Aberystwyth was taken over by all types of cyclists on the last weekend of May. Criterium racing on the Friday, which saw the Tour Series Pro televised; Downhill Mountain biking on the Saturday where DH World Champion Rachel Atherton turned up to Conquer ‘The Cliff’; Hill Climb Elimination where riders and pro’s took on the notorious 25% Cefn Llan hill; and to finish the festival off a Sportive around the beautiful countryside where riders could relax and soak up the sun!
I was there to race in the Women’s only Criterium. The roads of Aberystwyth were closed to celebrate the Tour Series Pro Criterium coming to town and being televised. Well over 500 cyclists turned up that evening to take part in the support races and even more spectators!
The week leading up to the race I felt prepared, nervous but prepared. I heard the course had tight corners, dreaded drains and cobbled sections. I was confident with my bike handling skills, but there was a drag up to the finish/start line which I knew would drain your legs after the 5th or 6th lap.
Friday soon approached and by the time I knew it I was in Aberystwyth warming up on the turbo. I was a nervous wreck. This race was a big thing! Closed roads, Professional cars all lined up, the motorcycle support crew and the amount of spectators just blew me away. I felt like a fish out of water.
After talking to my coach and friends I pulled myself together and got into race mode.
The race went well. I felt strong and confident on the corners where I made a lot of time up on my competitors. I had my race tactics all planned – stay in the top 5 round the course otherwise you’ll get dropped on the drag to the finish. Little did I know that on each lap, the women would sprint to the finish like it was their last. This soon drained my legs.
I stayed with the main bunch and felt good on the straights so I went on front and took a turn. This turn lasted 1 and half laps.
I made a point and pulled up to let someone else take a turn. A rider reluctantly came through and I had time to recover in the main bunch.
The last lap the pace picked up and so did the wind. Barriers blew over, marshals shouting for us to slow down. Each corner became more and more difficult to control the bike so I backed off. I didn’t want to risk coming off. The final straight I put everything into it but it was all too late. A small breakaway were up the road and I was by myself exposed to the elements – the tank was empty.
I ended up 7th.
Looking back I was happy with how the race went. I learnt a lot and shouldn’t have taken such a long turn on the front of the pack. I would have had more juice in the tank and maybe could have been in the breakaway for a sprint finish.
As soon as my race finished, the heavens opened and thunder and lightning kept us entertained. I was shocked to see the other races still going ahead and riders giving it their all. Huge respect to them!
Since then, I been training on the Wattbike for the intensity and also been riding with a high paced chaingang to be exposed to the elements and also the experience of group riding. Fingers crossed this will help with my next race.
Next race will be down in Devon for Seatoncyclefest Criterium.
Photo credit to Ian Jones.