Race from South Africa

Tuesday 9th February 2010

by catherine williamson

Last week the team raced in Johanesburg for the Berge en Dale Classic. 104km on a hilly course. We rolled out at 6.15am. Luckily I’ve discovered some amazing sleeping tablets which knocked me out at 8pm and I had a full sleep before the 4.30am wakeup, thankfully cyclists here aren’t obsessed by eating 3 hours before racing and pasta is definitly not on the menu!! On the start line girls were having gels, not a good sight and as soon as we left we were straight up a nasty climb. A group of 6 went away, we had been told not to worry about moves going this early and anyway, I was midfield having a minor heart attack having not done any warm up! It was, however a strong break, and quickly disappeared. Three or four of us from our team then sat on the front for the next 80km working to bring it back. It didn’t work and the break stayed at between 1 and 2 minutes. Luckily a men’s group then caught us and as they attacked, girls were jumping across to them and the whole race speeded up. This was a killer, they’d attack, we’d jump on, they’d slow then we’d be back at the front chasing again. Think we would have caught them but 10km out we were told the break had gone the wrong way and we were in the race lead! Pretty lucky really but by then I was cramping up and even a drip feeding gels in wouldn’t have helped that much! The finish was up a drag and somehow I hung onto the fast pace of another teams leadout and came round to get 3rd, becoming slightly tangled up with some men finishing along the way. It was more desperation than good legs… no way was I going to do all that work at the front and not bring the team a podium place!
Not only did we miss the break, we were then all busy drinking coffee and managed to miss the presentation!

This weekend just gone was the 25th Herald Cycle Tour down in Port Elizabeth. We’d driven down on Wednesday so had rode the last 60km of the race and had done plenty of swimming, restaurants and shopping (thats when I generally disappear to an internet cafe!!) I discoved on this trip the high standards our manager has for the team. We arrived at this house, sea views but miles from anywhere. The house had dead cockroaches lying around, the sheets didn’t look clean and the bins were full…. just what you’d expect in Italy really for a woman’s team and far nicer than last year’s team house!! We stayed there one night while the boss made other arrangments and we ended up in this luxury bed and breakfast with big fluffy towels, fans and fantastic breakfast!
The day before the race we did a few publisity things, riding along with the kids race and joining in the family ride which was clearly a race for a few guys. I talked to one whose bike had cost £20, his kit at least 20 year old and his helmet something from a musuem!

The race itself was pretty frustrating. In a field of only 40 or so we had 8 riders so had tactics of attacking in 2 s and spliting it up. The attacks lasted over the first climb but the bunch was only thinned down a bit and instead of wearing out others we ended up losing 4 of our girls. Over the second climb I attacked and we had a group of 6 or 7. With 3 girls from one team and only 2 from ours we sat on and waited for our team mates to catch back. The race was pretty slow after that, our team did all the attacks but the others are strong enough to close it down then sit on. I got away once but no one tries to jump across, one or two girls just drag everyone up. Towards the end we caught an earlier men’s group and the finish was another hectic one. Perfect for me, felt like being back at Croft and 10 metres from the line I thought I might have had it just to be overtaken by 2 sprinters, one who won a race earlier on this season and the other the Swedish Champion. 3rd was still a good result but we came here to win and the team was a bit disappointed, not with me but with the failiure of trying to split it up. I had team mates finish 4th and 5th so at least we have a bit more prize money to share out! That afternoon we had a photoshoot for the website which should be up and running soon.

Next week 5 of us fly to Cape Town then its the Nationals, my tan is coming on nicely and I’m teaching the girls a bit of Yorkshire, their English is far too posh!

One Response to “Race from South Africa”

  1. Mark Melbourne Says:

    Little catherine hare (well, williamson but you know what i mean lol)

    How the hell are you doing? by the sounds of it on here and other sites i can see for myself that you certainly are flying…. long are the days that ill be anywhere near you on 2 wheels again!!

    Hope to see you and Rob soon. When are ya back??

    xx mark n dave

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