Race ya

January 12, 2014 at 7:02 pm | Posted in cycling | 6 Comments
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The fifth of January sounded perfectly reasonable when I signed up for a women-only road race skills session a couple of months ago. But Christmas came and went in a blur of port, crisps and Junior Monopoly, and suddenly I was getting up at improbable o’clock in the DARK on a freezing Sunday morning, struggling into sixteen layers of cycling kit and packing sandwiches, snacks, and any other warm clothing I could find into the car. I nearly left without my bidons as (in an uncharacteristic fit of organised-ness) I’d stashed them in the fridge the night before. Off to pick up @VicandLib and @1fishonabike. F-f-f-f-f-f-f.

It was good to be the designated driver, as otherwise I’m almost certain post-Christmas torpor would have set in and I’d have decided I didn’t want to go. I’m extremely happy this didn’t happen, as we had the most excellent time. Heather Bamforth had sent us a comprehensive set of instructions on what to bring (helmet, food, helmet, extra clothes, helmet, bike, don’t forget your helmet) and the structure of the day. We rolled up to see lots of young, athletic-looking chicks getting dropped off by their Dads, and resigned ourselves to representin’ the Old Crox wing [complicated handshake, followed by muttering about arthritis in fingers]. But when we got down on to the circuit, it was clear that the group were a happy mixture of ages, experience and fitness. In a few minutes, Huw Williams was trying to get thirty (thirty!) excitable women to calm down and listen.

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‘AWRIGHT TAMESIDE!’ Huw needs a Madonna mike

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Hastily-grown beards protect us from the cold

Tameside is a purpose-built traffic-free circuit, about a kilometre long, with corners and little inclines and a bit of grass (should you overshoot a corner and find yourself doing some impromptu cyclocross). It’s great fun to zip around. We spent three hours practising all kinds of skills, with Huw, Hannah Walker (from Epic Cycles-Scott Contessa Womens Race Team), Carley Brierley and Heather offering their expert advice. Some highlights:

  1. Riding in little groups and changing position (front rider goes to the back and so on). Avid readers will remember I am incapable of riding on someone’s wheel without grumbling HELPHELPHELPHELPHELP the whole time. I was still doing this to start with, but gradually it got easier, and I learned to look up and through the rider in front, which is a lot less panic-inducing than staring at their back tyre. (It also means you see corners coming, which is useful.)
  2. Cornering. I was hoping I’d be all right at this, having spent the summer practising for ‘cross. YESSS! Can’t tell you how terrific it feels to be good at something, and to get complimented on it (thanks Carley).
  3. Riding around in a big group being paced by Carley at 15mph, then 18mph. This came near the end, and I was thrilled to find myself riding in a bunch at speed, spotting gaps, trying to pick through the crowd, within elbowing distance of everybody. Never thought I’d have the courage to do this, and it felt so utterly PRO I could hardly speak for excitement.
  4. Mini-races (about 15 mins long). Yup, you know it’s serious when I finally take off my zippy cyclocross warmup trousers. Overtaking people on corners! Being overtaken again on the straights (damn)! Shouting ON YOUR RIGHT! Still haven’t really got the working-with-people bit sorted out, but golly, this was fun.
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l-r Carley (foreground), Hannah and Heather dispense #protips

We did a lot of other things, but these are the bits that stick in my head and make me grin to think of them. I made such a lot of progress in three hours. All the same, it was quite a relief to get into the relative warmth of the classroom. Freddie made us all a cuppa (life saver) and Huw did the Science Bit: what we need to know to improve our fitness and prepare for racing. There was LOADS to think about here, particularly as Carley and Heather were giving examples from their own experience of training, coaching and racing. Invaluable stuff, and plenty of lightbulb moments.

I came away keen to have a go. CDNW are organising several races just for 2/3/4 cat women this year, and Heather, with her irresistible enthusiasm, insisted we’re all capable of racing. One thing she said to the group sticks in my mind: ‘If YOU all show up to a race, you ARE the race.’ Of course. How simple. So come on, fellow hopeless people. Show up with me, and we’ll have a go together.

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Grinning is not part of the training but it’s hard to resist

There are two more sessions: Rhyl on 19 Jan 2014 and Blackpool on 02 Feb 2014. They’re filling up fast, but if you’re interested, you can read about them and sign up here.

Pictures by very kind permission of Fred Bamforth.

A bit more about the coaches here:

Huw Williams

Heather Bamforth

Carley Brierley

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6 Comments »

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  1. Yay for you! Gives the impression you’ve found your niche. Also, PRO.

    • Ah thanks Inky! Who knows. I’ll let you know after I’ve had a proper go! 🙂

  2. […] after going road race training and having a ball, I’ve entered my first ever road race. It’s in March. 2/3/4 cat women only. Fifty-seven […]

  3. […] I went to women-only road race training, and it was brilliant. The reason it was brilliant was not because it was full of women; it was because I was among […]


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