Jan Birkmyre reports from a week of racing at the World Masters Track Championships, where 420 riders from 33 different nations set out to win the opportunity to wear the coveted rainbow stripes…
It’s hard to believe that only four weeks have passed since my week at the World Masters Track Championships (which marked the end of my race season), as so much has happened in that time: I have done countless loads of laundry, been ill (and happily got well again), had a week’s holiday and almost caught up on the work that I thought I could do between races up in Manchester (when will I ever learn?).
I have already written about the challenge of taking the Team Pursuit title in a new World Record time, but with six starts on six consecutive days, there was an awful lot more going on than just that…
In short, I had six races, winning five, visited dope control three times and set two new World Masters Records. When I put it like that, even I have to admit that it doesn’t sound so bad and given that I had felt like I was pedalling through treacle all season, it is no small miracle that I (actually I need to give massive credit to the coach here) managed to turn things around for this meeting.
The highlights for me were the two team events. I have written at length about the team pursuit, but the team sprint definitely deserves more than a passing mention. Partnering with Ali Chisholm for the fourth year running, we got our first chance to actually win a title this year. As (even though for every year we have raced this event, we have remained unbeaten), it was only promoted to a championship event this year. Ali was clearly on form, having set a new World Masters record in her 500m TT the night before and we had a stunning qualifying ride, clocking 36.125, faster than we have ever gone before and clearly the fastest of the 11 teams entered . We were slightly slower in the medal ride off, but it was quick enough to take the title and given that we have never once trained together – for what is an incredibly technical event – I think we can be justifiably proud of ourselves.
I would be lying if I did not say that I love the bunch races too, but I felt particularly unwell before the scratch race and had to visit the paramedics before the start. To be fair, I was frog marched over to them by a friend so that they could ensure I was OK. I believe, more out of concern for the other people who would be on the track at the same time as me! So even though I won, it felt more like survival than success.
The points race on the final day however, was a much more emphatic win. I scored points in all four of the sprints, winning three, to finish nine points clear of my nearest rival and knowing that I had relatives cheering me on from the stands made this one quite special.
That just leaves the time trial events, the 500m TT and the pursuit. The 500m TT has previously been a really strong event for me and I have set two World Records in the past, but with the arrival of Gea Johnson, an athlete who’s website describes her as “one of the world’s greatest female athletes” I have found that I am outclassed – I don’t even have a website, let alone a strap line to challenge that and I have had to settle for silver for the past two years!!
I am however learning to love pursuiting. Do it right and it hurts like hell, but there is a certain sadistic satisfaction to getting the pacing right and this year I rode two good times back to back to take the title.
With an entry of over 420 riders (more women than ever before) from 33 different nations, the World Masters is truly an international affair. In our pits area, we had America in front of us, Australia to the left and Columbia to the right. Italy, Norway, Holland and Finland were all within shouting distance too. In between races the atmosphere is friendly and supportive, and we got the opportunity to renew some old acquaintances too. My Pit Bitch and husband, David, is still the “go-to” man for any technical issues that cannot be sorted by anyone else, so there is a constant trickle of people from all nations through our pits area, with wheels and bikes that need some love.
As always, TORQ fuelled all of my races and assisted with the recovery process as well. I chose to start using the TORQ range many years ago particularly because of the natural ingredients. Now that my racing also involves several trips to dope control, I take great comfort in the product screening that is all part of their process of producing great nutritional products.
Lake cycling shoes are the no-compromise choice for my feet and I really crank them up to the max for these races. They feel truly amazing on and I am certain that they help me perform at my best.
Helly Hansen came on board this year with base layers, sports bras and pre/post race wear including fleeces and stretch pants. All of their kit is highly technical and incredibly comfortable and I am very grateful for the opportunity to wear such an iconic brand.
Thank you to everyone who has helped me this year. I know that my success is never mine alone and I am very grateful to those who have helped me get onto the podium an incredible 19 times from 20 starts. And that’s it, Oscar Winners stylee speech over, time to get my head down and start the Winter training I guess!