If I am honest, I had hoped for medal of a different colour, but a medal is a medal and bronze this year means that I have won at least one Elite National medal in each of the 10 years that I have been racing at this level …
So far the 2014 race season has been one of the hardest I have raced. The competition has stepped up again – that much I expected – but the impact of the 2013 Derny Champs being held on the 29th of December on my Winter training and the effect this has had on my form has been harder to understand and seemingly impossible to undo.
On a positive note, if I was struggling as I have been with no explanation, that would be worse – I know why I am where I am, and with time I can address this, but patience has never been one of my virtues. What I did training’wise in November and December was completely new to me and I have been displaying all the symptoms of being over trained for a little while now, but with race commitments almost every weekend, I have to accept that I cannot quickly change this and I have to make the most of what I have now.
In the middle of a difficult season, I saw a light. I couldn’t be sure if it was the end of the tunnel, or a train coming the other way, but it was definitely a light… and I was drawn to it as a moth to a flame! The light was a chance to make everything OK, redemption for my 2014 season if you like and it came in the form of the National Derny Champs. I first saw the light (or was it a train?) two weeks ago. In an attempt to address the over-training, I had dialled my training right back for two weeks and arrived at the Reading Grand Prix fresh, but not really sure of how I would go. The win in the Derny paced race, thanks in no small part to Graham Bristow’s pacing, was an enormous boost to my confidence.
Given that all the big hitters, bar one, who were entered for the National Champs two weeks later were there and given the way in which we rode away from the field, there was good reason to believe that I could take silver at the Nationals. However, even better on a good day, with no bad luck and just a little bit of a tail wind, I could, just possibly even win… With that as a carrot, I set about preparing for the race, with as much focus as I could, given my work commitments and the fact that I had just two weeks (actually only 13 days) to prepare.
The day of the Derny Champs dawned bathed in glorious sunshine and I arrived at Herne Hill feeling upbeat and excited. I love derny paced racing, although I sometimes question why, because it hurts like a 15 minute pursuit and that is just plain wrong! However, during the warm up, it became abundantly clear that I was not going as well as I had hoped – let’s just say I have never “ho’ed” Graham during a warm up before and it was a portent. The race was fast from the gun, Hannah Walker took off like a scolded cat and since we had turned up to take a shot at the title, we gave chase. It quickly became clear that I did not have the legs and as anyone who has race behind a derny will know, once you have given enough to realise this, you have almost certainly damaged your chances of hanging on for any kind of a result.
Hannah went on to take the title in glorious style and on reflection, the fact that Graham and I hung on for a bronze medal is a result of sorts. It is an Elite medal and at my age (I keep promising that I am not going to make an issue of that, but it is a fact that is hard to avoid sometimes!) they don’t come cheap. I have taken 12 Elite National medals over the past 10 years, with at least one in each year I have raced at this level, so I know I have enjoyed more than my fair share of success.
We all make sacrifices for the things we want and if it didn’t care about the result, I wouldn’t invest the time, energy, emotion and hard cash into what is either an obsession and a hobby, depending on your perspective. So yes, I am really very disappointed to fall short of my expectations this time. I hate the fact that I let Graham down and did not do justice to the hard work that David put in to prepare my bikes, rub my legs and calm my mind. But I also accept that a bronze medal does not represent a train coming the other way – it was, to borrow words from Boris Becker, just a bad day at the office, no one died…
There is even a small part of me that acknowledges I am lucky to be able to compete at this level. Cycling as a sport has been very good to me in so many ways and I am lucky to be a part of it. For now, I need to take stock of where I am and try to salvage something from the remaining rounds of the National Series and then prepare for the World Masters.
TORQ nutrition has always been my choice of fuel and recovery drinks. Lake cycling shoes are the no compromises choice for my feet, while super light Limar helmet and glasses do more than they promise on the tin. CeramicSpeed bearings, the choice of Pro squads Omega Pharma/Saxo Tinkov and Astana, are installed in all my wheels and bottom brackets, it is a little bit of “free speed” for me. This year Helly Hansen have provided base layers, sports bras and pre/post race wear, all of which help to keep me as comfortable as I can hope for when the heat is really on!