Racing as an individual in a team focused series isn’t an easy thing to do in terms of tactics. If a team lets me get away, it takes away vital team points for them so you find yourself heavily marked; by everyone. However as the defending champion I felt it important to keep myself in contention for the overall victory for the Johnson Health Tech GP series this year.

The first few rounds were OK, average and so-so. I was caught behind a crash in an early round and lost valuable points and going into the last round I was a little too far behind to have a realistic chance of winning. However as it was the last round, team tactics finally played into my hands. I knew the top two teams would need to focus on each other, not me, so there was going to be a chance for me. OK, I hadn’t planned on taking that chance after about 500 metres of racing, but it seemed to have worked out OK.

As we exited the twisty section of the Stoke on Trent course, I had a 10 metre gap as I looked back. Yes it was lap one, but I thought the least I would do is stretch the bunch out and create a selection of leading riders out the front and give me less of a headache working out how to win the event in the latter laps. I’d been on the podium twice in this event in its two year history, and been beaten by Matrix Fitness – Prendas rider Dani King both times. You can’t complain too much about getting beaten by a quality rider like Dani, but it was about time I moved up to the top step of the podium.

So lap after lap I pushed on the predominantly tail wind uphill section of the course and ensured I didn’t freewheel on the downhill. I know how to pace a 40 minute race given that I’ve made a career out of it in cyclo-cross, so all I had to do was hope there was a lack of coordination behind me. From the time gaps each lap I knew I was taking 5 or 6 seconds a lap out of the peloton, and with it I also took the bonus of the sprints competition jersey on the night. With 4 or 5 laps to go I knew the race was won baring a mechanical issue. My pit man was now chatting to Dean Downing rather than shouting up time gaps, so I took this as confirmation there was no stress in my situation.

So after 40 minutes of controlled pain, I managed to get both hands in the air for the first time this season. As I’d suspected it wasn’t enough for the overall win, but I moved up to 2nd place which is a nice consolation prize. The series has been fantastic for women’s cycling in the UK, with five different winners in the five rounds. A young and progressive team in Matrix Fitness – Prendas won the series and that shows the potential for the future with the UK peloton.

I’m now focused on getting fast on my MTB as I’ll be there in the 24 hour Mountain Mayhem event next week on my Kona king kahuna 29er. I have 4 days in the Ardennes training for this, and then it will be dusting down the cross bike as I prep for Haughcross in July. The wet summer is flying by and it won’t be too long until the cross season is upon us. Bring on the winter sun.

Helen