On Saturday, I raced in the prudential ride London Women’s Grand Prix, which took place around St James’ Park in London, with the finishing straight ending with Buckingham Palace in full view.
This was tipped to be a fast hard race, as it included a strong Wiggle Honda team including the Olympic golden girls, Joanne Rowsell, Laura Trott and Dani King, as well as several pro teams and the usual top domestic teams of Matrix Fitness Racing Academy, MG Maxifuel et al.
I entered this race because it has to be one of the best settings for a race and was bound to be a fantastic experience, even if I stood no chance in such a strong field. Upon arrival, I could see that I would not be dissapointed in the setting, with The Mall, and all the Union Jacks flying right the way down the street and the sun shining on Buckingham Palace.
The weather was perfect, hot during the day, cooling nicely by the evening. The race was to take place at 18.30, after youth and handcycling races (in which local rider Brian Alldis came 2nd – Yay!).
All of the riders from the races got to do a couple of sighting laps to check out the course, where we found lovely wide roads leading to a road with street furniture and some gentle speed bumps, then a tight corner. It’s always good to be able to view the course first in order to pick up on these things so that they don’t come as a surprise when you are racing at speed in a bunch.
After watching the races prior to ours, we all rode round the course from the pits to the start line. This is never a very gentle affair, with 100 riders in the race and criteriums being fast from the off, the position you start in on the line can be the difference between first and last place, so the race really starts at the jostle to the line.
Unfortunately, when we all got to the line, we had to wait for about 45 mins whilst a youth rider received medical attention for a crash that happened in a previous race. Thankfully, news it that the boy had no lasting injuries and will be back on his bike soon, but it meant any benefits from warming up were lost.
The race went off and, as expected, was fast from the off and there were soon riders being dropped and then lapped. I managed to stay in the bunch throughout the race, whilst attacks went off the front and were brought back again. I was grateful to miss a crash that went down in front of me early on, and managed to ride in the bunch and was even at the front with Olympic gold medallists Dani King and Laura Trott behind me. Unfortunately a second crash went down in front of me just before the sprint for the finish, in which Olympic gold medallist Joanne Rowsell broke her collarbone. The crash held me up and meant that I couldn’t contest the sprint, so just rolled in with the other riders that were caught up. I think my position was 36th out of 100 riders in the end.
All-in-all, I thoroughly enjoyed this race, there was a tremendous crowd cheering us on, and to not only race Olympic champions, but to be up there with them in the bunch was just an experience I will never forget and hope to replicate in the future.
It was also great to watch the full race shown on BBC One the following day.