So now we’re in March. Time flies and it’s already race season. It seems like the cold winter months crawl by then suddenly everything changes. The start of a new race season is always so crazy. New kit, new bikes, lots of media attention. It is all a shock to the system having just come out of hibernation through winter.
This year it all started with our Matrix Pro Cycling launch which was in Stoke on Trent, home of our main sponsor Matrix Fitness. It was a 2 day affair, the first day being allocated for individual and group photos and the second day being the ‘official’ launch day with all our sponsors, media and the public attending. On day 2 we even had the privilege of having Jens (Shut up legs) Voight join us and I have to say he’s a seriously cool guy who took the time to talk to everyone.
From here the team traveled to Belgium to start the season with Omloop Het Neiuwsblad. Unfortunately for me, I had picked up a stomach bug so was too unwell to travel to Belgium which meant I headed back to Sheffield instead. After a week of recovering I was ready to head out and start racing.
The team is based in Oudenaarde, Belgium, however myself and Penny have been based by the team in Limoux, France as the training suits us much better. Our first race was a French cup in Chambery, on the border of the Alps. We are here with our team director sportif Chris Georgas who was an ex pro himself and Canadian, American National Coach as well as being a DS for several pro women’s teams. He is full of knowledge and has helped many women make the step up to pro level. He also runs a regional French team, Languedoc-Roussillon, who were also doing the French cup so we traveled to the race with them. We arrived in Chambery Saturday afternoon just in time to recce the course.
The course was very similar to a British National race, the Cheshire Classic, finishing on a short sharp hill. After the hill it was a fast, slightly downhill road twisting through a village before joining a wider road taking you to the furthest point of the lap. The second part was like a criterium with lots of corners through an industrial estate. It was very weird as the two parts of the course were completely different and didn’t seem like the same race at all. This then took us back to the bottom of the hill to complete the 8km lap.
The race started at 1pm and was 11 laps. 130 riders lined up at the top of the hill eager to go. Unfortunately I found myself at the back for the start so my first mission was to get to the front out of the way of all the carnage. Within half a lap I could see the front. The race was fast, with a constant fight to be near the front. After a few laps the peloton size had decreased massively. The race was splitting up the hill every lap but no one seemed to drive the pace afterwards, so the small groups rejoined. It was frustrating me as all we needed to do was keep the pace going as it would be 10 times harder for the riders behind to keep up. But then I realised all the damage was to be done in the last 4 laps. Attacks started and the pace was rapid. I kept myself well positioned and followed the line. Coming into the finish I had to be within the top 5 into the corner so I practiced it every lap. On the final lap lead outs started forming but it was perfect for me as I didn’t have to do any work, just sit in the wheels. The last 3km was crazy but so much fun. I managed to be 3rd wheel into the bottom of the hill which was perfect but with 200m to go the pace increased and I didn’t have the legs to go with it so I finished 12th. I was pleased with my performance as it was only my first race back and I’ve taken a lot from the race to improve on in future. It was smiles all round as Manon Sourys from Languedoc-Roussillon, the French team we had travelled with, won the race. Then it was a 6 hour journey back to Limoux.