Throughout the winter months, I was training as hard as I could… or so I thought.
I came to Belgium on the 17th February, ready for team presentation on the 18th. This year I will be riding for Isorex Ladies Team. The team has been so welcoming to me, and has already provided amazing opportunities for me. Even though it is a Belgian team, everybody makes the effort to speak English and also try and teach me some of their language. I wouldn’t say that I am a very shy person, but I was a bit nervous to be coming to a new culture for a prolonged period of time and staying with people that I have never met before. At one point I was staying with someone from what felt like every country – Estonia, South Africa, Finland, Norway and then me from Great Britain. We all just clicked immediately and they have become more of a family than just team mates now.
I am staying in Zingem with a lovely family, who have been so helpful and kind and have been there if I had any problems. I feel very lucky and grateful to have this sort of positive environment around me.
My first race out here as a first year U23 was Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and I must have been crazy to think that was going to be an easy jump up, from National events to World Tour. Last year, I was just about getting around the Womens and National Series in the UK. In the winter, I changed coach to Magnus Backstedt who happens to know a lot about the classic type racing, so I was very lucky in that aspect. He was able to give me the right training that would benefit me the most out here in Belgium, as well as help me with diet and nutrition, and a great bike fit just before I left. I believe that Maggie and I work well together, I am not afraid to tell him any of my problems, and he is always there to help me whenever I need him and I am so thankful for that. (unless its me crying after a training session – then he just tells me to man up) But not even him could prepare me for the battering that I was going to get over the next few months. If I am being completely honest, the first few km’s of OHN were fast but easy, until I realised that it was still the neutralised zone… then we hit the first climb and that is when things got tough. I did around 75km and I was out the back and into the broom wagon (not somewhere I particularly wanted to be). All I remember was getting pulled out of the race, with a bunch of maybe 10 women, and stepping onto the bus, everyone speaking different languages or not speaking at all… you could feel the disappointment. It is not a situation that I would like to be in again, but completely inevitable that I will. I was a small fish in a very big pond of what felt like sharks at the time. I couldn’t believe that people were able to attack and stay away in the race when I couldn’t even stay in the bunch. It was a real shock to the system, and just a reality check which came with huge amounts of motivation to train harder than ever. Then I started to race kermesse’ and what a crazy thing they are. I have only done 1 or 2 in the past as a U17 so I forgot what they were like, all I remembered was that I needed to stay at the front so that was what I did. Every race that I do, I am learning so much. I was finishing at the back or middle of the bunch in Feb/March and now I am finishing in the front, and we are just in May. I hope that i can continue this process into the year.
That is just a brief description as to some of the things that have happened in the beginning of the year, we are now in May and I can assure you that there has been many more setbacks that have happened, from sickness, just sitting around waiting to recover to just simply missing my family and my friends. But as well as that, I have also experienced some really great times too. I am living the next few months as a full time bike rider, training, eating sleeping as good as I can. I have progressed so much in the races, now coming in top 10’s and top 5’s. The success of my team mates is also a great feeling that I can’t get enough of also.
People on social media, only see the photos or videos or brief words about the training and racing that we do. They don’t see the suffering that is encountered to get to where they are. The hours and hours they spend on their bike, the hours they spend sat on the floor stretching, the food they eat, the social life they give up. The sacrifice is unreal and that is something I have learnt so much over the past month or so. But like they say… ‘if it was easy, everyone would do it’
None of this could be possible without the Dave Rayner Fund, who is supporting me for the 2017 season.