Sunday, December 14, 2014

National Trophy 5 Bradford

I had been targeting Bradford all year. It just so happened that it was also muddy, wet and technical. The perfect conditions for me. As the day approached I got more and more anxious that something would go wrong.

I took a call from my mum to say that they were coming to watch and I thought, well at least if I don't live up to all the hype about how well I've been doing, they will get to see the excellent quality of women's racing right now and just how much Yorkshire cyclo-cross is playing a huge part in my life.

Then I got the message that Lynn was not riding. Lynn is my pacer against whom I measure how well I am keeping up against those I consider the best in my category. She is also a team mate. So more orange!

The final dig at my confidence arrived in the form of a broken spring in my freewheel. Almost mercifully it would not mend and it happened at 10pm on Saturday so there was sod all I could do about it. I switched to a spare and got on with it.

In the morning I had an odd feeling of still being full of food yet I still stuffed my normal breakfast away with difficulty.

A few hours later at normal eating time I still felt stuffed full so I decided to leave out lunch.  We were later arriving compared to normal but calmer so I signed on and dressed in peace, pouring on my new skin suit which I am starting to love a lot. Warm up went well. I dropped a layer off at the pits because I was moving so fast I was generating plenty of heat. After 2.5 laps I lined up, cheering forwards my senior friends before vets started to make up the front row. I took the last spot.

Now, I recognise that I have one of the fastest starts on the cross circuit but I had practised it and stuck my gear in a little harder than normal because of the road surface. First objective to get off the line and away from the barrier at the side of me. Next objective, not to get in the way of any of the real racers who would be coming through in no time. I stared up the hill, focused on nothing but the road ahead and drowning out my dad's mate chuntering in my ear from the other side of the fencing.

Andrew said, 'now don't completely blow it all on this first hill'. I smiled (perhaps inwardly) and shook my head. That is exactly what I was about to do.

The gun sounded and I shot off the line before anyone else, for the first time all year, leading the national trophy race for a few brief moments before I was passed by Marrie and Tracy Fletcher. I could hear Lynn screaming, 'brilliant' at me and the more muted sound of Darrell saying what he always does, 'go on Andrea, that's it's, like I was supposed to keep this up all the way round.

At the first corner I sat in 3rd place and resolved to stay there as long as possible. I started to feel guilty that no one had come past me yet and indeed I managed to hold on to 3rd place through the pits much to the glee of TSK.

Alison Kinloch passed me next then I finally found a brief resource of energy to go with Liz Clayton and Juliet Horrocks before dropping away with Marrianne Heffron to hold a mini battle which I won going over the rather tall hurdles (Marianne is around 12 inches shorter than me).

Motivated by the small victory over a shorter person who had already admitted to being unable to eat through illness for most of the week, I set about riding the rest of the race at max effort. The pure joy of that one event you have set every thing aside for, you can ride like there is no tomorrow... at least like there's no training tomorrow.

Despite my efforts, I began to tire on the last lap and Juliet and Liz moved further ahead into the distance. The commentator was starting to wrap the race up, a massive battle emerging at the front of the elite women's race with my friend's daughter, Amira Mellor and  Evie Richard. Amira lapped me first and I managed my usual cheer of encouragement... when all is gone from my lungs I can only ever summons the breath to shout, 'go on Mi'. It sounds like I am cheering myself but by now she knows where I am going with it and, along with the rest of Yorkshire I am one of her biggest fans. I race with her mum who is also a triathlete but she is the most vociferous supporter. So I love it when she is watching, not racing because she screams in my ear too.

Back to the racing and I was suddenly consumed by Amira' s brother and her best friend, Sophie Thackeray, screaming support. I was crunching my last few gears up the road climb I had ascended so fluently from the start line. I was wondering why there were no more gears left. I looked up to encourage oxygen into the lungs, only to see Amira' s yellow jersey shift as she stood on the pedals to give it even more. Despite struggling with my breathing I let out an incredulous laugh. How on earth?

From then on it was in the bag for all of us. Sadly not for Amira who was pipped to the line by Evie despite a tough battle.

I walked strong up the muddy steps one more time and was overjoyed to see TSK on the finishing straight ready for a fist bump on my way past. I had a massive grin on my face which spoke volumes for how much I enjoyed that, how good I felt and how thankful I was for all the support on the track and off the track (TSK). I then took the luxury of standing by to cheer home the other girls behind me and those that were approaching to lap me - Tracy, Marrie and Ali, a full 5 minutes ahead of me.

I am writing this, not the evening of the race, for I was exhausted. It's not the day after the race for I have spent 3days at least coming down off the high. It is almost 1Week later where it is starting to fade into the distance and I need to write it down to remember how good it feels to get it right.

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