Winning the Road Race World Championships!
Posted August 24, 2010 | A diary from Sarah Storey
Waiting all day for my 4pm Road Race at the World Championships this weekend was hard work. I was itching to get racing, especially after the results in the Time Trial two days earlier suggested we'd be on for a very juicy encounter!
My C5 Women's field were also lined up with the C4 women and although for these Championships there would be two medals and two jerseys, one for each class, come London in two years time, these classes will be combined and racing for one gold. Starting together meant the USA team had the numerical advantage with four riders on the road, the Aussies had two and then the rest of the field were without team mates, like me, so I didn't feel too surrounded! It was a classy line up too, with almost half the field having won a World title on the Road or Track at some point in the last few years and several being current or former world record holders.
Being defending Champion, all eyes were on me, so I stayed out of sight for the first half lap as various attacks came and went. As we approached the start of the longer of the two climbs each lap, the Polish girl who'd won silver in the Time Trial attacked again, her third of the race and we'd only been going for about 4km! It was great to see the aggression and I quickly jumped on to her wheel to neutralise her move. The group strung out on her wheel and then I started the process of speeding up and slowing down for the rest of the hill in order to establish the strongest riders on the road.
There were five of us together by the time we'd finished descending onto the river bank and this five also contained three of the four Americans. We crossed the start/finish line to end the first lap and then immediately started climbing the first shorter climb of the lap. At this point, both Anna and I attacked simultaneously, completely unplanned, but as we both chose opposite sides of the road it worked and we were able to gap the girls from the USA.
As we started climbing, the two stronger American girls, Greta [silver medalist in both TT and RR last year] and Kelly [former swimmer and World TT Champion from 2007] came back to us, so I kicked again and they were gapped for the rest of the race so it was left to Anna and I to build up a lead and sort out the final placings.
With a strong headwind along the riverbank and the strong sun overhead, despite only being short, the race was quite brutal, especially as we were getting incorrect time checks from the motorbike which told us Kelly was cutting the gap down and at one point we were told she was only 20 seconds behind. This, I discovered later, was incorrect and the closest she'd got was around 2 minutes 30.
With just under two laps to go, Anna started making a lot of noise and our rhythmical "through and off" sharing of the workload got interrupted and she was refusing to come past me to do her share of the work. Every time we passed a Polish rider or coach stood by the side of the road, she would yell at them and I wasn't sure whether she was faking it but when I asked her why she wasn't working all of a sudden, she told me she had cramp.
Unsure as to what was really happening and finally realising the Americans were not making any headway into our lead, I stopped letting her sit on and forced her to work, although up the climb she was sat firmly behind and every time I changed the pace, she would scream at herself, lose my wheel and then somehow claw her way back on. It was a strange position to be in as I didn't want to be used as a towing machine so our paced slowed considerably as I tried to push her to work.
By the main climb on the last lap, I decided enough was enough and launched an attack. At one point the elastic looked like it would break but then from somewhere she got out the saddle and got close enough for me to realise she would catch me on the descent so I sat up and waited for her to take the lead. At the bottom of the hill, I attacked again and then sat up and waited, before sitting behind her and biding my time for the final few hundred metres.
One thing I've learned from previous head to head encounters is that it's important not to get too impatient in the run in to the finish and so as we passed the 1km to go banner, I started concentrating on picking my spot and not looking back. The distance to the 500m mark seemed like an eternity and I wondered if I'd misread the banner!
At last we were drawing alongside the Paper Mill which on the course signaled there was less than 500m to the finish line. Anna dipped her head as if to check her own gears and so I knew that was my chance to get a couple of pedal revs head start. I had already set my gear and so jumped out of the saddle, stamping on the pedals for all I was worth and pulling at the right hand drop of the bars whilst stablising the left every time my right leg came through. I heard another scream from my opponent and the crowd that was lining the road for the final 300m were cheering.
So many riders from others nations were watching and yelling for me too and as I rounded the final bend in the road I could see the finish line and just kept on driving. With a sneaky look back around 50m from the line, I could see Anna had lost too much ground and I knew I was going to win my second World title for the Road Race!
It was such a relief to cross the line as winner and such a great way to end such a fun yet tough race. Last year I'd taken on the race with a 40km solo breakaway, so to win in a completely different race meant so much. I've done so many different types of races throughout this year and all with the aim of exposing me to more and more ways of winning a Road Race.
I started with my professional debut at the Dottignies Classic in Belgium at Easter and after 130km on the rivet and chasing to stay with the leaders, I knew I was always going to be capable of a fast paced ride, especially as my experience at the Tour of Limousin in July was fairly similar! Racing with the UK's best riders in events like the Cheshire Classic and Women's Team Series as well as Road Nationals and Crit Nationals has given me the chance to try and win from different positions. As I was lining up for the sprint for this World title, I remembered the closing stages of the Cheshire Classic sprint finish and didn't want to get pipped on the line again!
It's been an incredible season, with so many different races alongside my fantastic Horizon Fitness team and against so many fantastic British and European riders. It's been a huge privilege to learn from some of the best in the world and it's also not quite the end of the season! With the British Time Trial Championships a week on Sunday, the Chrono Time Trial Two weeks on Sunday and one final event with the Wigan Wheelers on the Levens Time Trial course, there's still plenty to keep my head down for.
Thanks to everyone for all your support, it means so much! :-)