The Scratch went to the wire this year in the race that Jan tells us was the highlight of the World Masters Track Champs for her…
By the time I got to the World Masters this year, I had not raced on the track for six weeks and the two weeks that led up to the championships had been spent desperately trying to recover from a virus that had seen me go to bed for three days and lose 10 days of training. I can’t remember the last time I had actually spent a day in bed, let alone three days, but I was running a temperature and felt so awful that I simply had no choice.
So I was feeling just a little bit rusty and very under-confident as we rolled into Manchester this year. For sure my performances in the individual and team pursuits on days one and two of the Championships had given me a boost, but given the amount of training I had missed, I was not sure I would be able to continue at that intensity.
I have always loved the bunch races though, and the Scratch race on day three was one that I felt was mine to lose. I knew I would be a marked rider, but I had a plan that was all about not getting boxed in and attacking first when the finish was within sight. However, just before I rolled out for my race I watched my team mate, Louise Haston, win her Scratch race after a thrilling final few laps, where she held off a classy field to take her first World Masters title. I was so pleased for her that I was in danger of losing focus and had to give myself a good talking to as we rolled out.
Happily, I got it together and kept myself in a good positon in the early laps. There had been one or two digs off the front, but nothing had stuck and so, with three laps to go, I was comfortable in second wheel. I was riding out slightly from the back wheel of the rider in front of me to ensure I could not get boxed in and also to allow me a clear run for when I decided to attack. At two to go, I was still in the perfect position and then most unexpectedly, the rider on the front swung up. She ended up directly in front of me and, as I tried to move up to go around her, a rider came underneath me – it was the perfect storm and I was completely boxed in. Not wanting to miss a gift like that, Julie Cooper (GBR) and Francine Haas (USA) attacked and instantly distanced me.
I was so badly positioned I even had time to think about the fact that I could see the Gold medal riding away from me and there was nothing I could do… I even thought about the fact that I would be going back to the pits area, where I had no right to rain on Lou’s glorious moment – I was going to have to suck it up big time – and then I found a way out. By this time Julie and Francine had over a third of a lap on me and I had less than a lap to catch them. I put my head down and went for it, knowing that giving it everything was the only way I would be able to live with myself.
I caught Francine in the final corner, which pushed me wide and meant I had to ride further than she and Julie were, as they were hugging the bottom of the track. By the time I got to the home straight Julie had the finish line in sight and her support crew were screaming at her to finish the job, but I had too much speed and flew past her, winning by a full bike length at the end. It was a finish so exciting that, for the rest of the week at the Championships, people – many of whom I had never met before – came up to me to say how incredible it was. Never have I had so much lovely feedback from a race, not even when I won the Elite National Scratch title in 2012!
The response from the people in our pits area was divided between “We thought you had lost that one, Jan”, to “I knew as soon as you had a clear run, you would close them down”. My husband, David, was the most confident that I would win, while my coach, Chris Davis told me, ”Well done, but if you ever do that again you are going to have to find yourself a new coach!” – a comment I took some pleasure in sharing on facebook and then sitting back whilst people laid into him for being so cruel when I had, after all, won the race!
This was undoubtedly the high point of the championships for me this year, and one of the most (if not the most) exciting finishes I have had the pleasure of delivering. Moments like this sustain me through the long, cold, wet winter months, when the training is hard and the rewards are a long time away.
There’s more to come from the World Masters, but for now, thank you for reading and thank you also to those who support me – mentally as well as physically! – my husband, David Jack, puts up with so much, as does my coach, Chris Davis. Then there are the companies that support me as well: