Now in my second year as a junior rider, I headed up to Derby to compete in the newly formatted Omnium in the Senior Women’s Championships. This was the first Senior Omnium Championships I had competed in. To be thrown in at the deep end, racing alongside some of the leaders in women’s track cycling, Olympic champions Katie Archibald MBE and Elinor Barker MBE, was a daunting prospect.
I had no intentions of racing to finish high up in the overall classification. Nor did I go there expecting any result at all. My main focus going into the event was to get on the start line and ride a tactically adept race; to come off the track feeling like I had achieved my goal that I had set myself for that particular race. The knowing I had learnt from the mistakes I had made previously, and to make sure that I rectify any I did make upon getting back in the saddle for the next race.
Its hard to look past the result after you come off the track, especially if it was not what you had hoped for. Of course, I am a little disappointed with myself when the position isn’t what I wanted, naturally, you are your own biggest critic. However, analysing the racing afterwards only brings out the positives and the promise of what is to come. Delving into the race and tearing apart its fibres allows you to see where it went wrong, but also where it went right. This, in my opinion, is a critical part to enable my racing to evolve. So for me, showing I was improving tactical my nouse as well as displaying physical strength was key during the racing; the result didn’t matter.
My first race was the Scratch. I have never been a good scratch rider, I could just never get it quite right. My targets for this race was to maintain a good bunch position, don’t make unnecessary efforts and to try and sit high for the sprint. I knew that, at the moment, I could not compete with girls far more developed and above my years in a sprint. I had 2 options; sit towards the front and hold the position for as long as I could or to try and break away. The first option seemed the more sensible of the two as I still had another 3 races. The race maintained a hard pace throughout, with riders chipping off the front of the bunch in a rare let up of the speed. I was patient and flowed onto wheels, skiving to survive. In the final laps, the intensity heightened and gaps between wheelsbegan to open up. A group of 3 riders were away, and in an attempt to get across to them, a few riders attacked off the front of the pack. However, I remained third wheel. With two laps to go, the gap between the break and the bunch grew and became impossible to close. At this point, I attacked out of the saddle to the front, leading the bunch going into the final lap. I managed to hold it until the finish. I was 7th in the end, as we were just short of catching the solo riders who were trying to bridge the gap. I was content with how I rode this race.
Next up, the newly introduced Tempo Race. Its one of those races where it either goes really right or horribly wrong. A race comprising of 30 laps, the first 4 laps are to find your feet and dial into the track. When the lap board says 26 laps, the bell rings for a sprint on the next lap, and does so for every lap until 0 laps left. The caveat being that only the first rider to cross the line gets 1 point. Everyone else gets nothing for their effort. Savage. Before the race I knew I wanted to get in a break. This way the likelihood of getting some points were increased. The opportunity arose when glanced over my shoulder to see Katie Archibald come flying over the top. I was able to react quickly and fought to get onto her wheel. I was chewing the stem for 1.5 laps until we reached a break of 3 riders that were already away snatching the points. I didn’t have the physicality to take on Katie or Elinor in a sprint, nor the GB senior academy riders that were also away with me. All I needed to do was to stay in the break until it took a lap on the bunch. Simple enough…I couldn’t have been more naive. We could see the bunch in the same straight, I was so close to gaining 4 points from lapping the bunch. During one of the girls changes, she came down the track and clipped my foot with hers. My foot came out of the pedal just meters away from getting on the back of the bunch. Trying to clip your foot in on the move is one thing, but when your legs are screaming at 120 rpm with no freewheel, the task all of a sudden becomes a bit more of a challenge! I had to slow right down, loosing all momentum to get my foot back into the pedal. It took me 1.5 laps. I could feel myself panicking knowing the bunch were hunting me down. Once I got going again, I chased as hard as I could to get the lap back. I saw Katie Archibald hanging off the back of the bunch, just stealing away the points. A tactical masterclass. I managed to get onto her wheel and I stayed there for a few laps to recover before making another move to get onto the back of the bunch where I picked up a single point for crossing the line first before I was then deemed part of the peloton again. This gave me a total of 5 points, putting me joint 4th. Race well ridden.
After the interlude for lunch, racing got underway with the Elimination, preferably known as the Devil. Two years ago I suffered a bad crash in this race, and ever since I have yet to find my confidence in battling for positions at the front, where you are millimetres away from the people in front, behind, and both sides of you. As with every Elimination race, staying at the front is crucial. There is a fine line between not expending too much energy on the front but not leaving yourself in a position that you cant get out of, so finding a balance is important in being able to endure the fast pace until the end. In the race, I found myself at the front one minute, at the back come the next. I found it hard to hide behind wheels at the front and stay there for more than 2 laps. However, in searching for the positives, I was able to repeatedly keep attacking over the top of the bunch to get to the front. It showed me I had the strength there to be able to do that. I do need to keep working on my assertiveness within the bunch, but that can only come with time and experience. Every race I am doing, I feel as though I have regained some confidence that I lost . After that, its just about being able to piece all of those elements together again. In the end I was eliminated in 11th position.
The final race of the day was the infamous points race. In my opinion, the hardest race on the track. You always have to go into this race expecting the unexpected. No points race is ever the same. The overall results, in essence, could be completely changed by taking laps. I was sitting in 7th place on general classification going into the race. The points totals were extremely close between 3rd and 7th place, where if I took a lap, (and the rider in 3rd didn’t score any points) I would be on the podium. It was all to race for. The race was fast and hard from the outset. This foreshadowed what was to come for the rest of the 80 laps. Over the whole of the race, we averaged a speed of nearly 30 mph. In comparison to the mens, they averaged just over 31 mph. It was tough to say the least. The nature of the race meant that it was extremely difficult for riders to take a lap, and in the end nobody was able to do so. There was no let up in the pace for a perfect opportunity to present itself for an attack. I tried to get away several times but I was becoming impatient and the efforts were out of desperation in an attempt to gain 20 points. I finished the race and remained in 7th position overall. I was relatively pleased with how I had ridden over the course of the four races. I gained invaluable experience from the racing and above all loved every minute of it.
I am now turning my attention to the road for a few months for some upcoming Nation’s cup races with the GB junior academy. I hope that the winter of hard training will stand me in good stead for racing abroad this year. It will take a few weeks of training to make the transition from such a track focussed period of racing back onto the road, but nonetheless I am looking forward to that the 2017 season will bring.