National Omnium Series

The National Series heads south and attracts a big field of 28 riders to contest this omnium at the 1948 Olympic velodrome (in glorious weather too). 

One of the positive thinking traits of successful athletes is an ability to talk to themselves as if they were their own best friend and while I am certainly not a master of this – in truth I can be my own worst enemy at times – I do try to acknowledge the positives as well as the negatives, when things don’t work out quite as I might have hoped.

At my first omnium of the 2014 season, the tenth year I have taken part in this series, I proved to myself that I still have much to learn.  Applying my best self-talk strategies, that is a good thing because it means I can improve on the result by riding a little sharper than I did on this particular day!  Whereas, if I had had to settle for second after getting everything just right, I would have to accept that frankly that was as good as I could be!

Success in an Omnium requires all round ability; sprint and endurance, coupled with sharp tactical awareness, the capacity to recover fast and, for the pursuit, the ability to pace oneself based only on perceived exertion.

Before the event, all the markers told me that from a training and recovery perspective I was not on great form.  I had been struggling to fit in training around work and other commitments, recovery had been hugely compromised and over the three week period since my first race of the season, I had been on a steady decline.  Several emergency appointments with the chiropractor were required to manage back pain and all the while my ithlete HRV numbers were dropping like a stone and that is not a good sign!

Bunch racing

So I really did not know what to expect as I headed south.  The organiser, Graham Bristow, promised sunshine and he never disappoints, so while I really didn’t want to, I knew I needed to just get on with it.  In my mind I had accepted that third place behind the two Olympic Development Programme riders (Ellie Coster and Hannah Blount) would be as good as I could realistically hope for, but there were so many new faces in list of 28 women that made up the start list, that I had to expect some surprises as well.  Not to be underestimated was the winner of round one of the series up in Dundee, Autumn Collins, an Irish rider who looked to be taking the series seriously and also Laura Clode who had ridden well at the University Track Champs just a couple of weeks earlier.

The day started reasonably well, I was third in the 500m TT behind Ellie and Hannah, but then I spoiled it by riding too defensively early in the points race and, after a number of girls were allowed to slip off the front mid-way through the race, the ability to pick up points was dramatically reduced.  I knew I had ridden poorly and a 5th place was just punishment, but the damage was limited and I remained in third overall.
After the sprint, I moved into joint second place and prepared to hurt myself a lot in the pursuit.  I actually thought I “got it all out” and even caught the rider in front, but the time suggested I had paced myself particularly badly and 5th in this event – one I had hoped to do really well in – which pushed me back down to third, with just the scratch race to go. 

Scratch race briefing

There were in fact four points between myself and the rider in second place at this point, so to move up to second in the final standings I needed not only to beat Jayne Paine, but also to put three people between myself and her as we crossed the line.  If I am honest, I hit a low and needed a special pep talk from my Pit Bitch and husband David Jack.  He pointed out to me that if it came to a bunch sprint, I could easily make up the places and so I set out like a woman on a mission, chasing every move.  In turn, my moves were marked by the top five ranked riders at that point in the day and as such nothing was going to be allowed to stay away.  To the uninformed observer, it is sometimes difficult to understand because, with the final omnium positions to be decided, the scratch race is always very tactical.  Inevitably, we were all together at the bell and I attacked, holding on for third in a close finish.  Critically, my closest rival going into the scratch race crossed the line in 16th place, so I secured second by a seemingly comfortable margin of six points from Rachel Jarry, who moved herself up from 5th to get onto the podium.

Podium: L-R Jan Birkmyre, Ellie Coster, Rachel Jarry

It was a great day – the racing from the women was exactly as described in the race report “spirited and aggressive” and I was proud to be a part of that.  Congratulations to Ellie Coster for a truly dominant display of riding and a very deserved win.  I will look forward to a rematch later in the season and to watching her compete at the Commonwealth Games later this summer.

As always, I had amazing support from David, plus my oldest and best’est friend, Miranda, who lives locally.  She bought her 10 year old son, Olly, to watch and it was truly a breath of fresh air to see the day through his eyes, as he spent the whole afternoon completely rapt with the racing.

Never one to compromise, I have the best base layers and pre/post race gear from Helly Hansen, Lake 402’s put wings on my heels and TORQ nutrition gives me energy and recovery in many wonderful forms and flavours.  Limar helmets and glasses complete the line-up – all brands that I am proud to be associated with.