National Track Champs 2014

My final hurrah at this level of racing, as I get to ride with some of the very best female track cyclists in the world, in a race that has been good to me in the past.

If anyone doubts the “health” of women’s track cycling in the UK right now, they should have visited the National Cycling Centre for the National Championships last week.  The start list of every event included Olympic Gold medallists, World Champions and World Record Holders.  And it was not just the quality of the riders, but also the way they raced and were challenged that made the racing some of the best I have ever been part of.

Whilst I know my days of racing at this level are limited, the chance to be a part of it one last time was too much to resist and the National scratch race has been good to me in the past – a silver medal in 2007 and the title in 2012 – which just goes to show that anything can happen in a bunch race and also that I am not one to pass up an opportunity if it is given to me!

This year, the distance of the race was reduced from 20km to 15km to be more in line with the international distances, but there was a comedy half hour before the race started, where officials told us the race was 10km, then 15km, then confirmed at 10km, followed by “actually it is still being discussed” before we heard 10km and finally it was definitely 15km… this went on for so long that none of us believed it until we rolled out and saw 60 laps (15Km) on the board.  Whatever the distance chosen, there was no doubt it was going to be fast, really, really fast.

It was in fact a show down between the two big teams, Pearl Izumi with Team Pursuit World Champion and record holder, Katie Archibald, freshly crowned as the Individual Pursuit National Champion the day before and Wiggle Honda with Katie’s GB team mates Laura Trott, Elinor Barker and Dani King.  Unsurprisingly it was Katie – always an aggressive rider – who put in the first big attack and Trott, Barker and King didn’t hesitate to go with her, along with Emily Kay. They worked together like the well-oiled team that they are, to tear around the track, taking two laps on the rest of the field, who try as they might – and trust me, we did try! – could do nothing to stay in touch.

The distance of 15km was covered in just over 18 minutes – an average of over 30mph – before Trott sprinted to the win. That much had seemed inevitable from the moment she broke away, but I have to make a special mention of Emily Kay here. As a junior World Team Pursuit Champion and record holder she is clearly not without talent, but the 19 year old has yet to fully mature and so it is creditable that she hung onto Trott’s wheel in the sprint and claimed the silver medal ahead of Dani King. Truly world class racing and what a way to spend a Saturday evening!

My legs might not have been good enough but my Lake cycling shoes were definitely not outclassed and, as always, I relied on the best fuel available – TORQ energy, gels and bars all played their part, with a recovery shake as my reward at the end. My bike was “pimped” with CeramicSpeed bearings, for a bit of free speed and 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!

Roll on the World Masters Track Championships next week.  With a bumper entry this year, I am expecting some great racing on the track and some good banter off the track.