Nat Omnium Reflections

The National Omnium Series was my introduction to track racing back in 2005 and now in my 10th year of riding it, I cannot believe how much has changed…

I first rode the National Omnium Series back in 2005, so this year marks 10 years of track racing for me. Having won the series seven times now, it has changed from being a goal in itself to a stepping stone to the bigger end of season goals. It is, I believe, critical to my preparation for the elite National Champs, Euro and World masters, so I train right up to each round without any let up. But its status in my list of season’s goals isn’t the only thing that has changed.

Back in 2005, the Welwyn omnium was only the second omnium I had ever ridden and although it is interesting to note that the result and prize money was exactly the same – I was second, winning £30 – and even back then I was fuelled by TORQ nutrition. That is pretty much where the similarities end.

Welwyn 2014 podium 3rd Niki Kovacs, 1st Ellie Coster, 2nd Jan Birkmyre

The field in 2005 was a little bigger with 27 starters as opposed to 22 this year and I narrowly beat a young Jo Rowsell (riding for Sutton CC) to secure the second spot. On reflection, the series has been a spring board for so many truly great track cycling careers. I have done battle with (and incredibly even sometimes got the better of) Vicky Pendleton, Laura Trott, Dani King, Becky James, Jess Varnish, Lizzie Armitstead, Katie Archibald and Vicki Williamson, so I can’t help but wonder how far this year’s winner, 17 year old Ellie Coster, will go.  She certainly is in dominant form and no one has got near to her in either of the two rounds she has ridden.

Looking back to 2005, the thing that really sticks in my memory is the massive learning curve that I was on. As a complete newcomer to cycling in any form, I didn’t even know how a points race worked and at Welwyn I found myself sprinting for all the wrong laps. My husband spent the race desperately trying to communicate this fact, but “wrong lap” yelled at me each time we passed him in track centre meant nothing to me at the time. I saved some face by picking up points on the final sprint – yes, even I understood that a bell signalled the final lap! – but it cost me dear as I finished 9th and so picked up nine points, which was my worst result of the day by some margin.  It was a mistake that I happily never repeated!

This series seeded the idea that I was a sprinter, because even though I was still learning on every front, I won the flying lap by a second and a half and the match sprinting that day, while I suffered horribly in the pursuit, riding almost 10 seconds slower than Jo Rowsell over 3K to finish 5th. However, the beauty of the omnium is that it gives you the opportunity to race everything and over the years I have learned that my greatest strength is actually in the bunch races. So whilst my early national medals came from the 500m TT and the match sprint, the titles have come from scratch and derny paced races, and these days I can even turn in a respectable pursuit as well!

Welwyn 2014 bunch racing

There is no doubt that life was a lot simpler in 2005 – I had just one bike and some spare wheels. Now I travel with three bikes, wheels, gazebo, chairs, buckets of TORQ and spare sets of just about everything including my beautiful Lake shoes and Limar glasses. As a result, the size of the car we drive has had to grow to accommodate the travelling circus, but that is not all that has got bigger. My gears have increased by five inches in some races, reflecting the work I have put in to the gym.

Finally, the colours I ride in have also changed as I have moved on from the wonderful Twickenham CC, the club that was just around the corner from where I lived at the time and that introduced me to all that is great about cycling, including my husband and Pit Bitch David Jack, to now proudly ride for TORQ Performance, the brand of nutrition that I knew even back then was the best I could buy.

If you had told me when I first started racing that I would enjoy such success in this series, I would not have believed you and I have met some amazing and inspirational individuals along the way. I really believe that my time at this level must surely be limited now, so I am determined to enjoy it and know that I still learn something every time I race.