Last year was my first year of racing, taking cycling seriously, and probably the most fun I have had at university. I was determined to give everything and anything a go. Every Wednesday evening there were student sessions at the Herne Hill Velodrome. You turned up, paid £4 got on a track bike and then whizzed around the velodrome on it for an hour, normally finishing the session with some form of a race. I’m not going to lie but riding a fixed bike was really weird to start with (especially trying to stop) but you quickly got used to it. I’m sure everyone will remember the session when Jacob Rack managed to drop his chain on the track bike… How you do this I have no clue, but we couldn’t stop laughing, sorry Jacob!
The October hill climb was the first and most brutal BUCS event of the year. One mile uphill going as hard as you can against the clock and trying not to be sick… the first 500m and the last few hundred metres are at gradients over 10% with an overall average of about 8%, leaving no respite at all. I was first up for UCL and absolutely terrified. The first few hundred metres was the hardest and steepest part but with people cheering you on the whole way up I just had to dig deep and keep powering on, finishing with a time of 8:40 putting me in the top half of the womens event and under my goal of 9 minutes. Can’t say I enjoyed it but pleased with my result!
The best event of the year was the 3 up time trial in April. Emma Derby, Alice Jackson and I represented UCL in the womens competition. Many hours had gone into preparing for the big day from evening regents park sessions to going all out on watt bikes. After a weeks of warm spring weather the Saturday of the race turned out to be cold with a brutal wind, only adding to our already nervous states. With many other teams there with proper TT bikes, aero helmets and skinsuits it was hard not to feel intimidated. The route was 2 laps of an ‘undulating’ course near Oxford totalling 50 km. When I say undulating I mean several monster hills. We got off to a good start and produced a very competitive split time after our first lap. About 2 miles into lap 2 came disaster when Alice suffered a puncture. We had discussed before what we would do if one of us got a puncture and the team decision was that we would always carry on as a two, to at least get a time and say we finished. So after a quick stop Emma and I were back on our bikes. With a strong headwind on half the course riding as a two was seriously hard work. Rules are that all 3 of your team must finish to be able to appear on the scoreboard so we went up as a dnf. However our recorded finishing time was 1hr 31. We had aimed to do it under 1hr 25 but seeing as we did nearly half of it as a 2 we were pretty pleased. Our tactics had been a steady first lap to enable us to crank up our pace on lap 2. A split time of 42 mins on our first lap showed that not only would our overall time have been under our goal but put us high up on the finishing board. It may have been a frustrating day but our many hours of training leading up to it built strong friendships, and we felt like a proper team. Anyone up for attempt 2?!
The year wasn’t just about competing. Every Saturday and Wednesday we had fast paced training rides normally out into the country lanes of hertfordshire, and without fail I would be there. Despite always being the only girl amongst a group of speedy guys I always had a good time. The rides were really tough and I always had to push myself to make sure I didn’t get dropped. This improved my fitness tenfold as I never wanted to be the one holding up the ride. It massively improved my confidence to prove to myself that I could do it, but most importantly made new friends. Everyone was supportive and looked after you, whilst having the obvious banter along the way.
Last year for the first year the cycling club got free spinning sessions in the Bloomsbury gym on Tuesday evenings led by Huw Marchbank. These sessions were fun and you could make them as hard as you liked. Sometimes however Huw’s music playlists were questionable…
One particular ride should be mentioned, the North Downs club ride at the end of November. The hardest ride I have done to date. A 200 km ride on a very cold day with over 2500m of ascent. I am not lying when I say that the next morning I got out of bed and fell over. My legs were wrecked. We started the ride with a meet at 8.30 from UCL but none of us realised that 12 hours later we would only just be getting home. We cycled for about 2 hours in pitch black darkness coming home, which felt like it went on forever, at times it felt like we would never get back to London!! It was a good ride with a really nice route, just maybe let’s do it in summer next time boys?
I am looking forward to meeting new ladies in september, and hopefully next year UCL will see another strong year from the women’s cycling team.