TORQ-fuelled Janet Birkmyre is a legend. In the past few years she’s earned more World and National titles on the track than you could shake a stick at and all this time she’s been a huge ambassador for TORQ. Here’s what she has to say about the recent National Masters Championships.
Wearing beautiful Lake 401’s in custom colours and fuelled up with TORQ bars, gels and powder, I take four gold medals from this meeting, which makes it 31 Masters Nationals titles since I started racing in 2005.
The Masters Nationals are a really important part of my preparation for the big end of season goals, which are all about success in the Elite National Champs and the World Masters. It is also a great opportunity to try some different things in competition, knowing that the consequences for getting it wrong are at worst a bruised ego and a helping of humble pie!
It is a really intense meeting – for the ambitious, there are five titles in just three days – and so it really tests the powers of recovery and, with the bunch races often including all age groups from 30 years up, I can be sure to get a good test of my form as well.
The meeting kicks off early on Friday with the sprint competition and a chance for me to try a new gear for the flying 200m time trial that seeds competitors for the following match sprints. The positive is that I rode a new PB (which is by default a new World Masters record) and qualified fastest by over a second. However, it did not feel as good as I had hoped and there is definitely more work to be done to improve this (Ed. A tad modest I reckon).
There were enough ladies entered to have a proper sprint competition with a round 1, a repecharge, quarter finals and medal ride-off. As expected I was untroubled until the gold medal ride-off where I met Debbie Capewell, who gave me a proper run for my money and made it very clear that the gear choice for the heats was badly wrong. Given that the medals are decided on the best of one ride, the consequences could have been dire, happily they were not.
After a very late night, there was a very early morning alarm call to get back to the velodrome for the 500m TT. I always enjoy this event, probably because I have had some success over the years and I was looking forward more to seeing what time I could ride than taking the title. Sadly, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong and my husband and I have logged a number of things that we usually do, that we did not make time for. Clearly they have made the difference between winning and losing in the past and all credit to Debbie Capewell for riding a PB to take the title this year. Time for me to suck it up, paint on the smile and eat a large slice of that humble pie!
I took some consolation in winning the scratch race later that day. It was a good race with some attacks and just a hint that a small group of us might break away, but in the end it came down to a bunch sprint and after the morning’s disappointment I was a woman on a mission with a point to prove.
Sunday starts with the pursuit and with the current World Masters Champion, Claire Newland, not racing this year, I believed I could take this. The legs were feeling proper tired now, but I was drawn in the final heat and so knew what I had to do to take the title. To be fair to the competition, the time I needed was significantly faster than I had expected I would have to ride! So, with my husband walking the line for me and keeping me on schedule, I turned in a time of 2:37.3 – that was just three tenths off my PB and I was interested to see that my age group (40-49) was very much faster than the younger age groups.
The final race was the points and all age groups were up together. However, there are more than one set of medals on offer and so there is a delicate balancing act between winning my age group title and winning the race overall. I have in the past been so intent on winning the race and chasing every move and every sprint, that I have found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time. The consequence was that I was unable to go with a move that was been critical to me, but not to others who have therefore chosen not to react. Another lesson I will only learn once, so I rode tactically to take my title, scoring in three of the four sprints and surviving another National Masters Championships.
It is clear to anyone just how critical to my success my husband, David, is. Sadly he enjoys none of the lime light and gets all the dirty jobs. After the first day of racing he was gluing on tubs until midnight, while I tried to get some sleep and after all of that he has his own racing to get himself ready for as well. Without his unquestioning belief in my ability and bottomless enthusiasm for making me faster, I would never have sat on a track bike, let alone raced one, so as always, these wins are a credit to him perhaps more than me.
Huge thanks also to Graham Bristow who organises these championships for us and gives us the opportunity to race at this level, with all the professionalism that our World and Olympic champions receive when they race the senior National Championships at the end of the season.