The Leicester Castle Classic brought a weekend of racing to Leicester last weekend, the elite race on the Sunday is the penultimate race in this year’s British Cycling Road Series with 120 of the fastest riders in the country competing. The elite race is a varied and exhilarating race around the narrow cobbled streets surrounding the Castle and the more open roads around the King Power Stadium.
The weekend kicked off with a whole range of support and challenge races at Leicester Cycle Circuit on Saturday, including a womens 3/4 circuit race.
Last year I competed in quite a few circuit races all over the country and managed to secure my ‘Cat 3’ British Cycling race licence but for various reasons we were now in August and I hadn’t yet competed in a circuit race this year. I felt a bit nervous as it really takes a different mindset to cycling around with friends or even time trialling but I had to compete and support this local race so I tried to put the nerves to one side.
I’d been training on the Leicester Cycle Ciruit throughout the winter months with fellow Leicester Forest team mates Lucy Sturgess of Love Velo, Lucy Crookston and Dee Harrington so I was familiar with the circuit which is always good. I turned up an hour or so before the race to find a buzz of activity, very different to those cold, dark winter nights!
There was a massive presence from my club, Leicester Forest CC which was great. I met up with the team, had some banter and signed on.
There was a general relaxed air but I decided to do a quick 10 minutes on the rollers just to try and clear the heaviness from my legs. We got to do 3-4 laps after the last race before ours started, this was useful in confirming that the wind was very strong down the back straight and quite nice down the finishing straight!
There were 19 signed on to race, quite a good turn out for a womens race. Many of the racers I knew already from local races and the women development sessions I’d gone along to last year at Harvey Haddon and Prestwold.
We started steadily but there was soon an attack, this was the first of many. I’d decided I would ride near the front to try and minimise my chances of getting caught up in any incidents and also give me more time to respond to attacks. Its a fine balancing act between staying in a good position and ensuring you’re not spending too much time acting as a wind break for everyone else. I felt like I did my time on the front and helped to close down a few attacks but inevitably with the strong wind the race kept coming back together. The circuit isn’t that long and the corners aren’t technical enough to allow breakaways to form easily. Having ridden quite a bit at Darley Moor I would say that is an easier circuit for breakaways to form. So it all came down to a sprint finish! The race was 35 minutes and with 3 laps to go the pace really started to pick up, everyone looking for the best position. The sprint started out of the last corner, around 0.2 miles from the finish, I wasn’t quite in the right position but I was out of the saddle and determined to get in the points, I looked for a wheel, got onto that, hopped to the next and managed to work my way up the field, its was a fight for the line and I came through in 5th, I was over the moon with that in a field of 19. The bonus was I won £10, not bad to cover the entry fee!
I went to the race to have a nice afternoon out and support the local event, I didn’t imagine I would do so well. Needless to say I was buzzing, and still am in fact! It reminded my how much I love racing, not because of the £10 (:-)) but because I love riding with other strong female cyclists, I know a lot of good male cyclists but not so many women. Being out there alongside nearly twenty other women riding hard round tight corners shoulder to shoulder with everyone looking out for each other is so exhilarating, makes me proud to be flying the flag for women’s racing.
Its quite intimidating doing your first race, working out how to enter, what the protocols and expectations are but its well worth it. I’d highly recommend British Cycling Women’s Development sessions to help build up confidence and experience for racing, I’ve also met a lot of good friends through these sessions. If you’re thinking about giving it a go bite the bullet!
The afternoon was made by all the organisers, volunteers and supporters without who these events wouldn’t happen so a big shout out to all those involved and to LFCC for their fabulous support!