2023 is my first year as a senior, and what better way to kick off a senior career than the National Track Championships! Having had a bit of track time over the winter through Loughborough uni, I decided to have a go at the nationals. Although I had been doing a lot of individual and team pursuit efforts at these sessions, bunch racing was very thin on the ground, having only appeared twice at the local track league in Derby. For context, my last indoor race was in 2021, at the national junior championships — a little while ago!
Although my focus was on the bunch races, I also wanted to do a timed event, and upon deciding this in mid-December, I felt the shorter event of the two, the Kilo would be easier to put together in a short space of time. For this, I had to go through Thursday’s qualification session, and if I made the standard of 1:06.00, I would be able to ride in Saturday’s final. Unfortunately, but as I expected, I did not quite get there, but still took a big chunk of time off of my previous PB, so I could not be disappointed with the ride, and I could take some confidence in my legs going into the weekend.
Saturday brought around the points race, my least preferred of the two bunch titles on offer that weekend. And with only enough riders to fill 2 heats, both were going to be difficult to qualify from. Eagerness and inexperience would prove to be my undoing over the following 60 laps, and having missed both lap-taking groups, I stood no chance of qualifying by the time the last couple of sprints came around. Mistakes were made, and lessons were learnt, but tactically I could only improve for the day after.
Sunday morning brought the Scratch race, my favourite race to do on the track. The lineup of the final was to be decided over 40 laps, across 3 heats of 16-17 riders, with the top 8 going through from each heat. As often the case with Scratch heats, it started out as a cagey affair, with short lived moves off of the front but all coming back together quickly. I was cautious with joining these moves, going in a few but never pulling harder than the bunch. Ultimately, in the last 10 laps it became apparent it would come down to a bunch sprint. I positioned myself on the inside, 3rd rider back, which was not a great position to be in at 4 laps to go. Luckily, the pace started to wind up, and no rider could move around the outside of the field. Just as I thought things would be okay, I suddenly got nervous. The rider in front of me started to lose contact with the front of the string, but luckily I could force a gap open above me, and move around to be 2nd on the inside, a marginally better position, proving to keep me safe enough to ride to 5th place, and more importantly qualify for the final.
I was nervous, but excited to be part of a National final. With a top class field present, it was going to be fast. I did everything I could during the day, to stay fresh and fuelled for the 80 laps, and felt that I could hold my own at this level. Then the race started. It was tough, and with the first 15 laps being run at over 53kph, I could quickly feel my legs filling with lactic. And things only got harder, and after only 25 laps I was off the back and out of the race. Ouch.
Maybe I would have hoped for more in the championships, but overall I was happy with the outcome. Making it into a final was an achievement in itself, and something I could be happy with. For next year, I can work on doing something in the final, but for now, the focus turns to the road season (or at least what’s left of it).
Ciao, for now