So my Milk Race preparation started on the Friday (race was on Sunday)....because I was working bright up to race day, I had to prepare my bag etc on Friday night as I was getting the train straight from work on the Saturday.
After a hectic saturday at work, it was finally time to relax & get on the train to travel to Heathers. Luckily whilst eating tea, Heather had a video of the previous years race, so it was a good insight into what the course was going to be like.
Before we knew it, it was race day and time to get up and ready to race. I woke up with mixed feelings of optimism, nervousness and determination. The journey to the race seemed quite short, but in reality it was over 2 hours drive away....must have been the nerves playing on my mind. Before long we were there, it felt slightly hectic, signing on, getting changed, warming up, course familiarisation...the list goes on....
We were pitched next to the Pearl Izumi team in the pit lane, I kept looking around seeing them warming up & their focus...In my head it kept saying 'you can do this' but on the other hand it kept saying 'you are way out of your league here!'.
After getting on my bike & starting to warm up, my nerves started to calm a bit more....until we hit the start where everyone was lining up.
I have done quite a few crit races, but this is completely different to what I know. I am used to wide tracks and sweeping bends, but city centre crits like this consist of narrow tracks and technical sharp bends.
I positioned myself on the start line, trying to get a good spot, but the way the gridding was done meant that I started at the back of the group.
BANG......the gun goes off! Off we go into a frenzy of trying to move up on the narrow straight, before we come to the first sharp left bend....almost impossible. Some girls even stopped and had to clip out of their pedals because of the congestion on the first bend.  I sprinted out of this bend to try gain some places again, but the front of the pack were already going around the next bend....
I glanced to my right and Dame Sarah Storey was on my right shoulder, she glanced back...'I don't like this bit' I say, 'yup' she replies back.
I prefer it when the group has thinned out a bit and there is less chance of crashing.
I was on the back of the pack, knowing it had to move up because of the 'elastic band effect' in crit races, I was in danger of getting dropped off the back. I tried to move up but my confidence, or lack of it, would not allow me to (something I am working on).
Before long I found myself in a group of girls distanced from the lead pack, but we were working together. Hannah my team mate was with me and we were working well before she hit a sharp left bend and skidded out, with me on her wheel! I didn't know what to do at this point...do I stop for my team mate or do I carry on?? I decided to keep riding, knowing I could tell her parents in the pits she had crashed and the St. John's ambulance were in abundance at the event and would look after her.
The group of girls I was with stayed together, but only 2 of us were taking turns on the front. The dilemma for me was do I attack them and work on my own? as that's what I was pretty much doing anyway, or do I stay with them and conserve energy?....
I decided the latter, but upon reflection wish I had decided to try ride away, as the pace was not quite fast enough for me.
All in all a great experience, as city centre crits are about being in the right place at the right time as well having the fitness to sustain the pace, I learnt a lot from it both about myself and about this discipline of racing. I have a lot to work on and I'm excited to do another city centre crit to try some new tactics.
Massive thanks to Heather, Fred & the Racing Chance Foundation for allowing me to be able to do such an event like this!

 

Gemma Sargent

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