The Team GB rider comments after riding in the National Women's Circuit Championships
After some exciting events for the ‘One Year To Go' to the Olympic Games and an easier week following the efforts at the Thuringen Rundfahrt, my attentions turned to my final road event with Horizon Fitness Prendas for 2011.
National Circuit Race Championships have been a local event to me for as long as I have been in cycling and with the Preston Town Centre circuit being used for the second year running, I was looking forward to seeing if we could get our Horizon Fitness Prendas jersey in the National Champions jersey.
With a talented group on the start line we knew we had options in two sprinters with Hannah Rich and Dani King, yet the strength of Penny Rowson who had ridden brilliantly at recent races in Europe. The sky had been threatening rain all morning and when the heavens opened just minutes before the start we, like several other riders, knew we needed to make the race fast and drop the riders that could cause us problems on the technical section at the bottom of each lap.
Our tactic proved justified as we came round on one of the laps to find three lapped riders had hit the deck after losing control on the cobbles just 150m or so from the finish. This wasn't the only crash outside of the front group and thankfully none of our riders were involved and we got round the crash without incident.
Penny and I started super quick and hit the front together from the start to make the first couple of laps as fast as possible. Our pace saw the field cutting down in no time with gradually more and more riders losing touch through the technical section and hill into the finish. Motorpoint had a strong showing but before too long our pace on the front had the group down to 10 riders.
The start and finish area was under the covered market and rose all the way from the final corner. The pit area was in here and I kept glancing over to Barney who was giving me advice on how things were going, in sign language of course! The crowds through here were cheering us on every lap, after which we did a wiggle through the streets to get out onto the main road and head into a headwind down what was the fastest part of the circuit. At the bottom of this wide, fast stretch the road narrowed significantly and there was an unhelpfully placed puddle which didn't look very inviting!
From this tight left corner, the course just gradually rose, through the next left and into the covered market again. There was a lot of out of the saddle accelerations and gear changes so I was glad to have my Di2 gears which made the changes slick.
Dani had a dig just over half way through the race and this brought the Motorpoint girls to the front for a short time and again I tried to stretch it out through the corners and create some gaps in the field up the rise to the finish line again. I was glad to have the superb wet weather tyres from our tyre sponsors Schwalbe, they gave me a lot of confidence with my speed and to pedal through all but one of the corners.
About two thirds of the way through the race we lapped the peloton and then there were a few digs from some of the riders who were riding without teammates. Penny helped me cover these attacks and when we were given the five laps to go signal it was all about keeping the pace as high as possible to try and take the sting out of the legs of the girls we knew had the ability to sprint. We managed to drop another couple of girls with our increase in pace but with Dani firmly on my wheel, we had her well protected. As we went through the bell Hannah came round marking another move and took over at the front so we could get Dani through the last corners safely and give her a free run to the line.
It was a fast race right to the line and Hannah Barnes was through the final corner on the inside to get the victory with Dani and Hannah both making the podium with me and Penny coming in fifth and seventh respectively. A great team performance in some challenging conditions!