World Masters Track Championships 2011

TORQ Fuelled Janet Birkmyre has this year dominated the World Masters Track Champ’s, held in Manchester a few weeks ago.  Having been pretty much untouchable in her category she has taken home multiple medals and broken two world record’s! Here’s her report of how events unfolded.


The aim was to take five wins from six starts and set two World Records along the way. In 2011 the World Masters Track Championships came home to Manchester, after three years down under in Australia, followed by one year in Portugal.  The championships are testament to the energy and passion of the late Brian Cossavella – it is thanks to Brian that we now have the chance to race at this level.

Manchester is always a popular venue and 2011 was no exception, with almost 400 riders from 24 nations riding at the championships, a significantly bigger field than we saw in Portugal last year and the quality of the racing was a real step up, underlined by the number of new World Record times that were set during the championship week.

For me personally, well, what a difference a year makes!  This time last year I was still recovering from a big crash and I was nursing a separated shoulder, a damaged knee and deep cuts that were infected and very very slow to heal.  My biggest challenge this year was managing my work load, so that I could taper effectively and make the most of the excellent form that I had enjoyed at the races that led up to the championships.  I was pretty excited to see what I could do, but I was not sure I had got that right until the first race, the points race, when predictably the strongest riders all had a go at attacking to get away for a lap.  I knew I would be a marked rider and that most would consider the race was mine to lose and theirs to win.  Under those circumstances, I knew that my competitors would sit and wait for me to chase the moves and then they would try to get on my wheel to attack for points in the sprints.  It was going to be hard and, if I am honest, I rather relished that.  Not the pain that I would have to push through chasing escapees and then going for points, but the satisfaction of winning and knowing that I had had to dig deep for a title that should never come cheap. 

Incredibly it all went to plan.  Larry Hickmott reported on  “whilst Janet Birkmyre was certainly favourite, with no-one in the race remotely as quick as her, there were riders willing to challenge her for the title.  Orla Hendron of Ireland was one who was not afraid to attack and nor was British rider Jayne Paine, but despite several injections of pace as they took turns to attack, Birkmyre never looked like being distanced and each time, was on the moves in the blink of an eye”.  I ended up with the maximum 20 points from four sprints, silver went to Orla with 10 and bronze to Jayne with 7. 

We finished at a crazy 11:45 pm and my plan to travel home after the race was clearly not a good one – we got to bed at 2am after dinner eaten in the car.  After a day off we travelled back up to Manchester for the match sprint.  I knew I was capable of riding a World Record time in qualifying, but I still needed to get the line and technical aspects absolutely right, as well as getting the effort out to do it, so I was delighted by a new PB of 12.22 seconds, taking 0.24 off the previous World  Record, which had been set at altitude a full nine years before.

So it was off to dope control to produce a sample which will allow the record to be recognised, before preparing for the sprint rounds.  Whilst I never take anything for granted, the times suggested that I would not be challenged until the medal ride offs and so it was important not to make any mistakes and to conserve as much energy as possible.  TORQ bars, gels and energy powder are the mainstay of my nutrition on these days and they work really well for me.

I had huge respect for Aussie, Lise Benjamin who was just two tenths of a second slower than me over 200m and who had showed that she was tactically very strong.  Again, I will borrow Larry’s words to describe the racing: “When Birkmyre and Benjamin came to the line for the final for Gold, there was always a chance that perhaps Birkmyre was not as dominant as it appeared but she quickly dispelled that and nothing the Aussie could do was going to prevent Birkmyre from winning”.

The next day was the scratch race, one of my favourites, but I would need to keep a very watchful eye on the endurance riders for the first 19 laps and then the sprinters in the final gallop.  Larry made it sound easier that it felt like: “Yet another Gold medal for Janet Birkmyre, her third of the championships already, as her rivals played right into hands in this 20 lap scratch race. Birkmyre is too fast to take to a finish on the track or on the road, but nobody seemed able to distance her and every time someone tried, Birkmyre was straight on it.  The only way she was ever going to be beaten was for multiple attacks to be launched one after the other, to test her powers of recovery, but that never happened and in the sprint finish Birkmyre did what she does best and that was to burst away from her rivals to win the Gold.”

The 500m time trial has always been a strong event for me.  I hold the World Record for the 40-44 age group and moving up to 45-49 age group this year, I wanted to rewrite this one as well.  The current record set at altitude was well within my grasp, so it was more a case of by how much I could lower it and while I was not thrilled with my time of 37.429 it was over a second faster than the previous record and earned me another visit to dope control!

The late nights, poor sleep and lack of proper food were really catching up on me by the final day but I was excited to see what time Ali Chisholm and I could post in the Team Sprint.  We had never ridden together before and our only attempt at riding the lines in warm up nearly ended in disaster, so there was nothing for it but to get to the line and get on with it.  Under the circumstances posting a 36.641 was a massive achievement and gave us a cushion of more than a second and a half over our nearest challengers for the win, which we enjoyed taking later that day.

In the meantime, for me there was the small matter of the pursuit.  This is always my weakest discipline and I knew that I was well off the pace for the title – Clare Newland was hoping to post a new World Record and that would be over five seconds off my best, but silver was a possibility for me.  Sadly it was not to be.  In qualifying, I went out strong but by half distance my legs were screaming and then my husband indicated that I needed to up the pace.  I gave it everything I had but it was not enough, I was beaten by Jayne Paine by just three hundredths of a second and now had to ride for bronze.  Orla Hendron from Ireland challenged hard and I had to coax every last drop of energy from my body to take the medal – one of the hardest of the week.

That wrapped up a very successful championships.  Apart from the racing we enjoyed some fantastic company and camaraderie in our warm up area.  We were a multi-cultural, multi-national group with three Danes, one Dutchman and a Norwegian and to add to the colour we bordered Scotland, Italy and Russia!  The friendships we have made during past championships have been wonderfully rewarding and fun – the racing is fierce on the track, but I am humbled by the mutual respect and support that is shared off the track.

For me, very special thanks go to my husband David Jack.  I joke that without him I would not know which way to sit on my bike and that is not far from the truth.  His technical knowledge, tactical understanding and unfailing belief in me make all of this possible.