TORQ-Fuelled elite track cyclist Janet birkmyre takes on the National Derny Championships in Newport a race which involves being motor paced by a modified motor cycle around a track, here is Janet’s account of the race where she took a silver medal.
Way back in 2005 I received a call from Graham Bristow, he had met me at the Master National Track Champs and he asked me if I wanted to try some Derny paced training in preparation for the World Masters later that year. Sadly work commitments did not allow me to take up his very kind offer at the time, but I did get together with him in 2006 and I quickly learned that Derny paced pain is a whole new level of pain!
Graham paced me to my first elite National title back in 2008 and the work we have done has changed me as a rider – perhaps as a person, I mean once you have looked into the abyss…
In 2008, what we achieved was quite remarkable and we medalled again in 2010, but since then I have struggled to prepare, have been off the pace and I felt that he should find himself another follower for the women’s championship. To his credit, he has stuck by me and so I made a huge commitment to get myself in shape for the race this year.
It is easy to overlook the team work required, but for Graham to pace me at my age, competing against women who are young enough to be my daughter, takes really special skills. We have actually only trained together once this year and also raced just once as well, but Graham really knows me as a rider, my strengths and weaknesses and he has shown that he can pace a race that gets the very best out of me as a rider.
I honestly don’t believe there are any other pacers in the UK who could have paced me to a silver medal on the 29thof December this year. Once we are in the race there is no chance of any communication at all. If he drops me, the chances that he would hear a desperate call of “ho!” are slim at best and so it is 100% down to him to deliver our race plan, whilst intuitively knowing how I am feeling and adjusting the plan accordingly.
For the race I drew position four, immediately behind the defending champion, Hannah Walker, who was looking for her third title with pacer George Gilbert, and with hot favourite Katie Archibald two places behind me. The average pace for the race was a speedy 55 kph and at that pace we lapped the back markers several times. Graham was incredibly patient, marking Hannah and then choosing the moment to attack her to perfection. It was a move to which I knew we both needed to commit and with 13 laps on the board, I knew I would suffer for quite a while. I have learned with Derny paced racing that it is often about who breaks first and so although we got past Hannah in just over a lap, George immediately tried to respond and I was at my limit for almost 6 laps. I could see the front wheel of George’s bike in my peripheral vision and was aware of him making gains, then holding and finally fading away. At that point the boost for me was huge, I knew there was no way back for her and barring disaster, the silver medal was ours.
We were in fact the only pair to finish on the same lap as the very deserved winner, Katie Archibald, who led the race from the early stages and was never really challenged. Katie was the only international rider in the field and her form, as she prepares for the World Champs in February, is clearly excellent. She joins an illustrious list of riders who have won this title, including Laura Trott, Vicky Pendleton and Dani King (I’ll be honest, I’m happy to have my name amongst those!).
Christmas this year was completely overshadowed by my preparation for the National Derny champs. The domestic season ends in September and by December most riders are enjoying riding at a more relaxed pace, as they bank the miles to build a base upon which they can later build speed and strength.
As soon as the date was confirmed, I knew that a large part of the race would be won in the two months leading up to the event. Keeping healthy is always a bit of a challenge, but it would be much more so with winter colds doing the rounds. And then there was the need to keep focussed during the festive season, with parties and distractions threatening to tempt me off the plan. Finally, there was the need to deal with the sheer mental and physical fatigue that had set in after a race season that had started in May and continued to mid-October, all the while juggling work commitments to try to be at my best.
It could have been so much worse, but in truth I had a poor run up to the race and lost lots of training time just trying to stay healthy. I was not a great host over Christmas; I was mean with the wine, sent everyone to bed early and put my training before all else!
Under the circumstances, I feel pretty proud of my performance and it was particularly special because my Mum and Dad came to support me as well. I hope that everyone forgives me my selfishness and as always, cannot thanks Graham and my husband David enough for the part they played in my success.
The ride was fuelled by TORQ nutrition – the only nutrition I have ever used – and, as always, I enjoy the amazing fit and feel of Lake 401 cycling shoes. A lid from Limar and super-fast titanium coated KMC chains make up the (almost) winning combo!