Thursday, 4 October 2012

Nat Champs and World Champs

So the conclusion of my little foray into cycling was the National Championships on the Manchester Velodrome. I'd spent 3.5ish months on a bike, been to the outdoor track at Welwyn a few times and done *a lot* of starts sessions on the guided busway (it has a lovely wide cycle path alongside it). There is nothing like throwing yourself in at the deep end and doing a national competition with basically zero experience.... FUCKING BRING IT THE FUCK ON MANCHESTER.

So I got to the Velodrome. I had my Bianchi, I had Thor on a turbo, I had a (borrowed) Cambridge CC skinsuit; I was ready to go. There was, mercifully, a 40min warm up free session on the track (once the GB Team Pursuit team had left I SAW ED CLANCY AND CHRIS HOY!!!!!!!!!) so I clipped in and threw myself at the siberian pine.


FUCKING HELL IT'S STEEP. The straights were OK, but the banking... well fuck. 42 degrees is quite a lot of degrees of inclination. Yeah. Welwyn is not that steep.

My survival tactic was to basically cycle as fast as possible so I didn't fall off (cuz SCIENCE). And that was how I found myself utterly belting it round the Manchester Velodrome along with about 50 other people weaving all over the place while trying to crush my fear of dying as far down into my soul as possible. (Internal monologue: Anna ANNA look people are cycling slower than you on this banking and they are not slipping off STOP BEING A FUCKING WUSS *deep breath* that's it, a bit higher on the banking... HIGHER MOTHERFUCKER WHAT ARE YOU? A COWARD??!?!?

And then the U23 Team Pursuit went past underneath me at full pelt literally inches from me and I almost shit myself.


I got off the track, HR somewhere about 300bpm (ADRENALIN - MUST NOT DIE - PUSH HARDERRRRRRRRRRRR TO NOT DIE) and got ready for my first race.

Look at me, totally getting on my turbo (I can't use rollers SADFACE) with shoe covers on and wheel bags all around and all that shit SO PRO.
Such an attractive face. Also guys GUISE please note vague calf definition (that's a first). Winning.
It's time. It's time to smash 500m in the face.

This is quite a cool shot as you can see the previous person going off in the background. Also note pimped Bianchi w/ trispoke and disc and that oooooooooo.
They weigh and measure up your bike before you race. As the only steel-frame bike owner there (pretty certain that this is true) I did get some chat about how much my bike weighed. When I raced with my Brooks on there the next day (so nearly not UCI legal... oops) they said that my saddle probably made the minimum weight on its own :D

A nice man holds your bike so they can put it in the start gate (START GATE! Like, not a twelve year old boy on a pontoon - and actual pnumatic start gate! Such novelty.)  - I'm not just being a lazy so and so at this point.

Here is a close up of me desperately trying to look pro.

START GATE!!!!!!!!
And another. Cuz photos. Also, I am not very good at lady-like posture am I?

Yes, I am wearing sunglasses under a visor because FUCK YOU THAT'S WHY*

*Actual mundane reason: I couldn't see otherwise because my glasses wouldn't fit :(

And it totally looks badass.

Here I am almost kicking one of the race connoisseurs commissaires in the face trying to get on my bike (I didn't notice the step on the other side):

 Totally ready to go:

 COUNTDOWN (last two blips = stand the fuck up ready to throw your weight forward)

GO GO COURAGE LEGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I stamp on the pedals for 1/2 a lap, trying to get the boat* bike up to speed, sit down into the aerobars (too early in ever so accurate hindsight). You get sort of pinned into the track on the corners in a really exciting way when you're going fast.

*Yes, I did actually write this the first time.

Last (second!) lap! KEEP GOING.

 And that's it. Over.

Successful me-at-finish shot.
(My camera runs out of photos at this point, sorry).

So, how did I do?

Well. Honestly, I got utterly DESTROYED. Like wiped off the face of the earth destroyed. Like arse handed to me on a plate destroyed. Came 18th out of 22 in the 500mTT and didn't even qualify with my flying 200m for the individual sprint.

I'll be honest, at the time is really fucking hurt. That kind of result just *burns*. But if I've learnt anything it's that you've got to (a) not beat yourself up over shit and (b) look at stuff with some degree of context. Yeah sure, I totally just embarrassed myself but heck, if I'd shown up at (rowing) Nat Champs in a 1x, with three months of sculling under my belt and no racing experience, well you're going to get thumped and thumped fucking hard.

Did I embarrass myself? Yes, a bit. Did I learn a lot? Yep. Will I do it again? FUCK YES. I have a sneaking suspicion that this may mark the end of my rowing career (career?) for a while and the beginning of a cycling adventure.

Because adventures are fucking fun.

