National Masters Championships
Hold the kit order, we need more stripes! Maryka Sennema added to her two National Hill Climb champion jerseys with age group wins in the National Masters Road Race Championship on 30 May, followed by the National Masters Criterium Championship on 13 June.
The course was a little different to last year’s, writes Maryka, not quite as tough which meant quite a negative race for the women: lots of marking riders, chasing the slightest increase in pace, etc. All of the 40+ age groups were put together, set off 5 minutes after the 30-39 group with the hope that neither race would catch the other (and we didn’t).
After a lap of getting to know the course I then spent the next 90 minutes trying to get something going and mostly failing, as ideally I wanted a small break to form rather than the bunch to stay together. But that wasn’t going to happen, so with an hour left to race, it was time for plan B which was rest up then try to get a result from the bunch on the draggy hill which led to the finish line.
The second half of the final lap was starting to get a bit sketchy with riders jostling for position, so to stay out of trouble I got myself into the top ten riders for the last left-hander and spent the energy to stay there for the final minutes of the race. Power data shows that I needed to do nearly 300w for those final 3 minutes – 250w for 2.5 minutes just to maintain my position and give myself a decent chance of a clean sprint. The road kicked up for the final 400m and I could feel riders moving up on both sides of me (by then I was just off the front) so I decided I had to go now even though it did feel a bit early. In hindsight it was perfect as I wound up a 30 second sprint to the line with only one rider overtaking me, one of my training partners who routinely overhauls me in races with a sprint finish. I held off all my age group rivals to take the National Champs for 40-44-year-olds, a gold medal and lovely blue stripey jersey.
Only two weeks after the road champs was the crit champs, held at possibly the least challenging purpose-built course in the country, Hillingdon. Lack of entries meant we had all age groups riding together, from 30 to 50+. A total of 30 riders took to the start line and again, it was a negative race with lots of chasing, some attacks but nothing that stuck. Again I resigned myself to a bunch sprint though with the finish around a bend and down a slight hill I thought my chances of a win in my age group were not great.
However again my general fitness gave me an advantage as I managed to get into a good position with 2 laps to go without much trouble. That became 3rd wheel at the bell, with a strong rider on the front stringing out the bunch. It took some effort to stay there but I held that position all the way around past the clubhouse and up the hill at which point things slowed briefly so I took my cue and went for it. I hit the bottom of the bends as fast as I dared and drilled it up over the rise, holding as much speed as I could over the top. Staying to the inside, I kept as low as I could get on my little bike, and just pedalled as hard as I could, not daring to look anywhere but forward.
Coming out of the headwind into a bit of shelter as I rounded the bend and hit the last 50m downhill towards the finish line, I really expected a dozen people to come around me but nope, just two riders – neither in my age group – managed to pip me at the line by a bike length or so. Turns out starting the sprint early caught a lot of others off-guard so I ended up with 3rd in the race which was hugely surprising and pleasing, and 1st in my age group again. Another jersey and medal, and the reflection that my season so far has already been better than I could have hoped for. Next up is the full National Championships in Lincolnshire, where I’m hoping for a tough race, good legs and a bit of luck on the cobbles and elsewhere, to see what I can really do against real pros.
The BC National Masters Championships were held on a new circuit this year, in Newton Longville, near Milton Keynes, writes Andy Lack. The circuit itself was quite long, at nearly 11 miles but with few hills it was best described as ‘rolling’ and I thought it might be a course to suit me. As last year it was superbly organised, with multiple neutral service, NEG and often more than one race on the circuit at a time. I’d driven the Chief Comm in the morning race where Paceline’s very own Maryka had won the National jersey for her age group – so I’d seen the course, and I had a lot to live up to!
I lined up with teammate, Keith Lea, in the 45-49 race which had a full field and plenty of riders from all over the country making it feel like a genuinely national race. The first lap was quick but manageable as riders got to know the circuit and took into account the gusty conditions. On lap 2 I moved up to the front near Keith and tried a little move off the front which was soon joined by a CC Luton rider, Michael Skipsey. This was quickly shut down and this pattern was to be repeated during the first half of the 76 mile race. Several moves went, Keith was in most of them, but nothing was getting away.
As we started lap 4, I moved to the front again as we came up to the main roundabout on the circuit. The organiser had arranged for lights here to stop the traffic, and I realised this meant you could attack it at top speed with no fear of oncoming cars. Taking advantage, I did exactly that and this time managed to create a gap that stuck. 10-11 other riders came across, including Andrew Davis of Kingston Wheelers, and we got to work. The bunch wasn’t giving up though, and we had to dig deep just to eek out a lead of 40 seconds. With 40 miles to the finish, this was going to be tough! The break wasn’t as cohesive as it could have been as riders began to miss turns (me included) – with the elastic never snapping, all of us were on/close to our limit.
The gap peaked at 45 seconds but, with 10 miles to go, I finally popped and slowly returned to the eager bunch. One by one, others followed until, with 3 miles left the bunch caught the remains of the break and set it up for the sprint. In the end, 3 riders chipped off over the last 500m to contest the podium and I rolled in at the back of the bunch along with my other breakaway companions.
As last year, a really enjoyable race, if ultimately unsuccessful, but it was nice to have been one of the animators in a relatively high profile event.