Burning lungs – a short, sharp intro to crit racing

Tweedlove, now in its third year, has grown to be one of the biggest cycling festivals in the UK. And with 14 separate events for women, it is definitely showing its dedication to getting women out cycling.

Last year the superb festival line-up included a men’s sprint race round Peebles town centre. Complete with mass start, super-tight bends and crowds of spectators, it made for an exciting event. This year they went one step further with a women’s road race, lasting 25min plus 5 laps of a 1km race loop.

Entrants varied from experienced roadie and mountain bike racing snakes to some total novices, who were still trying to work out exactly how the race format was going to play out.

Despite the fact that I’m training for longer races, I figured it would be good for me to give it a shot, just for the atmosphere and to get a chance to race with the fast girls. So I took a trip down to Peebles after work and lined up alongside some of the other girls from the triathlon club. One thing I know about these races is that it’s really important you get a fast start. But, looking around, I decided a back-row start was probably right for my novice status.

Straight from the word go, it was fast. Too fast in fact. The girl in front of me struggled to get her foot clipped in and, being boxed in, I wobbled, almost hit her wheel and had to unclip myself. Then, suddenly she was off, sprinting away out the saddle while I was still trying to get myself started. Up out the saddle too, I tried hard to make up for this mistake. Within just a few minutes, I’d started to catch and overtake a few girls but I was already wondering how I was going to keep this up. Each lap had one very short, very steep hill. I knew I had to get out the saddle and fight my way up. Each lap, I’d see triathlon team mate Hannah powering up ahead of me and I’d fight to get on her wheel for just a few precious seconds, then I’d be back in front, leading the charge round the two sharp bends.

Just when we were both starting to feel like we couldn’t go on (I was sure we were at least 20min into it) II heard a whistle and saw the commissaire waving us both over. In this style of racing, they’ll pull you out if they think you’re in danger or being lapped by the faster racers (or, more likely, causing an accident as they try to pass you).
As it turns out, we were pulled out at only 9min into the race. A short race if ever there was one but that’s just the way it is in this kind of racing. I couldn’t have done any more and it was nearly 30min before my lungs stopped burning! This gave me the perfect amount of time to watch as the other girls flew by, keeping us guessing about the winner all the way up to the awe-inspiring finish.


Popular Posts