Crit Nationals and Belgium

Louise Borthwick | Wednesday 13th August, 2014

My biggest target so far this season came on the 9th of July in Hull at the British Crit Champs. I had been struggling to find form up to that point so it was really important to me to have something to aim for, its much easier to get the hard efforts done in training if youíve got a specific race in mind. I was really happy with how my training had gone leading up to the race, seeing big improvements in sprint and motor pacing sessions. After a good showing in 2013 I wanted to be contesting the win but it was also important I came out of it with my head in the right place. I had just made the decision to leave the team I joined at the start of the year and I needed a good race to give me confidence and motivation going forward. As it was, on the night things didnít go my way.. I can still see Eileen attacking and am still kicking myself for not even attempting to go with her or cross the gap. But oh well, 6th place would have to do, it was a great move by Eileen.

After a fairly unlucky weekend at the Essex Giro ending with a broken wheel and a puncture I headed home for a week. During this week came some fairly rapid and last minute planning for a trip to Belgium. In one night I booked the Eurostar and accommodation and there was the realisation that I was actually going to Belgium on my own in 5 days time. 

So on the Saturday I got on the train to London then down to Crawley for a night before heading back into London on the Sunday to catch the Eurostar with my friend Dan, who was doing some junior races out there. Getting to St Pancaras Station on a Sunday from South of London with a bike is pretty difficult, and involved a ride across central London without many navigation tools. We went right past just about every London landmark and managed to run into the Sainsburys Anniversary Games which caused a long detour off route. Then we started to hit one way streets which we had to walk up on the pavement.. All this time and we were getting later and later for our train. Luckily we made it and after a fair bit of confusion at the Eurostar check in with our bikes we made it to the train in time.

We got off the Eurostar in Brussels and quickly made it to the next train to Oudenaarde where we were staying. The only issue being we werenít actually sure the train went to Oudenaarde as on the list of stops at the platform it said ďAudenardeĒ but we didnít have time to check so just had to hope for the best.. later we found out this was the Flemish spelling, but it did cause a bit of panic! Once off the train in Oudenaarde we began navigating to the Chainstay, our accommodation for the week. I had printed out a map with the house marked on it but for some reason not actually written a house number down. This lead to us riding up and down the road until a Belgian man, obviously seeing our bikes and rucksacks guessed where we were trying to find and pointed it out to us!

Tuesday afternoon came my first race.. We rode out to it, I was very worried about getting lost but we made it there in an hour with plenty of time to spare. I was a bit gutted to find a fairly hilly circuit as I prefer the flat but actually found I was getting up the hills alright, especially a steep one which I felt pretty good up. It was such a brutal demanding course that the bunch just got smaller and smaller until with about 20km to go there was less than 30 left, at this point I popped going up the steep climb. After that I could barely push anything bigger than my smallest gear, race over for the day. Just a nice 20km ride home afterwards, which felt all uphill!

My next race came on the Friday and with a few issues.. the first was that Dan had gone home so I was on my own and the second being that the race was 30km away and started at 6pm, therefore it was likely to be dark before I got home and I had no lights. So the race went really well, the course suited me much better and I fought for my position at the end to finish 13th which I was pretty happy with. So that was 90km of race effort I then handed my numbers back and got straight back on my bike to do a 10km TT to the train station in Zottegem to catch the last daylight train back to Oudenaarde, luckily I made it, albeit a bit tired!

Next day and another 6pm race, this my last of the trip, again I rode out. It was another hilly course and I could tell as soon as I started my legs were feeling yesterdays efforts. I was dropped out the main bunch about 40km in and finished in 34th place.

I had one chilled out day exploring the area before heading home on Monday. Looking back on it now it was a pretty amazing week. I loved it and canít wait to go back, Iíve got plans to go for one or two months next year. The adventurous side of me loved the independence of just going on my own and doing it all myself but in reality itís better to have someone with you at the races, to hand up bottles if for nothing else. But going on this trip has made me realise you can go and do it yourself, just set up in a central location and you can get a train to just about anywhere to race. Iíve always relied on other people to organise a trip like this for me, thinking their expertise would make it easier, and it probably would but doing it that way was such an experience and I loved it.

Thanks for reading.


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