Abingdon Airfield Crit 1

Beautiful February day in Oxfordshire, photo courtesy of Sarah Clarke.

Racing in February is never going to be associated with glorious weather (in Britain anyway), and last Saturday was no exception.

As we got out on the track to warm-up, we were greeted with 20+ mph winds and horizontal rain. Mistake 1 — not wearing shoe covers. By the time I joined the group at the start line my right shoe contained an impressive amount of water. I needn’t have worried; one lap into the race and I was completely soaked through from head to foot. I can certainly vouch for the merits of merino, although I think I’d have needed a wetsuit to maintain a reasonable body temperature.

There were around 25 women signed up, which is really impressive for a race so early in the year and given the conditions. We had a neutralised rolling start and after the car pulled away nobody seemed to want to stretch the group; perhaps understandable given the 20 mph headwind. We had a fairly tame first couple of laps, two really strong riders got away (and stayed away) and I started to think about doing something myself. The headwind section was so intense that if we could get a group away, we’d have a pretty good chance of staying away.

Coming around the corner into the headwind stretch I attacked, looking back no one seemed to want to join in so I sat up and got swallowed up. Then I spotted a friendly face (incognito in rain cape, sensible thinking), she told me to attack again and she’d do a 1–2 with me. Approaching the headwind again, I attacked again. I looked back, desperately hoping that someone, anyone, would join me. It worked! Just as I was starting to sit up, another girl joined me and told me to keep going. We accelerated and Tracy (rain cape) got over to us as well.

Amazing! I’d never been in a breakaway before, let alone instigate one. The three of us worked really well together, especially with Tracy keeping us in check and yelling orders (exactly what we needed!). We stayed away all race, and had banked on getting 3rd, 4th and 5th…

Side note: Women’s races quite often have to share the track with a men’s race. These shouldn’t interfere with each other, but obviously this doesn’t always happen.

We hit the finish line with one lap to go at the same time as the men were finishing their race, their overtaking of the women behind us *may* have assisted a female rider to catch up with our group of three. The addition of this fourth rider really disrupted our rhythm and we struggled to keep it together through the final headwind. She dropped us all to sprint for 3rd place.

My legs were shot and I knew I wouldn’t be able to out-sprint my two breakaway companions, I went as hard as I could but I couldn’t match their pace, finishing in 6th place.

I have to say I’m pretty pleased with my result. I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this first race, so to get some points on the board is great — and means I’m really looking forward to the next round this Sunday. After all, the weather can’t possibly be worse right?

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