‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat them just the same, … you’ll be a Man, my son!’
What a week …
Saturday March 5th:
The first stage of the ‘Deux Jours de Cyclopark’ was a 30 minute, fast-paced race. This stage could help determine the standings for the rest of the weekend. It had been raining the night before, and the surface was mucky. The little bits of flint had washed on to the surface, meaning you needed a combination of legs and luck for good results. Everyone was tense, a season-starter for many. The bunch was tight, any attacks swiftly shut down. Eventually, with 6 laps to go, a 2-man break got away. This break stayed away, meaning I was left with a best result of third for much needed seconds. I led the pack in to take that final spot on the podium, meaning I was sat third on GC, 16 seconds back from the top. Good to be racing again!
A couple of hours later, it was time for stage two, 45 minutes this time. As we lined up on the start line, the drizzle started to come down. I enjoy racing in this type of weather, it makes the hard winter miles worth it, so I was looking forward to this race. A couple of laps in, the Prime bell went, a good chance to earn seconds off your time. I managed to gain a small gap from the sprint, and so carried on over the top, bringing another rider with me. We worked together for a couple of laps, but, with five laps to go, I attacked him and went solo. I claimed another prime while I was out, before taking the ten bonus seconds on the line as well, to go with the 41 seconds I had on the bunch. This meant I was leading the GC by 23 seconds going into the second day. A solid days work.
Sunday March 6th:
Day two, race one. Another 30-minute race, however, today we were doing the circuit anticlockwise. The racing wasn’t as eventful as the day before, as everyone was fatigued from the earlier races. In the first race, I picked up a couple of bonus seconds throughout the race. With one lap to go, my teammate Tom Mead put in an attack, and stayed away to the finish, taking his first win of the season. I led the pack across the line for a second place, meaning I still was leading the GC going into the last race. Happy with that!
The last race. The one that could make all the difference. We set off slowly, the tiredness in everyone’s legs making itself known. It was a race for the sprinters, a relaxed procession, only broken up by two primes and the final sprint. I was happy to take third and safely wrap up the overall by 41 seconds. My first hit out of the season and I had stood on the Podium 5 times in 2 days with the Top Step for the GC. A good weekend.
Monday March 7th:
So now I needed to shift my focus to track. Monday rest day and my thoughts drifted to the final track league of the Winter and then the first National Omnium with my coach in attendance. I was feeling good, the wins from the weekend keeping me buzzing and the anticipation of a Trophy on Thursday.
Tuesday March 8th:
A long day at school and then back on the bike, time to do some Rev Outs and get the legs activated. The training room stacked with kit from the weekend. Much as I had tried to sort it, the fatigue had kicked in on Sunday night and we had left it all for another day. So shift a bike here, put the rollers there and move the pump, the trolley, the toolbox. Wearily on to the rollers … ‘Bang!’ one of the bikes had fallen into my bike wheel! … Disaster … I stood and looked, I had two races this week. What was I going to do! I had broken a spoke. I looked and quickly put my disc on instead, hands fumbling with tension and upset I put the adapter on to pump up the tyre and it fell; fell into the disc and I just sat down. I am honest enough to say I’d had enough. A wave of fatigue from the weekend crashed over me, a sense of doom surrounded me, the week was falling away from in front of me.
I went to my room, phoned my coach and explained I couldn’t train and why and then Dad came in. I was upset, angry, frustrated. He just said, ‘nobody’s died, we will sort it’. I went to bed.
Wednesday March 9th:
Dad came to find me after school. He had taken the wheel in to the bike shop, Newdales, they are our local bike shop and are amazing, they had managed to mend the spoke and without having to take the tub off and we were good to go again. Brilliant! I was back on the bike, activation on the rollers, pack for Thursday night and good to go. Disaster averted!
Thursday 10th March:
London Youth Track League:
The final track league night of the winter. I already had wrapped up the overall but, on the night, I took three wins and the overall by 67 points, which meant I won the prestigious Group 1 trophy, with big names like Fred Wright and Ethan Vernon engraved on it. I was super proud. What a great way to spend Thursday nights, and very successful, having won 22 out of the 27 races. But I was conscious that although I was elated, I was tired and on getting home I had to unpack, put things away properly, spend time doing the little things right so I would be good for Sunday. Oh and I had to find a new saddle as I had snapped mine in my penultimate race!
Friday 11th March:
Saturday 12th March:
Lee Valley National Youth Omnium:
My first indoor National Omnium. A big one. I was nervous before this race. My main focus of the day was a good kilo time, and I’d see how I got on from there.
The kilo. A four-lap max effort. Not quite a sprint, but not an endurance race either. You have to go hard from the start and hang on until the end. I had a slow start but got up to speed and hung on for my four laps, getting a catch of my half-lap man and finishing in 1:07:10, which I later found out was the quickest youth kilo so far this year. Result!
Up next was the scratch. A very simple race that can become chaos quite quickly, and generally a sprinter’s favourite. Myself and four others got away and stayed away. With a lap to go, I came round the group to take my second win of the day.
Race three, the elimination. Not always my best race, but this time I was determined to race in the best way I could. I spent most of the race sat rider one, just above the red line. This meant I wasn’t at the back or boxed at the bottom, so I had less chance of getting out. Nearer the end, I took up ‘sniping’, a move where you come over the group in the nick of time at every sprint, catching a rider below you out. This worked well enough for me to get into the final two, a match sprint away from victory. I took the spoils again, meaning I was three from three.
The fourth race was the sprint. A four person, two lap race, that could upset the GC, as we were grouped due to our overall position. I drew position two, and was the first to kick, going with a lap and a half to go. I hung on all the way to the finish to take my fourth win of the day.
This was it. A win in the final race would complete the clean sweep. A terrible race may mean missing out on a podium spot. The pressure was on. Throughout the race I picked up points in various sprints, not trying to win every sprint, slowly edging my total points up before finally, with three laps to go, I rushed the gap to a guy five meters off the front of the bunch and opened up my sprint. This would normally be too early if there was someone on my wheel, but I got a small gap and hung on to take the win, and clean sweep. On Tuesday it was looking like I wouldn’t make it to the start line, and here I was, first over the finish line.
Whilst I had an amazing week, bookended by wins I realised that defeat and ‘disaster’ is only a step away. Dad and I reflected on the week, and he suggest I read the poem ‘If’. The quotation that I started with really stood out for me. Yes, it is great to win and amazing to feel triumphant, but also you must be level and treat those two imposters the same. I have learnt a lot this week, packing away, a clear training environment, managing fatigue, managing myself. Good lessons I guess for life…