By Clare M – find her @square_clare
The SKCC Trophy Race on Saturday saw the Northern Combine return to Lancefield for three laps of the Lancefield-Newham circuit. For something different, the race was to finish at the top of the Rochford Rd climb. Having frozen through Stage One of the Three Day Tour here only a few weeks ago, it was with a definite sense of déjà vu that I got out of the car to be greeted by a lungful of Arctic air and the crunch of frost underfoot. Bit nipply, but at least it wasn’t raining. Coming from Perth, that’s a weather concept I’m still struggling to understand.
Although some strong A Grade women were out of town racing NRS, there were still several big hitters on the start list, including my superstar Stay True teammate, and all ‘round top chick, Jenny “The Honey Badger” Macpherson. J-Mac was returning from the dirty side of cycling, CX, for her first winter road race in three years. Being the laidback, natural athlete that she is, Jenny expressed genuine surprise when she saw that I was actually going to warm up on a wind trainer prior to the start.
I got the trainer out of the car, but in reality spent most of the hour before the race faffing about, talking shit and changing my socks several times while I pondered the perfect combination of fluoro accessories to set off my ridiculously stylish kit.
Before I knew it A grade women were being called to the line and as I pulled up my hounds tooth 4Shaw socks and adjusted my Oakleys over the straps of my Kask helmet, I knew it was time to put my game face on and let my legs do the talking. Of course this is bullshit, I never just let my legs do the talking in races. I’m usually also yelling, and then I get dropped.
Lap one was uneventful. Justyna Lubkowski, looking svelte this season and resplendent in the berry hues of the SKCC-Giant team colours, gave everyone’s legs a stretch along Three Chain Rd, but otherwise the bunch rolled orderly turns determined not to record an average speed slower than B grade’s.
On the second lap, J-Mac and I tried to stir things up on the way back towards Lancefield, taking turns to attack the field up every bump along Rochford Rd. This really hurt my legs and the other girls must have enjoyed the sight of me trying to smash it up one hill only to completely die in the arse before reaching the crest. Ouchies. By the time we reached McMasters Lane we had succeeded in losing a handful of riders and I was having thoughts of sitting in and trying to recover for what I was sure would be a sprint finish.
As usual, I was wrong. I always think of Three Chain Rd as the boring section of the circuit, the outward lull before the lumpiness of the return stretch shakes things up a bit. Not on Saturday. Riders were eating and drinking when Hannah Vine decided to put the smack down and she immediately opened up a gap on the ambling bunch. Jenny was sitting on the front and wisely chose not to respond to the sight of Hannah streaking past. The gap was growing and with still no reaction from the other girls, I thought I’d better have a go at getting across. And so it was, that with more than 25 km still to race, Hannah and I set out to stay away to the end.
Hannah is absolutely stomping at the moment, having just finished on the podium at the Three Day Tour, and was looking super PRO in her Instagram-exclusive BKLA13 kit and a very fetching pair of blue booties. While I was regretting the second glass of pinot I’d had the night before, Hannah was having none of it and was channeling a Jens Voigt-like level of determination for our break to succeed. Neither of us was holding back and Hannah was ripping my legs off.
We continued to pull away, helped by some disorganization amongst the chasers. The climb just after the turn at Newham General Store was especially painful, but the sight of two riders in the middle distance spurred us on. (Unbeknownst to Hannah and I, Jenny had been marking every attack in the bunch and followed a move by SKCC-Giant’s Georgina Beech as the group split up on the run home.)
As the finish line approached the two chasing riders were looming, fast. By now, Hannah and I were riding on wooden legs and if we didn’t get on with it we were going to get run down. I would like to say that at moments such as this my thoughts are more profound than, “Fuck, no, fuck, fuck, fuck.” They are not. So, with Hannah urging me to just go, it was sur la plaque to the line, with Hannah a close second and Jenny out sprinting Georgina for third.
Thanks for racing, thanks for riding, thanks for reading.