The other thing I was going to write about was the Women's World Champ road race (and yes I *know* I promised to write about the Olympics and all that at some point but I haven't because I am being crap.) For those of you who don't follow women's cycling (which I'm guessing is most of you), Marianne Vos is The Complete and Utter Shit in cycling at the moment. She is basically a freight train on a bike. Here she is winning the Olympic Road Race earlier in the year:

(Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
With five consecutive silvers in previous world championships (!!!! - parallels to Kath Grainger here) some epic form at the Olympics and winning the Giro and the World Cup series this year... well, you would be a fool to bet against her.

So, we skip to the last two (10 mile) laps of an eight-lap race. We have a five-woman break 30s ahead of the peloton which doesn't look very dangerous.

Stuff is getting tense. Marianne Vos does not want this to go to a sprint finish...

So BOOM the move is made. Longo Borghini is the only one capable of bridging the gap too.

At this point those left in the peloton must've got a very bad feeling...

Vos has bridged (taking some effort) and immediately comes to the front of the break and starts upping the pace. That is pretty epic in it's own right. There is another Dutchwoman in the break too so they do a little mini two-man time trial.

The others in the group at this point do precisely fuck all and just try and stay on the Dutch's wheels secretly hoping Vos will tire herself out.

(There is still 20 miles to go at this point by the way. This is some serious commitment.) The time gap to the peloton stretches out and out until it becomes clear the break will not be caught.

At some point in the last lap Becker's and Ratto's legs blow up with Vos's savage pacesetting and they drop off the back.

We are now down to five riders OOOOOOOO HOW EXCITING. Vos has a little tester sprint on the penultimate climb to test everyone's strength. Looks like American Neben and Vos's team mate Anna Van der Bruggen are dying on their arses a bit, but the Aussie Neylen and the Italian Borghini are looking good still. The question on everyone's lips is "Has Vos done too much? Is she going to blow before the finish?"

Final climb, 2.5k to go. The peloton are now 5 mins back. Everyone knows that this is where Vos's move will come and where she will try and rip everyone's legs off....

She hits the steepest bit of the ascent and courage-legs the shit out of it:

Everyone else just breaks and she puts huge distance into everyone. And keeps moving. And moving. Does this woman have an on board motor or something? At the top of the hill there is a 1.1 mile false flat to the finish. She looks behind her, sees just how much she's ripped everyone else's legs off and smiles.

The finish line approaches and she has time to pick up a Dutch flag which is pretty effortlessly cool.

Fotoreporter Sirotti
 See? Look how accurate my drawing is :D

At this point I think a run down of the podium 2007-12 is needed.

2007 - Fuck.

2008 - Fuck.
2011 - Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh fuckitdy fuck fuck
2012 - WOOOOOOOOOOOOO FUCK YES!! That is one well deserved rainbow jersey right there. (It is also nice to see the Neylen and Borghini proper full on pleased with their medals too).

Marianne Vos = freight train. The best (most successful?) female rider ever (oh, and did I mention she's 25?!?!). Just ridiculously good.

*goes and pretends to be Marianne Vos*


P.S. Thanks to Dave Mclean and Mark Holt for the photos of Nat Champs + general mechanic/driver duty! YOU ARE AMAZING.


  1. Could be worse... you could be one of the four people who got beaten by someone with 3 months' track training and zero time in a proper actual indoor velodrome?

  2. Sounds like a good learning experience - go back next year with an - ahem - lighter bike and more knowledge!

    Don't leave rowing yet though - I'm looking forwardd to the f**king awesomeness that will be your WBR report from the the tideway in 2015!

    1. That is the plan! 2015 is a long way away - we shall see what happens.

  3. You have no idea how much your analysis of the Women's World Champs made me! And well done at your first velodome!!!!!!

    1. WE ALL FUCKING LOVE MARIANNE VOS!!!!!!111111111111!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 :)

  4. What Tim said! WBR 2015!

  5. As the fastest rider at the Nats on a Brooks, isn't there some sponsorship money in this for you?

    You could become the captain of the Brooks racing team.

    1. I was so judged for that saddle :D I am very dedicated to my Brooks saddles now (I have three).

  6. Enjoyed reading your report Anna, we shall make a cyclist of you yet. ps Where is the 'amatore' pic? pps Jeannie Longo is the best ever: I raced against her once in 2008. I remain a Vos fan though.

    1. I am now officially a cyclist, not a rower masquerading as one!

      I can't believe I've never heard of Longo... seven Olympics? JESUS FUCKING CHRIST. She sounds a little like Beryl Burton (who I cam across in a book about the history of British cycling) who just won ALL the shit for years and years and years. I mean, who even does 12/24-hour time trials? D:

    2. Who does 12/24hr TTs? People with mental health problems (seriously). Here is Andy Wilkinson:

    3. Who does 12/24 hr TTs? People with mental illnesses (seriously). Here is Andy Wilkinson -

    4. :-o

      I will never, ever do that. Ever.

      I like the way he did it on a MTB frame too. Hero.

  7. A great read as ever...I think you might have to rename it "F*** all about rowing" soon though !

  8. "Because adventures are fucking fun."


    Adventures are fucking fun so always choose adventures :)


  10. Good read!