Winning the Eddie Soens memorial handicap road race 21 years after I first won is a special moment in my career. To be honest I thought my cycling at this sort of level was done. After suffering with a back injury for most of last year I had to step away from putting pressure on myself and just found a new love for riding my bike.
From October last year I’ve been working and training hard with Bob Tobin at Cyclepowermeters setting my training. Like most people I just need the support of not having to think about my own training (one of the reasons it's so helpful to find a cycling coach). We’ve been hitting 8-10 hours a week then I’ve consistently been doing two cycling strength and conditioning sessions a week with coach David Clarke of Hybrid Performance Strength and Conditioning.
I knew a few weeks ago everything was heading right while doing a few training sessions the power started to come effortlessly. I always call it the magic 300 watts. You're riding the bike and the power is just effortless.
So everything was game on. I’d thought about everything before the race. The pacing, the equipment and the clothing. It still amazes me that a lot of people don’t think of all the marginal gains; I love this process of thinking about how to get from A to B in the fastest time possible.
The normal tags came before the start, “tester” - that one always drives me! But let’s get this right no matter what the event it’s just a process. Where speed, power and aero dynamics and tactics! It’s the same whether it’s a road or a TT there’s no title. But that’s what I love about the process of racing, working out how to use your energy and apply it in the right way. You need to train for the demands, work out your strength and weaknesses and get the most out of your power profile.
The race for me was simple and the weather played into my hands. Headwind one way tailwind the other. So I knew from the off I would have to make a move early to maximise the benefits of optimising pacing. I made a plan to ride the first two laps at just over 400 watts then settle into a rhythm where I would nail the head winds using aerodynamics in the tail. However, riding 30 laps (47 miles) by myself was something I never expected but from the speed I was traveling at, I knew I was going to take some catching. Lap 10 into the race I caught the back end of the Elite scratch group so knew I was moving well. At the 15 lap mark I’d extended the lead to 2 minutes so decided to do a really hard lap and pull the advantage out to 2:20. I was now catching the individual groups and just rode the pacing stagey I’d devised and just kept ticking the laps off. With 6 laps to go I managed to catch all the groups and get myself a lap up. The front group rode with me but started to play the tactics game. I waited until two to go and made my own attack to get in front. With Griff Williams riding with me we shared the work until the final 200 meters where he allowed me to take the victory celebration. Hands in the air thinking of my mum was quite emotional if I’m honest after losing her to cancer I made a promise I’d return to the top. She would of loved this and always loved watching the Soens. It’s a classic event and I have so many fond memories here. It’s the 4th time I’ve been on the podium with 2x1st, 1x2nd and 1x3rd.
So I guess the moral of the story is you are not finished competing because of age or physical ability. You are finished when mentally your mind can no longer embrace the pain it takes to dig deep. You decide when you are finished — this is called closure. Go after your dreams and never let anyone say you can’t. ( love this from world tt champ Kristin Armstrong)