 2nd
74 Sam Burman Team WNT 3rd
DNF Delia Beddis Les Filles Racing Team 2nd
DNF Karla Boddy IKON – Mazda 1st
DNF Laura Cheesman Velosure Starley Primal 2nd
DNF Tracy Corbett Les Filles Racing Team 2nd
DNF Laura Massey IKON – Mazda Elite
DNF Brit Tate Team WNT 1st

A Woman’s Guide to Racing – Part 8 – Road Racing

Once you have got a few circuit races under your belt, you might like to have a go at road racing, after all, it’s what many people believe that cycling is all about!  However, there a few differences between road racing and circuit racing, so I thought it would be useful to explain them here.

The Open Road

Yes, that’s right, the majority of road racing in this country, whether you are male or female, is on the open road. That means that you are on the public highway and therefore have to abide by the rules of the road – for those of you who aren’t sure what I mean by this (and I have raced with a few (men and women) who don’t appear to be aware of this), it means that you stay on the left hand side of the road, because in the UK we drive on the left.  With the races being on the open road, this means that you have to be aware of other road users, including cars and lorries that come in the opposite direction.  If somebody goes on to the wrong side of the road into the path of an oncoming vehicle it can have horrific consequences, so you MUST be aware AT ALL TIMES that you have a duty to yourself and your fellow competitors to ride sensibly.  Have a look at my Dance Space article about giving yourself room.

(c) Martin Holden Photography

(c) Martin Holden Photography

Races are longer

This seems like I am stating the obvious but I will do anyway.  The races are longer (generally between 30 and 60 miles for both men and women) which means that the pace tends to be a bit more consistent than in a circuit race, helped by the fact that you probably won’t be sprinting out of a corner every 10 seconds like you sometimes end up doing in a circuit race.  Field sizes are generally larger as road races are more expensive to run and therefore need to have bigger fields, but that helps with the race distance as you get more shelter (in theory at least).  As the races are longer, you also need to have more stamina and endurance than you would in a circuit race, and need to ensure that you carry food with you for eating during the race (see my Practice! Practice! Practice! article for advice in this respect).  This can also mean that those riders who are great in circuit races may not be as good at longer road races and vice versa, so if you don’t think that the flat circuit races are for you, why not have a go at road racing?!

(c) Martin Holden Photography

(c) Martin Holden Photography

There’s different terrain

One of the limiting factors of circuit races is that they tend to be pan flat (there are exceptions, especially where town centre circuit races are concerned) and usually finish in a bunch sprint, so it can become a bit demoralising if you aren’t keen on being a sprinter.  However, road race circuits come in all manner of shapes and sizes, from shorter “kermesse” style races to longer circuits with a couple of climbs and descents in them.  Don’t expect to be great at everything, but certainly try and have a go at different circuits to see what suits you best.

Start at the right level

The good news is that road races can be a lot easier for novices than circuit races, especially those road races that are aimed at 2/3/4 category women, due to the length of the race and there being less corners.  The average speed for regional level races tends to be anywhere between 22 mph and 24 mph depending on the weather and the circuit and more often than not the pace eases up significantly, allowing you to have a bit of a breather.

Staying with the bunch is the key to success

This sounds really easy but it can be a bit of a nightmare when you are new to racing.  Many people will happily let the other riders go up the road if the pace goes up a bit, never to see the bunch again, but the road race that you entered then becomes a time trial, and you don’t get the same enjoyment for spending 35 miles of a 40 mile race off the back of the bunch.  Trust me, it may seem like really hard work at times when you are riding at a pace which you don’t feel comfortable with, however nine times out of ten the pace will ease off slightly and you get an opportunity to recover before the pace increases again.  Road racing is supposed to be hard and difficult, where your legs and lungs are burning as you try to keep up with people who are slightly fitter and faster than you, but the feeling at the end is worth it!

(c) http://martinholdenphotography.com

Be true to yourself

By this, I mean “don’t let other riders bully you in to doing something that you don’t want to do”. There will be many occasions in races where more experienced riders will shout at you to do some work.  You don’t have to do what they tell you to – it’s your entry fee and your race – but sometimes they might be saying it for good reason. Keep your common sense in tow and do what you think is right – if you’re about to blow up, don’t feel as if you have to do a turn on the front, sit in the wheels, get your breath back and you might be somewhere when it comes to the finish.

Road racing is fun, but it is hard work and is supposed to hurt your legs, so don’t give up as soon as they start hurting – battle through that pain for a couple of minutes at least (unless it is pain in relation to an injury when you should stop immediately) and you never know, you might surprise yourself!

(c) Martin Holden Photography

(c) Martin Holden Photography

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

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