Getting to race the Tour Series was an incredible experience that I am really grateful for- it was amazing getting to race at such a professional series with such big crowds! For me it also had the added bonus of being what got me into cycling; going to watch the Tour Series in Woking when I was 9 was what sparked my interest. After a few years of watching, I had decided that I wanted to give cycling a go, and a few years later I’m there racing!
Zoe’s Dad, Pip tweeted before the first race – which caught the eye of Tour Series commentator Marty McDonald and cycling pro/coach Dean Downing.
With the Tour Series being so influential in my involvement in the sport, I set out to Motherwell full of excitement and eager to race. I hadn’t really set myself any goals for the race except to enjoy it- it was my first experience of elite level criterium racing and I knew I would have a lot to learn. I travelled up with my dad; he was perhaps just as excited for the race as I was and had volunteered to make the 13-hour round trip so that he could watch my Tour Series debut!
There was a great atmosphere before the race, with a band playing some bagpipes to set the Scottish tone, and I also got the chance to meet Libby’s lovely local relatives (her great aunt actually lives on the course!). We then did the team presentation, unfortunately, I got a bit confused with where I was going which meant I didn’t have enough time to take my leg warmers off before we went up on the podium- I’m not sure Char will ever forgive me for this as “it ruined the picture”!
The course was a relatively straightforward rectangle, with one slightly more technical corner. The finish straight was slightly uphill; before the start, I had dismissed it as very gradual but I could feel it burning my legs by the end of the race! The race started off very fast as I had expected, and I lost the front group early on. I settled down into a small group including Libby, and we worked well as a group to minimise our losses. I came in 35th, which was nothing special, but I was happy enough with how the race had gone seeming it was my first elite criterium and my first criterium for over a year and a half having missed the ones I had planned to do last year through injury. Char put in a super strong ride to come 4th!
After the race, we headed back to the hotel to relax and recover. Here I would like to add a special thanks to Clover, who came to the hotel reception with me in my pyjamas(!) after I accidentally locked myself out my room in the evening!!
On the Wednesday we travelled up to Aberdeen and did an activation ride.
We got to the circuit nice and early on Thursday, and walked around the circuit finding several posters with Char on! I was really looking forward to the race and was hoping to have a good ride after working out what I needed to change after Motherwell. I made a good start, before settling back into a group with a couple of Boompods and On Form riders. Connie and Hannah B put in a strong ride to get back into the group I was in. I really liked the Aberdeen course, which had several tighter corners including a hairpin. On the last lap, I was a bit far back, but I made a good sprint out the last corner to come 3rd in my group and 29th overall, which I was really happy with. I really enjoyed the race, and the crowd was incredible!
In the few hours before the race, there was a storm and a lot of rain which set my nerves on edge as I could see the circuit was going to be very slippery. The youth support races got cancelled due to the weather, and our course was shortened as well as the race distance. I let my tyre pressures right down before the race in the hope of getting a bit more grip.
Even when riding the course beforehand slowly, it was very slippy with a couple of very greasy corners. We didn’t get gridded so started at the back of the field, which made it hard for me to move forward as there was a lot of crashes from the off. Unfortunately, in the first few laps, there were 3 crashes right in front of me, and twice I had to stop and unclip. This meant I lost contact with the group I was in, so spent most of the race on my own.
Throughout the race, there were so many crashes, especially on one very slippy hairpin on the concourse in front of the stadium. I backed off on these corners, and although I could feel my back wheel stepping out I stayed upright all race. I was surprised to have come 38th overall out of 60 riders, as I thought I was further down than that. It wasn’t a great night for the team though, with Charlotte, Clover, and Emily all crashing.
I’m really grateful for the opportunity to race at the Tour Series, and I would like to thank all the sponsors for the financial backing, Pat and Brent for giving up their time to take us, Charlotte, Clover, Connie, Hannah B, Libby, Hannah G and Emily for being such amazing teammates to race with, and my coach Huw and my parents for their continued support.
Featured image “Zoe on start line in Aberdeen” by Pip Brookes.