The Bordeaux-Paris style meeting at Reading is a great season opener as it combines a scratch race from which the top nine qualify for the Derny paced final…
I tend to suffer a serious dose of self-doubt before the first race of the season, so it was with some trepidation that I packed my kit for the Bordeaux-Paris (style) meeting at the Reading Velodrome over the bank holiday weekend.
Whilst preparing, I also lined up my excuses. Of course, no self-respecting cyclist would have only one, but my primary excuse was a peach! I had been working at the NEC in the week leading up to the event and that had compromised my training, recovery, sleep and nutrition. My legs felt completely leaden and I had been existing on solely sandwiches and coffee. So, although I had lots more reasons to explain a poor performance, I thought this was probably enough to convince anyone that I was really just making up the numbers and that the result would not be a fair reflection on the hard work I had put in over the winter.
The format of the race mirrors that of the early versions of the Bordeaux-Paris race in that riders are paced behind dernys for part of it. Stage one is a scratch race with the top nine finishers qualifying for the second stage, a derny paced race for glory. Probably most sobering moment of all was that my husband, David Jack, who is my #1 fan and the person who believes in me more than anyone else on the planet, looked at the start list and told me I might not qualify for the second stage of the race!
It was the derny-paced action that I was most looking forward to and if I got through to that, I knew that win, lose or draw, I would get a great training effort in and the opportunity to race with Graham Bristow, which is always a pleasure in a painful kind of way!!
The weather forecast was promising, so it was with an unaccustomed certainty that we would race that we set off from home in the morning. I had rather surprisingly slept well and felt really relaxed (clearly the list of excuses was working nicely to take the pressure off me!), in fact my legs even felt good enough that I actually enjoyed the scratch race. The field of 24 was made up primarily of 16 and under boys, some of whom were really strong and there was no shortage of those that were happy to attack repeatedly. I followed the early moves, but by half distance it seemed clear that nothing was going to be allowed to stick and so I started thinking about positioning for the inevitable bunch gallop at the end. Not knowing any of the riders, it was a bit of a lottery, but I picked a good wheel and ended up in a bunch of three that crossed the line well ahead of the chasing pack.
Stage 2 was a 15k derny paced race for the overall win and I was really pleased to get the opportunity to team up with Graham Bristow for this. We race together just two or three times a year and so it is a rare and beautiful thing, but I have noticed over the past few races that Graham seems to have a rather higher opinion of my abilities than I do. He seems to be getting in the habit of really taking the race on and attacking for good measure, and whilst the results suggest he made a good tactical decision, it has made for a really hard race for me.
This race had everything, with the lead changing hands several times, some attacking moves and a very close finish. I drew position four on the start and Graham eased me into the race for a few laps and then took me to the front. The pace felt really brisk from the start and then the first challenge came. We held that one off, but a few laps later two riders came over us. This was only just after the mid-point of the race and at this stage I was seriously into the red. Graham kept me with them and as I watched the number of laps slowly reduce it dawned on me that that Graham had turned up for the win and I would need to find something extra for the final few laps. I wish I could say I relished the challenge and that I was up for it, but honestly, I was so close to losing his wheel that when the pace picked up for the final push to the line, I had to suffer horribly to stay with him. We were however rewarded with the win and whilst I have certainly won bigger races, I have rarely worked harder than I did for this one.
I am hugely grateful to Graham for pacing the perfect race. Not only did we win, but I got a great training session in and the priceless confidence of knowing that what I thought was a good winter, really does seem to be a good base upon which to build my speed work for racing.
As always, my Pit Bitch David did me proud by setting up my bikes impeccably, feeding me TORQ energy, bars and gels at all the right moments and of course, for shouting encouragement at me when I needed it most!
Never one to compromise, this year I have chosen to race in Helly Hansen base layers – I have been wearing them all winter and just love the U neck Dry Revolution for summer riding and racing. And finally, I am glad to give the new Lake 402s a glorious first outing.