Yasmin Mark's early season progress 

April Races from Yasmin Marks

08/04/2018 – Birmingham Business Park: E/1/2/3/4
First race of the season and an opportunity to test the legs and lungs after the winter months and winter miles. I was very apprehensive about this race due to it not only being the first one in a few months, but also the first one since a very bad accident from a road race back in August 2017. There were 32 starters, and this meant for a large bunch racing around the short and flat circuit – I had the line I wanted to take and planned to stick to it regardless of position, as finishing this race with no incident was my goal to help my mentality for future races.  The pace was fast from the start and it was more of a race of hang on or get spat out. The course was too short and flat to obtain any successful break, so this meant for a sprint finish. However, me and fellow teammate Bev, did try to attack to break things up a bit, as sometimes in women circuit races they can get a bit boring and it feels like riding on a social ride rather than a race – when I see my heart rate has dropped to 160 or less I know something needs doing to jazz it up. This didn’t go to plan due to the vast number of women in the bunch and only created a lengthy line of riders. I returned to the pack and continued riding round. On the final lap one girl attacked from the line and everyone was letting her go so I counter attacked and attempted to chase her down. This made everyone realise what was happening and then when I just couldn’t keep the pace any longer the sprint to the finish had started and I had to kick my legs back into gear to achieve a half decent result. I managed to grab 13th place in the sprint which I was pleased with considering the level of some of the women who had entered. Sprinting is my weakness and an area I am working on this season so to have been part of the sprint and contesting for places felt good. Reflecting, I could have tried to keep my distance a bit more, as I have a good endurance level, so I feel I may have been able to get away, but you learn from each race. Overall, I am very pleased with my positioning and for my first race back post-crash proud of myself for getting back on it.

12/04/2018 – Mallory Circuit Race: 2/3/4
This was a clockwise circuit with the finish at the top of the draggy hill side. It was a grim, misty and damp evening so kudos to all who raced. One girl attacked from the start and time trialled around solo to take the win. No one seemed to want to work together to try and chase her down (which would have been achievable) and I knew I wasn’t strong enough to do this on my own. I had a nightmare at the start with clipping in so unfortunately didn’t have a chance of going with her. Throughout the laps there were a few girls who tried to attack on the descent, but the pace never stayed at that to form a break. I attempted to get the pace going but nothing ever stuck. With three laps to go my legs just blew and I lost the wheels of the bunch – one small error and you are spat out. I wasn’t fresh enough to chase back on, even though I attempted this, and came away with 9th place – I was frustrated and annoyed with myself for what I let happen and won’t allow myself to do this again! Onwards and upwards to the next race…

15/04/2018 – Women’s Team Series Round 1: E/1/2/3
I travelled down to Virginia Water for round one of the WTS. This was an 85km road race with rolling roads and the biggest entry of women for me within a race: 75 starters. There was a neutralised roll out section and once the race began did I know it…the pace was fast and didn’t slow down throughout the entire 85km. There were points where I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep this up and points where I thought I wasn’t good enough to be racing in this elite event, but my legs kept going despite my mindset. The roads were shocking regarding condition – pot holes everywhere and this lead to many punctures and bottles flying everywhere for numerous women. Everyone was trying to dodge them, so riders were everywhere. Around mid-race I got dropped from the bunch, but after Thursdays experience I wasn’t going to let this happen, I sprinted around for half the loop and managed to get back onto the front bunch. I was exhausted but knew if I just stayed here for a while I could recover and would be able to stay with this group. The front bunch just kept getting smaller as riders couldn’t keep up. At the last corner and going towards the sprint finish I just couldn’t stay with them but sprinted to the best of my ability at that point in the race to overtake some women who had died off to finish in 32nd place. With this being my first road race this season, being a solo rider as part of a composite team and still a bit apprehensive from the crash I was extremely happy with my performance and positioning. I managed to stay with the front for all but the last 750m and still sprinted to get the best placing I could.

