Janet Birkmyre Herne Hill Omnium

Janet Birkmyre is a world record breaking, British, European and World track cycling champion. She has joined our performance team for this year, so watch out for her regular blog’s on the website. Janet recently raced the first of the National track series, her’s how she got on…

The first race of the season is always a moment of truth and I would not have chosen to start with a national series.  The truth is, I have not raced for over seven months, since the World Masters Track Champs back in October 2011.  The plan was to ease myself back into racing in late April with some crits and track, but injury put paid to those plans and that injury was still niggling in the lead up to the omnium.  So I was filled with more than the usual measure of self-doubt that I could still make a mark at this level and also concerned that the racing would further exacerbate the injury.

With 25 women contesting the first round , it is clear that this series is increasing in popularity, no doubt due to its inclusion in the Olympic Programme.  In keeping with that, there were some quality riders in there too, including last year’s series runner up, Ellie Coster, the junior who is part of BC’s Olympic Development Programme and a torchbearer for 2012.  Newcomer to the series was Rachel James (Junior world sprint champion Becky James sister – sorry Rachel, I know you get that all the time!).  She clearly has her share of family talent and with her eye on representing Wales in the Commonwealth Games in 2014, a desire to succeed as well.  The Commonwealth Games was also the motivator for the large Scottish contingent who made the long road trip south for this Omnium, with silver medallist Charlene Joiner heading the line-up.

To add a bit of interest the format has changed this year.  The 500m TT that usually gets the omnium started is now the final event, mirroring the international version.  More significantly, the five events – scratch, pursuit, points, sprint and 500m TT – all have to be included in the programme and raced in that order, with the results of the first three being used to seed the sprint competition. 

From a personal point of view, I was not sure how that would work.  The 500 is a strong event for me and it is always good to start with that, but I completely support the decision to push organisers to include all five events and in a format which forces riders to really race every event.  Anyone soft tapping through the pursuit would now pay the price with a poor start in the sprint completion, which was a single round of four up heats and sudden death.

So in glorious sunshine and 30 degrees of heat, we kicked off with the scratch, won with a fine sprint by Ellie Coster.  Rachel James threw down her gauntlet by snatching second place on the line and I took third.  Next up was the pursuit and an event where I knew I had to do well to put some points between myself and the sprinters.  I went out hard and hung on, with no idea of the time, I had to trust that the level of pain I was feeling would equate to a good result.  Happily it did, I won and with four points after two events, I led the competition. 

The points race was aggressive and fast, a couple of attacks were swamped in the rush for sprints and a good number of racers picked up points across the five sprints.  I won one sprint and also scored in three others, to secure second place from Rachel James.  That kept me in first place and put me in a good position for the sprint competition, which I finished a disappointing fourth in.  The surprise winner was Lydia Boylan, who was having a good day and not picking up too many points from any one event.  I could not be sure whether poor gear choice, bad tactics, the awesome heat, or fatigue had taken its toll on me – perhaps all were playing a part, but I knew I needed to get my head in a better place for the final event, the 500m TT.  With sprinters like Ellie Coster and Rachel James, sure to turn in great times, I knew I needed to raise my game.

500m might seem like a relatively short distance, but do it right and it hurts – sorry, I meant to say really hurts!  This was the last effort, so I gave it everything I had left in me and boy did I hurt, I just had to hope that it was enough.  When I eventually heard my time, all the pain magically disappeared – 37.5 outside was a huge PB for me and meant that I had won the time trial by a full second from Rachel James.

With the help of my very patient husband, David, along with 5 Torq gels, two bars and countless scoops of energy powder consumed across the day, with all the points added up, I won the first round of the national series with 11 points, from Lydia Boylan on 18 and Rachel James on 25.  Ellie Coster was first junior and fifth overall with 33 points.

Thanks go to Graham Bristow for organising a great event for us, with stunning weather – actually I am not sure how much he had to do with the weather, but I know he had friends in high places.

Thanks also to the Knoesens of  www.thebikewhisperer.co.uk.  Bike fitters and mechanics extraordinaire and our watering hole on the way back up to the midlands.  No-one prepares recovery food like Corinne!

Pictures courtesy of (C) Copyright 2012 Guy Swarbrick, of www.trackcycling.me.uk  The only website dedicated to track cycling – from local track leagues to top level international competition