Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Life In Neon at the Durham CXNE, 15th November 2014

Woke up on Saturday morning feeling sprightly and raring to go, well there’s a change, think it was because I was so excited for the full weekend’s worth of racing. I was under the strict instruction not to go all-out during the CXNE race in Durham, since the next day I would be competing at the Nationals in the same arena, so, no biggie! Today was purely getting to grips with the course and keep my points up for the league, however, I knew this would be a struggle since I had let myself become way too competitive. Yes, that’ll be my hereditary dad’s genes right there! 

Dad wasn't racing today so it was all about me (ahem!) the benefit of this being that even when my bike got a speck of dirt on it, it was wiped off within seconds, thanks dad!

When we arrived, as usual, I got ready, practiced the course and signed on. This race was the first time I was competing on my new bright pink Frank The Welder CX bike and was super excited to try it out!

The course was pretty good with quite a lot of sections where you had to dismount. There were steps, hurdles, and a steep, slippy, muddy hill that was catching a lot of people out, myself included. Adding up all the technical turns it created a challenging course and kept the riders on their toes, exactly what you would expect with a National Trophy event the following day. Big applause for the course designers, you rock! My nerves weren't that bad to be honest, I was really enjoying the practice and having a good giggle, I knew that my race head would be on later in the day however.

Sure enough it was soon time to be gridded. My dad and me went to the start where Nicola Davies, Bev Blakeman, myself and then Jenn Batey were called out. Oh, was that the pang of my nerves kicking in just then?

Off we went and despite the strong temptation to sprint off straight away with Bev, Nicola and Jenn, I paid heed to my dad’s advice and kept a steady pace letting them fight it out up front. I ended up having a mini-battle with Natalie Batey which became rather amusing, I slipped off in the mud and Natalie overtook me, Natalie came off in the mud and I overtook her and on it went!

I will also tell you something weird; my dad screaming his head off with words of encouragement every time I belted past the pits. Under normal circumstances he’s on the course the same time as me, today however there he was being my proud dad!

The bell suddenly sounded for the final lap. This was what I was waiting to hear, head now down and firing up the adrenaline I got the cranks turning harder and managed to leave Natalie. I crossed the finish line taking fourth place in the Women’s category whilst keeping hold of the top Junior spot which I was stoked with.


Friday, 14 November 2014

Here's Mud in Your Eye, the Inter-Area Cyclocross Championship, Hardwick Hall, 9th November 2014

As I've mentioned before, my dad likes to be the first one at the venue, last weekend was no different, in fact it was even earlier as the weekend’s racing was extra special. It was the Inter-Regional Championships where dad and I were both part of the team representing the North-East, and as you can probably imagine, our nerves were kicking in a little more than normal.

I woke at 6:00am, had a quick shower, threw on my clothes and climbed into the van, all within 20 minutes I think, go me! Needless to say as soon as we were on the road I went back to the land of nod and the three-hour drive for my dad was over in an instant!

So there I was at the venue with ruffled hair and sleepy eyes peering out of the window to see nothing but mud. All part and parcel of racing cyclocross I agree, but little did we know how much of a problem it was going to become! Anyway we hopped out the van, had a chat with fellow team-mates and a stroll around the venue. Regardless to the gloop it was a lovely place.

It wasn’t long before we noticed people practicing the course with overly clogged up bikes and, uh-oh, the alarm bells in my head started ringing! The track walk called for wellies and just walking around the course was a struggle, never mind riding it! People couldn't ride two laps without a bike change or a mechanical and I was doing 40 minutes worth of laps. I knew it was going to be a big issue especially as I didn't have a spare bike! My heart dropped. Oh what to do, what to do?

A little while later I was very kindly offered a spare bike. Although it was too small I was incredibly grateful for the fact I even had a bike to change to. A lot of riders didn't even do a practice lap because it simply wasn't worth getting caked in mud before the actual race. So, after some hectic plan making and organisation of the pit-plans, I headed for the starting line.

Then the start gun went off! The first corner was super tricky, just who am I kidding, the whole course was super tricky! Just unrelenting sticky mud, although with that said I managed to do quite well and was overtaking quite a few people.  For the time being I was in a good place considering who I was riding with, super female athletes!