19/04/2018 – Mallory Circuit Race: 2/3/4
This week the course went anti-clockwise with the finish being on the flattest section just before the hill. It was a glorious evening with the sun shining and this led to 17 women enter. I had another nightmare clipping in and was chasing back on for all of lap 1 – this used unnecessary energy, so I am now focusing on my skills to clip in! Once back with the bunch I wanted a break to happen. I wanted it to be a proper race not just a sprint for the finish – I had to play to my strengths. With the hill causing people to slow down I thought this would be a good spot to attack early on to force a break. I went for it up the hill then another girl over took me for the descent, clearly noticing what I was trying to do, and before I knew it 4 of us had got away. I was in the break for a good 2/3 of the race! We worked together to keep our distance and due to where the finish was I knew I was with stronger sprinters. I tried to stay in a good position but once the sprint opened up I just didn’t have the skills to chase them as much as I would have liked to finish in a higher position. I came 4th, learnt lots and experienced what it is like to be in a break – I am definitely going to try that again!

22/04/2018 – Rob Willmott Road Race (Cotswold League): 2/3/4
A lovely setting for a road race and another lovely day. With 30 starters I really didn’t know what to expect from the race. I didn’t recognise many names on the start list so approached it like I did for the WTS as I was a solo rider. I tried to stay where I felt most comfortable and went with any bursts that happened. I wasn’t in the best of positions to try and attach onto the 3 men break, and with team mates in our bunch, they tried to control the speed, so they got away nice and easy. It was a mixed terrain course so suited all abilities and for a few laps we were riding around like a social ride once again – I don’t understand why this happens but I’m not strong enough on my own to attack as it would waste too much of my energy for me to then gain a decent finishing position. It was a little sketchy at times and this made me nervous to get in the middle of the bunch, so I stuck to my right-side line at the edge. The finish was a turn off and up a hill which we hadn’t been on so very unknown to us all. I knew I had an advantage because it was a hill but not knowing how long we had to go until the finish line was slightly frustrating (maybe I should have driven to see this, but time just goes on race morning). Everyone started fighting for the best line, but I knew if I stayed at the edge I could escape out and round to sprint up the hill. I kept ending up at the back of the bunch but once I saw the flags I went for it, overtaking many girls as I went. I finished 8th overall and after riding round thinking I wouldn’t be a contestant for top 10 I was very chuffed with where I had finished.

29/04/2018 – Women’s Team Series Round 2: E/1/2/3
A local course around Coalville, I was aware of the route having ridden on these roads many times. When I went to sign on I got asked to be a guest rider for Twickenham CC due to a vast number of composite riders and being a local girl, I got chosen. It was a nice feeling just knowing I had some side line support if I needed it – plus the jersey fitted much better! I was just about to start warming up when my rear valve burst and went straight down the drain…emergency to change the inner tube with just 20mins before the race was about to start – STRESS! Luckily, due to it being so local my parents came along, and my dad helped me. I’m not too sure what I would have done if I was all alone as I really struggle with getting my tyre back on…but everything was sorted, and I managed a full 3km warm up (not ideal). The race had a neutralised section and within 1min of riding I realised I hadn’t put my knee warmers on properly…the stress of my valve breaking really put me off balance. So, it took an entire lap to sort this out whilst riding hard, I wasn’t having them fall down my leg. I managed to sort of solve this issue and had to just put it to the back of my mind whilst I was racing. The first couple of laps were extremely sketchy and I just had a feeling it wasn’t going to settle until something bad happened, and it did, coming up to completing the second lap a crash happened in the middle of the peloton taking down a fair few girls. I was behind this and managed to ride off to the edge to miss it. I then had the challenge of chasing to catch the peloton back up which was achieved by riding a through and off with 3 other girls all eager to get back to the main group. We got back on relatively quickly and I knew I needed to recover in case an attack went so I sat on for a while. With three laps to go, and a rider having broken away solo, attacks started and the pace rapidly increased.  This dropped numerous riders, but I was determined not to loose a wheel and stay with the front bunch. Goal achieved. It was tough and pushed my ability, but my mental determination got me there, I was not riding around for 2 laps solo! The pace calmed down again, and I knew it would be a sprint for the line, when someone would go was anyone’s guess but seeing the lead rider at the top of the hill opened the sprint and riders were everywhere. I went as hard as I could and once again started to pass more riders as I got faster with my sprint. I finished around 30th and came away having achieved my goal of staying with the fast girls in the front bunch. I must say my stress levels for this race were off the richter scale and it wasn’t an enjoyable experience, but I managed to complete and didn’t stop!


Posted: 08/05/2018   By: .John McCay

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