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Apr 20

Mandy’s Debut Race – The Barton Australian Pursuit, Saturday 18th April

How did I get here? (Maybe ‘why’ would be more appropriate)

At my age to take up cycle racing was quite a step but with partner, Neil racing I am often in the company of the enthusiastic Hull Thursday Racing Team. I made the decision at the end of the 2014 race season as the team ate out at a pizza place. One glass of wine too many?

Being old, the LVRC, League of Veteran Racing Cyclists, seemed like my only option. Although I would start in a group of men 10 years older I was in no doubt that these were not your average old men. It would not be easy keeping up and may well be impossible. I promised to ride 3 races as a minimum before deciding if this was a really bad idea. At first I could put it out of my mind and simply build cycle miles over the winter months including a good few on the Majorca holiday. To avoid racing in the cold my first race would be April and the Barton Australian Pursuit fitted the bill. A local race, short (28 miles) with an afternoon start so likely to be warmish.

On the rides out with the HTRC race team the boys provided helpful comments such as “you won’t give up just because you crash will you?”.  Will had me practice getting used to physical contact as apparently that happens a fair bit in races. I was not sure elbow nudging and gentle pushes to the hip would ever feel normal whilst cycling! He also cycled very close alongside telling me I need to get used to it. Having a ‘Will’ alongside felt  intimidating! I started worrying about racing months in advance wondering “what was I thinking?”.  I struggle holding on to the lads on their Sunday rides so it became apparent that without a suitable bike I had no chance. I am now the proud owner of a beautiful Trek Emonda which matches our team kit.

 

MandyBike fit at Ellerker’s

 

And so April arrived and with just a week to go I was constantly questioning what I was doing. I asked Josh about his first race. He explained he was nervous but then excitedly said “Do you like adrenaline? It’s like the biggest adrenaline rush ever.”  I couldn’t really answer that … I think it sums up the colossal age difference between a 17 year old and me?

 

I rode out with Neil to cycle round the course which helped to prepare but I was getting more nervous. One worry was that at times I am so bad at getting my feet in the pedals I thought I might be left on the start line. How embarrassing that would be. I reminded myself that my three ambitions for the season should not cause so much pressure and I needed to chill! My ambitions: finish a lap with my group; finish a race; finish a race in the peloton.

 

And the day arrived. I was so nervous!  I went to the toilet so many times I must have been a kilo lighter by the time the race began. Three of the team lads Danny, Matt and Josh pedalled out to cheer us on which was really lovely.

 

The Barton race is Australian Pursuit which, for LVRC, means you are set off in age group order (eldest first) with a time gap between each group. Group A consists of men aged 40-44, group B 45-49 etc. I was allocated F group so my men were aged 65-69. Neil is in group D and Shaun in group A.  This type of race means you work hard as you are trying to chase down the (hopefully) slower riders ahead whilst keeping away from the chasing group. It means you need all in your group to work together to give you any chance of a win.

 

It really was a relief to be on the start line. I said hi to my group of 6 men and told them I did not know if I would be able to help out. Soon we were off. I clipped in smoothly! (That made me so happy). We formed a chain gang and thanks to Jim’s training and training with the lads, I was through and offing smoothly with the group. Maybe I could do this! Number 40 took control keeping us all together, reminding us to ease back a tad when we reached the front and so on. At one point I appreciated Will’s ‘breaching of personal space’. A rider was so close I wanted to move into the gutter but held my line.

 

The first time up ‘the hill’ the chaps gently pulled away but I made it back along the flat before we hit the finish flag … 7 laps to go. Next time round I flew off the front into the dip and started the hill with an advantage but again, a small gap at the top which I soon clawed back. Unfortunately, on the third lap I could not get the position and although I worked I could not reel my group back. So, on my own. I decided to battle on for another 3 laps before jacking but Danny, Josh and Matt cheered and the marshals encouraged so I kept going. A third of the way into the 7th lap and a group passed. With a big effort I got myself onto the group but this was  just before a little rise where I slipped back off. Onto the main road, headwind but flat, I reeled them in and enjoyed a mile tucked in. Unfortunately that damned little hill got me again but by now, with one lap to go I was going to finish. My legs were getting a bit mushy and I suspect this was my slowest lap but I finished and was really pleased (amazed) to find I was not last.

 

So, maybe nothing to cheer about but I achieved two of my targets plus I didn’t embarrass myself. I sort of enjoyed it and I was first lady (ha, ha). However, I obviously need to work on my hill climbing legs.

 

Neil’s Race: He started very well in his group of 8. The majority took a turn though a couple could not help. At lap 5 he was in a strong position but half way round this one his calf threatened to cramp which meant, when the break of 4 riders went he could not risk pushing as it almost certainly would have caused full scale cramp. The group behind caught them and he sat in for a while hoping the calf would ease up. On lap 8 two of the breakaway people were swept up just leaving two away who came 1st and 2nd. Even more frustration as he knew he would have been able to hold onto the pair.

Shaun’s Race: He had no chance as the A group was just 3 riders and it would have needed 3 very strong riders to catch the much larger B group. However, he finished the race and felt he had rode well so no shame there.

Back at the church the cup of tea and homemade cakes were excellent. A couple of riders and the commisseure said I had done very well so that gives me encouragement to go do some more training and hope for better next time.

Mandy Dean
Hull Thursday Racing Team