CELTIC CHRONO UCI 1.2 TIME TRIAL, BELFAST, IRELAND – 13TH MAY, 2012
The Celtic Chrono inaugural Event was a resounding success. It was organised and run off to World Class standards and competitors from near and far were enquiring about next years race before the last rider was over the line. Being pretty much a Home Event I would have loved to have been in good form and show what I’m capable of. It wasn’t to be. After being off the bike sick and just finishing another course of antibiotics leading into the race I knew I would struggle. I had convinced myself that despite the setbacks I was still capable of a good performance on the day. I went off the Start Ramp hell bent on emptying the tank. I fought hard but you can’t afford to be off your game at this level and that showed in the times. I was way off where I would normally be and it was a hard pill to swallow.
There wasn’t any time to wallow though, as I was booked two days later to fly to Canada to race another UCI race. These races during the month of May were the last chance we had of gaining Olympic Points and I wasn’t giving up without a fight. I have a really good support team around me and on weighing up the pros and cons, we decided that stopping now would be something I would regret. So bikes and kit were packed up again and I headed onwards for Canada.
CHRONO GATINEAU UCI 1.1 TIME TRIAL & ROAD RACE, CANADA – 19TH-21ST MAY, 2012
I arrived into Ottawa on the 15th May. The next morning I had a full-blown sore throat which was a bit of bad luck but no big deal. I was staying with the same lovely family as last year and again they looked after me really well. The Chrono Gatineau was relatively short at 18.4km and was raced over two laps of the same 9.7 km loop as last year. The loop included a 500m hill with a 5.9% slope, and some technical turns. Again, there was a hot field of competitors with riders like the outgoing champion Clara Hugues (CAN, Specialized Lululemon) and American Amber Neben (USA, Specialized), 2008 Time Trial World Champion. There were also several National TT Champions, including American Evelyn Stevens (USA, Specialized-Lululemon), Danish Linda Villumsen (DAN, GreenEdge), Australian Shara Gillow (AUS, GreenEdge) and Tara Whitten (CAN, TIBCO) who was World Omnium Track Cycling Champion in 2010 & 2011. The Time Trial went off in good fair conditions. The title was retained by Clara Hughes, Team Specialized Lululemon who rode a great race to finish just in front of two of her Lululemon Teammates who filled up the last two slots on the Podium. Unfortunately for me I was on the slippery slope and my form was going from bad to worse. I gave it everything but as in Belfast I was way off the performance I was capable of. It was disappointing but not surprising, so it was just a matter of sucking it up and re-focusing on the Road Race two days later.
The Grand Prix Cycliste kicked off early on the 21st May with a start line filled with some of the best teams in the world. Myself and my Irish team-mate Olivia Dillon rode with our adopted Canadian Club ‘The West of Quebec Wheelers’ who set up a super support team around ‘The Wheelers’ again this year. The course was longer and more challenging than last year, with 13 laps of a 10.18 km circuit making it a total of 134 km. It was also super hot. The level of the riders racing though was what really pushed the pace up and ensured that we were on the rivet start to finish. Apart from the sore throat having progressed into a chesty cough my form hadn’t magically returned but I was up for a dog-fight and that’s what I got. It was a tough race and for a girl who had been focusing primarily on 3Km Pursuit during the season I surprised myself and finished in the main bunch 19 seconds behind Winner Ina-Yoko Teutenberg of …Guess who?…Yes! Team Specialized Lululemon. Basically, they cleaned up. Impressive.
VALKENBURG HILLS CLASSIC UCI 1.2 ROAD RACE, HOLLAND – 25TH MAY, 2012
My next port of call was Holland where I would race my last UCI Road Race for the month of May, and that was the Valkenburg Hills Classic 1.2. For the race I was guesting on a British Road Team – Matrix Fitness-Prendas RT. At this point although it was obvious that I was going to struggle badly it was also an opportunity for me to race over part of the 2012 World Championship Road Race Circuit. Most importantly, I had committed to racing with Matrix Prendas and I didn’t want to let them down last minute so pulling out was not an option. On the 22nd May I flew from Ottawa to Philadelphia then to Brussels where I made my way to Oudenaarde where I stayed with the team in the lead-in to Friday’s race. The girls and Stef (DS) were all really lovely and made me feel very welcome. It was great experience to race on a team with not only some promising up and coming riders but also Helen Wyman who guests on the Team frequently and has a lot of experience on the pro women’s circuit. Helen is also a 7 time UK National Cyclo-Cross Champion so she’s a good bit of stuff.
The race itself started reasonably well for me, I was well-placed up towards the front of the bunch, which was a good place to be as straight from the gun the attacks were on. Then it was hill after hill after hill and I was gradually getting more under pressure with each ascent. I kept making my way back up to the front as quickly as I could after each onslaught but eventually there was one too many too close together and I ended up fighting to get back on in a chasing group. Not where I wanted to be but coming from the Track and a full month of just going Race-to-Race without much in the way of actual ‘training’ I couldn’t have expected to get away with it. It was fantastic to get the experience on that circuit though and to finally get to race up the famous Cauberg was special. The finish of the Amstel Gold has taken on a whole new meaning to me now!
My Road Racing experience’s are building all the time and as with this one not always positive but it’s the races that don’t work out, which are the ones you learn most from. Once it was all over, despite my initial frustration and disappointment I was also relieved to finally be getting some much needed rest.
NATIONAL ROAD CHAMPIONSHIPS, CLONMEL, IRELAND – 21ST – 23RD JUNE, 2012
Once I got home from Holland it was a case of listening to the advice from my support and medical team and taking time off the bike to get the recovery I needed before starting into a rebuild programme that would have me back in shape for the approaching Road and Track Season. National Championships have always been very special to me and I have been lucky enough to win numerous Championships both in Rowing and in Cycling. They have and always will be an important focus in my programme. I feel strongly that athletes performing internationally should race their National Championships where possible. Sometimes there are circumstances such as other racing commitments, injuries or illnesses etc where it just can’t be helped but where possible I really believe that they should be a priority. It’s not just for irish athletes who are on the cusp of international racing and need a good measure of where they are but also for the younger generation coming up through the ranks. It’s part of giving back to the sport as well and I have always lived by that. The decision not to race Nationals this year was tough but it was more racing that would push me further into the hole I had been digging for myself the past month. So, instead of asking for a bigger shovel I decided to take the advice given to me and stop digging.
I’m in the middle of my rebuild project right now and I’ll fill you in on that….but that’s for another day! In the meantime, I just want to say a big congratulations to this years National Champions. I hope they have a successful year racing in the National Colours with pride.
Irelands 2012 Elite National Road Champions:
☘ Women’s Time Trial – Olivia Dillon
☘ Men’s Time Trial – Michael Hutchinson
☘ Women’s Road Race – Melanie Spath
☘ Men’s Road Race – Matt Brammeier