The National Champs – the race that comes with the most hype on the domestic scene. ‘The pinnacle’ of the racing season if you will. It’s one of the races that will be name-dropped in most riders goals for the season, for example, I’d mapped out at the start of the season I would be happy with a Top 5 U23. That being said, when I created my goals for this season the Nationals felt like a million miles away.
Nationals is an unusual race. A race where you see World Tour riders amongst amateur riders, all in pursuit of the same jersey. For that reason, it’s always a very different race to the rest of the season and one that’s near impossible to predict the outcome of.
A relatively tame start to the race meant the second half saw plenty of attacks. As we passed through some narrow lanes, the peloton lined out and eventually split. There were about 25 of us up the road and from this group the winning break was made. With about 10km to go the main peloton swallowed us up and it was time to prepare for a hectic bunch sprint. I had a bad crash in Belgium a couple of weeks ago that left me feeling unconfident in the finale of the race. With about 1km to go I found myself too far back, I had to have a word with myself – ‘Are you about to sit in for a sprint you’ve raced 134km for?’ – the answer was no, I had to fight for this. I started moving up like a mad women and made it to about 15th wheel 2 corners from the finish. As the sprint opened up I gained a couple more places to finish 11th. Bitter sweet really. Yes, I am happy with 11th (6th U23). But am I annoyed with myself for losing my nerve? Yes I am – 1 place off of a top 10! But that’s racing, and I will bring more confidence into the races I have to come. And as my coach reminded me post race, I’m 19 – I have plenty more years of National Championships to come! It was pretty cool to see my good friend Alice (Barnes) do the double, winning both the TT and the Road race. My teammate Anna (Henderson) did the same with the U23 titles! So it was smiles all round post race.
One thing I forgot to mention is that this year I didn’t just race the road race… I raced the time trial too. A couple of months back I bought a TT bike with the idea that it was something I must learnt to do if I want to be a well rounded rider. So I bit the bullet and entered Nationals! It was only my 2nd ever time trial (I did a local 10 a month back) but I’d ridden the bike plenty of times in training. I have got to admit, I was a little naïve to the whole experience… to the point where I thought the racing distance was 17km, not 17 miles. Oops. But nonetheless it went pretty well – my coach gave me a power plan, which helped massively. It took the need to have experience and understand pacing out the equation as I just aimed to sit at a power. It worked as well, I pulled off 6th U23! A ride I was proud of and I can’t wait to build on it for next year.
So here I am sat in a delightful café rambling on about Nationals. I’m having a few days off now to reset before gearing up for the hectic final part of the season. My next big race is a stage race in the Czech republic… I’ve never raced a stage race before and I’ve heard Czech food is interesting – so wish me luck!
Thanks for continuing to follow my journey.