There are times when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and for me and Derny paced racing is the perfect example of this…
Every year I get older and I am increasingly aware that my competition just gets stronger, but with Graham Bristow pacing me, I seem to be able to pull out performances that defy all the odds.
I entered the women’s Derny paced race at the Reading GP meeting because it is a rare opportunity to race with Graham and with the meeting falling just two weeks before the Derny Paced National Championships, it would also give us the chance to get a feel for some of the competition. Sadly, the favourite for the title this year, Hannah Walker, was not racing, but all the other big names on the start list were entered and we were curious to see what they could do.
Without a doubt, if I had been riding an un-paced 15km time trial, there were at least two and possibly three riders in the bunch that would have beaten me, but put me behind Graham on his little black Derny bike and I seem to be able to find reserves I never knew I had. His skill in pacing me is based on a relationship that goes back to 2007 when he offered to help me train for the elite national track champs. Riding the Derny champs that year was an experiment that ended in a truly unremarkable 6th place. However, we worked really hard in 2008 and were rewarded with the title, against a field of much younger riders, including pro-cyclist Emma Trott, and we have had a number of medals since then.
At the Reading GP this year, Graham once again worked some magic. It seems to me that there is a death or glory moment in every Derny paced race, a time when someone really takes the race on and it is quite simply, but very painfully, a moment of truth when the rider who can hang on longest, dig the deepest and suffer the greatest will take the race. These moments have come at various points in each of the races we have started; early, mid and late, and on Saturday – with the race pretty fast from the gun – it was not until there were just five laps left (that is just over 2km of the 15km race) that the significant move was made. Graham put in a perfectly timed attack and travelling at a speed that no one could follow, we took the front and gapped the rest of the field. After this point it was simply a matter of holding the gap, without blowing up and yes, I was very very close to that, but with a slight easing of the speed I recovered enough to hold on to the end and we crossed the line alone for the win.
Graham is very skilled pacer, who is often invited over to France and Belgium to race and he really knows my strengths and weaknesses. That, coupled with my desire not to let him down, has won us races that we should honestly never have taken and the Reading GP was another in that category. In fairness, I have tried to suggest that he finds a better (for which read “younger, faster, fitter”!) follower, but more recently I have come to accept that he enjoys pacing me and gets a real kick out of knowing that when we do well, he has played a significant part in that success.
So we will line up for our eighth National Derny Paced Championships on August 3rd at the Herne Hill velodrome and hope for a little of the magic that we enjoyed last year, when we took the silver medal behind the latest GB sensation and current World Team Pursuit Champion, Katie Archibald.
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 helps to keep me as comfortable as I can hope for when the heat is really on!