Exams, pressure and excitement

May was a very strange month for me. Although I only did a couple of time trials, one local circuit race and then the North West Tour, it was quite an exciting month. I started my GCSEs which are really testing me, but cycling is proving to be the best method of coping. Not only does training provide a break, but I have so much planned after my exams I know the pressure is going to be worth it for the long summer of racing!

I managed to bring my 10 mile time trial personal best down by a minute which of course I was pleased with. I had forgotten how much I love time trailing. Yes, I am one of those sad testers who likes putting their body to its limits both physically and mentally. I am really pleased to be back on the time trial bike and am really looking forward to seeing what I can do this time trial season!

I did one local circuit race mid may promoted by my old club CC Hackney. I am not the biggest fan of my home circuit as proven on this day as it’s impossible to break away on. With a small field of mostly 1st and 2nd cats it was hard. I got in a few breaks, but they didn’t stick and then I rather stupidly ended up in the wrong place on the last lap. But hey, as they say, you live and learn.

Before talking about the North West Tour I feel I need to mention that I, Connie Hayes, am now seriously in training. Yes it’s a bit shocking! I used to just go out for a Sunday road ride with no concept of what i was doing or for how long. This was the same case when I was training at home I had no structure as the limited training I was doing was being controlled by myself. About a month ago I started being coached by Epic coaching and I do not know if it’s just psychological but I feel so much fitter and stronger. Having a coach has really helped as sessions are always really exciting and interesting.

The North West Junior girls tour. After some horrendous journey up there due to the M6 being blocked and me being adamant that my route round coventry would be quicker to the sat nav’s… we made it up there. Quick pre race night before roller session and I trotted off to bed for a good nights sleep.

Connie Hayes time trial NW Tour
Connie Hayes time trial NW Tour (photo: Huw Williams)

The first stage is a slow starter, like my worst nightmare. A 2km prologue. It was super windy going down the Morecambe prom and super fast coming back. In comparison to last year, both Hannah Graveney (G) and I had improved significantly, although my first 100 meters was horrendously slow!

Anna and Fiona QOM sprint
Liv AWOL guest rider Fiona Turnbull challenges QOM (photo: Huw Williams)

Stage 2, the road race, featured a rather lovely hill which doesn’t exactly suit me! I survived a couple of laps in the bunch before being pinged off the back with Hannah G and a couple of others over the top of the hill. The chase began from this point. The following lap or so, the same happened to Hannah Bayes (B), whilst our amazing guest rider Fiona Turnbull showed us all how climbing is done! Hannah G and I were constantly catching and dropping riders. We caught Hannah B up and for the first time Liv AWOL really felt like a team. The three of us together actually felt like a unit. Something which just hasn’t been achieved until this point. As we pressed on with 3 laps to go determined to catch the second group up the road, we sadly lost Hannah B. With 2 laps to go me and Hannah G as well as a few others had caught back the second group who had survived the majority of the race in the bunch.

Connie and Hannah G
Connie and Hannah G (photo: Huw Williams)

Stage 3 was quite a contrast to last year’s sun which was so hot that I came away with some nice burns. This year was more like a swimming gala than a cycle race. Salt Ayre circuit is pan flat so the bunch all stays as one. In the wet the trees that overhang the circuit make the circuit become as slippy as an ice rink. This is a slight problem when you have a large pack of riders flying round at high speed. We got about half way without the dreaded “C” word happening. Coming round the bend into the finishing straight and with my glasses steamed up so I could hardly see, I could hear riders and carbon hitting the floor. I slammed my brakes on whilst being pushed into the grass. My cyclocross skills, the ones I seem unable to use in cyclocross races, came in handy as I managed to get my foot out so I only half fell off. Straight back from my half on-half off mess, the chase began to get both myself and Fiona back to the bunch, whilst worrying about the Hannahs who were last seen getting out of the mess. In less than half a lap me and Fiona were back on. From this point on I abandoned my plans to try and get off the front in the last few laps and just stayed out of trouble. I also abandoned my glasses (thanks Huw for retrieving them!) as it was so bad that I literally couldn’t see anything out of them. The two Hannahs were back in the bunch after a couple of laps. We got to the bell without anything else happening but it didn’t feel overly safe. I stayed at the back of the bunch as I didn’t want to come away with anything more than the injured finger that seemed to occur during my strange incident in the first crash. The back straight on the last lap and the horrible sound of carbon and bones hitting the floor was back. I slammed my brakes on causing my back wheel to go flying up into the air. I managed to somehow stay upright which I think is due to years of riding crazy ponies (my other sport) and dealing with them testing my balance with putting their legs in similar angles to that of my back wheel! As my back wheel landed back on the track I noticed Hannah G flying into a pile of riders and although I didn’t see her myself as I went past the pile of bikes and riders I spotted a second Liv Envie. I rode to the finish with a small group of riders as we knew due to the 3km rule we would get the same time as those who escaped the madness.

Due to crashes in the other races stage 4 was abandoned. I was so glad as I really did not want to go back out there! A lot was learnt over the weekend and I had a really good weekend with Hannah B, Hannah G and our development rider Lauren. A massive thank you has to go to Fiona Turnbull for guesting for us and dealing with the fact none of us could help on stage 2! Despite the last stage I can not wait for next year!

June sees the rest of my GCSE’s and it also sees the end of them. Apart from time trials I only have the London Nocturne and the Otley women national round. However I am so excited for both of them especially the Nocturne as being a Londoner it gives me the opportunity to race in the heart of my home city in race that I have been watching since I was a small child.

Till next time


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