The Masters National Track Championships are a serious milestone and easily one of the best meetings of the year for so many reasons and I really enjoy being a part of the action across a packed three days of racing.
Without a doubt my view is coloured by the success I have enjoyed over the past 10 years. Being a glutton for punishment (or perhaps because my husband has made me!), I have ridden all five events each year that I have competed and that has netted 42 titles for me. It’s hard not to love being part of something that brings that sort of positive feedback, but the joy of it comes from so much more than that.
As I get older, I have become increasingly more impressed by the older competitors who turn up every year. Some are trying to improve their times or hope to take a title in their age group, while other simply enjoy being part of the event, and the camaraderie and mutual respect shared amongst competitors has to be seen to be believed.
This year I have been particularly aware of the older ladies who turn up to race the bunch races at these championships. With the numbers in some age categories being quite low and with a minimum of 11 riders required for a bunch race, for women, all age groups are put on the track to race together. Where numbers allow, medals are presented to different age groups after the race has been run. Taking the points race as an example, there were two ladies from the 55-59 year age group riding against 30 year old women – let me help you with the maths, that’s a 30 year age gap! The fact that one of these ladies, Chrissie Higgs placed 4th overall, beating ALL of the 30-34 year old women in the race is a huge inspiration to me. Honestly, I am not sure I will still be racing at this level when I am her age, but if I am, I would be proud of that result.
The meeting is one of the best organised across the season. That Graham Bristow makes this happen by investing his own time and money defies belief, but masters riders know that British Cycling has no time or desire to support our racing and without the likes of Graham, we simply wouldn’t have the opportunity to race at this level. The fact that he organises the championships is one thing, but because he does so entirely for the riders is waht makes it the success it is. We get total respect from him, a top notch commissaire team and all the trappings enjoyed by elite riders at elite events. Spending time with Graham is one of the many things that makes this long weekend of racing a pleasure.
This year, my results were just OK. Yes it is easy to be blinded by the fact that I won five titles from five starts, but the truck is I lacked the spark I have previously enjoyed after a taper for a major championships and I am struggling to understand my lack of form. Looking at the results critically, I was not happy with my 500tt time – good enough for the title yes, but only second fastest across all women and all age groups and a way off where I was this time last year. I cannot read too much into the time for my pursuit, as my main competition failed to finish the 2k distance, pulling up in the last kilometre and leaving me needing only to roll over the line for the title. My best result was to win the points race across all age groups, but I had to dig a lot deeper than usual to do that. So I will be enjoying a bit of rest and a proper recovery before thinking about how best to get back to where I should be with the European Masters just eight weeks away.