It didn’t last though, as expected my bike soon got clogged up with mud so I changed at the pits the first time I passed it. I quickly regretted it as I didn't realise how small the loaned bike actually was, it was incredibly uncomfortable!  However I’m made from pure Northern grit so… you know the score, I knuckled down, grinned and bared it as best as I knew how.

Soon enough the loaned bike became ridiculously stuffed with mud and leaves, I couldn't even turn the pedals and the accumulated mud weighed a tonne. This left me with no other choice but to get off and carry it until I got back to the pits.


On arriving at the pits I was so far behind and wanted to give up however the reassuring words from my close friend Rhianna whilst she handed me my cleaned bike made me carry on. I got back on my own bike and set off with the aim to catch up to the group. No sooner was I making up time and getting back into the swing of things the worst of worst things happened, my rear mech snapped! 

Though my patience had thinned and my tears were almost showing I hopped off the bike, threw it over my shoulder and continued to run, walk, crawl and swear. The further I got the further my head went dropped, I knew my competitors were finishing while I was still out there, feeling both embarrassed and defeated as I was one of the last people on the course.

As I was coming up the long straight I saw my dad approach me and seeing him almost made me start to cry because I was so frustrated. He realised what had happened, gave me some motivational advice and then sent me on my way, not long afterwards I crossed the finish line with mixed feelings. Although it was a disappointing day I was also proud that I completed the race, I’d overcome some demons and persevered. Dad was at the finish line waiting to retrieve my bike. With arms open wide he gave me the world’s biggest hug and told me he was proud, that was all I needed.

So, never a failure, always a lesson, and it's all experience at the end of the day!

I'm now looking forward to this weekend at Durham with the CXNE event on Saturday and the National Trophy on Sunday! More nerve wrecking and exciting times ahead, wish me luck!


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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Exorcising the Hallowe'en Ghouls ... CXNE Round 8, Hetton Lyons Country Park, 2nd November 2014

Photo copyright of Alan Dingwall

What is it with me and my early morning lack of motivation, guess I’m just a stereotypical teenager after all!  Needless to say that was out of the window on arriving at the picturesque Hetton Lyons Country Park for another day of fab CXNE Series racing.  No time to rest though, it was out of the van and straight onto the course to get the lay of the land, wow, this was going to be a hard push!

A stretched out large hill section followed by a deceptive little bugger of a smaller hill added to the endless off cambers, well I knew I was in for some suffering.

Ten minutes until I had to be on the start line, a quick dash to the van to throw some gels and energy drinks down my neck and where my mam was questioning my nerves (honestly, how could she tell?) and Colin (dad’s team mate) adjusting my bike, I have my own race crew y'know!  Shook myself down, felt pretty sorted with how to tackle the course and headed off for the start line. Yet again, (yep, you guessed it) another amazing turn out for the women’s category, we’re going places! In fact having said that it was a really good turn out for the CXNE itself.

* BANG *

Straight up and out of the saddle, Bev Blakeman shot off in front with a few others and I was running in third place for the first lap. After a while we split up, Bev and Nicola Davies showed their amazing athletic abilities tearing up the trail ahead along with Sarah Murray.

I wasn’t working alone however, I was constantly checking over my shoulder to see where Alison Sarmiento was, she was scarily creeping up on me!  A little while later she took her chance and rode past, this was just before a really thick muddy section where she dismounted, I knew I had to ride through it in order to gain back my fourth place.  It worked and I then knuckled down.

The last lap came around surprisingly quickly which was good as it meant I only had to tackle that blasted hill once more, gritting my teeth through the lactic acid build up. I came through the finishing line as the 1st junior woman and 4th woman.  Not so bad after all and what a fantastic course.

Now for a tough week of training in preparation for Inter-Regional Champs and then the Nationals at Durham the following week, wish me luck!


I would like to ask Alan Draffan to step forward and take a bow for the fantastic photography, if you would like to see more of his work check here: Alan Draffan Photosport on Facebook

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