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Comeback season, combined with Motherhood update!

by Sarah Storey
Sarah Storey
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on Aug 12 in Training Blog
Tonight is a rare night that Louisa has fallen asleep before 9.30pm. Much like me and Barney, our daughter is a night owl and so lately, with all the racing and training, I have found myself going to bed when she does! Of course this means less time for things like updating a blog, so with this well overdue I will attempt to condense a very exciting few months.

2014 has been labelled by some as my comeback season and after gold on the track at the World Championships, I was keen to ensure I got back to form on the road too. Within days of arriving home from Mexico I was racing on the road again, firstly in some local Time Trials and then the local National Series race of Cheshire Classic. Not only has this been a comeback season, but also the first season in which I have ridden for my own team. Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International was created in the early days of motherhood, when I was sat feeding a baby and sending emails or making phone calls with prospective sponsors.

As a team we proudly ride with the logo of Boot Out Breast Cancer on our jerseys as we are aiming to improve awareness of the need for better diagnostic equipment within the NHS. The charity raises money to buy this equipment and so far has been solely operating in the northwest of the UK. To take this message further afield is our aim and it would be great to see pockets of like-minded people raising funds for the charity to spend in their local area. Already the Biking Belles of Goodwood are hosting a cycling festival at the end of August and with further promotion from our team we hope that many others will follow suit.

Early in the season I was very much the super domestique of the team, needing to again prove myself in the women’s peloton and also very eager to ensure I did a good job for the talent we have in the team. My first road race back was one where I simply worked myself into the ground for my team mates and we achieved everything we set out to within the race. To be able to support such young and incredible talent [Katie Archibald won the race with Hayley Jones in second and the team collected the team prize, most aggressive rider prize and best 2nd Category rider too] is a huge honour and one of the parts of the role of a cyclist that makes the racing even better. Having ridden as an individual for a few years when I first started cycling, it makes you appreciate how much better it is to be part of a unit of riders with the same goals.

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My Time Trialling came back to me very quickly after the road racing season was underway and it became apparent I was benefitting from the physiological changes that pregnancy brings. During pregnancy you have an increase of growth hormone in the first 3 months in particular and the body also gradually increases the blood volume to take care of the baby. If training and a comeback is managed effectively and taking the fatigue of pregnancy and motherhood into consideration, then it is possible for the body to benefit from these changes and become stronger and more efficient. Since my return to Time Trialling, my power has increased by around 10% on what it was prior to having Louisa and there is little doubt now that I am in better shape than I was prior to London 2012.

One of my ambassadorial roles is with Kiddicare and part of this involves meeting people in store and sharing my journey as a Mum. Back in May I visited the Merry Hill store in Birmingham and took part in a breastfeeding seminar which was really well received. As a Mum who is still breastfeeding and able to do so alongside my sport thanks to the amazing support I have received from my family, I wanted to be able to support and encourage other women who wanted to continue breastfeeding but either lacked the support or didn’t have the confidence. Natural term breastfeeding, where the parents stay baby led and allow the child to decide when they have had enough, is not a well publicised or supported route in the UK. Many people struggle to make it for the first few weeks and often cite support as being their biggest hurdle. Not everyone can breastfeed and combining it with some jobs is not always practical, but having the opportunity to support a group of Mums who wanted to learn more was brilliant and very rewarding.

My early season Time Trials then led in to the Tour Series and a series of criterium races in town centres around the UK. I was selected to ride on some of the more challenging circuits as this suits my style of riding and was also part of the team set up around Charline Joiner who was to be our leader for the series. The team rode exceptionally well in every round, winning four of the five events and placing Charline second overall too. It was without doubt some of the hardest racing I have done from a technical point of view and an area in which I can certainly improve. Placing 3rd in two of the 3 rounds I rode was a good surprise in many ways and set me up nicely for the final build into the National Road Championships.

One of my favourite parts of the team environment in cycling is the chance to ride a Team Time Trial and this year the Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International team fielded two teams in the National Team Time Trial Championships. I got to ride with Katie Archibald and Ciara Horne and between us we managed to place 11th amongst the men’s field as well. Over a 35 mile course and in hot conditions, it was a test of communication and finesse that got us round so quick. Our second team were second on the day too, so the podium was awash with the purple, black and pink of our team kit!

P27 Debbie DowieIn amongst racing for the team I was able to take a training ride down to Leighton Hospital, just outside Crewe, and be a part of the formal handover of a cooling cap that had been bought by Boot Out Breast Cancer for the cancer patients being treated there. The impact of this cap is widespread for patients and their families who would otherwise have struggled psychologically with the hair loss side effect of their treatment. It was a very proud moment to stand there in team kit and be able to link the work of the team with the work of the charity.

National Road Championships were held in South Wales and the time trial was based around the grounds of the Celtic Manor. It was without doubt one of the most challenging TT circuits that any of us had seen and we relished the opportunity to have a domestic race on closed roads. The team were based in a series of farm cottages and well supported all week with two soigneurs and my parents taking care of the babysitting and catering!

Our final race prior to the Nationals was potentially one of finest performances as a team. We had 5 riders in the race and our aim was to be able to dictate the race. Katie and I were in charge of lead outs for Charline Joiner in the sprint primes and when she took 3 out of 3 we knew we were in great shape. Gaby and Lauren worked on dragging breaks back, whilst Katie and I ensured the field got split at a point where the rest of the peloton were tiring. Several other teams tried attacking us late on, but we had everything under control and when I hit the front to take Katie and Gaby to the finish, we had again timed this to perfection. Katie won and Gaby almost managed a podium, so it was another successful race.

I was very much looking forward to the short but hilly race of the National Time Trial Championships. Our recce days on the course had gone well and I had a pacing strategy well drilled. On circuits with sections of climbing the pacing strategy, especially for a bigger rider like me, is important. Bike handling was also to play a small part, as well as reading the direction of the road and using both sides to take the shortest lines. For many UK based riders who never get the chance to ride on closed roads, the biggest challenge was realising they didn’t have to stick to the left hand side!

My 3rd placed finish and Katie’s 2nd, meant that we flanked Emma Pooley on the podium and couldn’t realistically have expected a better day on the bike! Three days later and we were up early for the start of the Road Race Championships and eager to get underway so that we could get back to our cottages, for it was also Louisa’s first birthday!

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The plan as a team was to be aggressive in the race and keep as many riders in the front group as possible. I attacked in the first 10 miles and was able to gain a small advantage until Emma Pooley shut the move down and then it was all about waiting for the inevitable split as the race hit the hillier sections of the course. By the time the race was coming back to the finishing circuits around Abergavenny it was just Katie and I left in a group of 8 and we ended up 6th and 7th with Katie also taking silver in the under 23 race. Another great day on the bike and made even better by the fun of Louisa’s birthday! For me racing is a completely different experience now I have Louisa waiting for me at the finish. Seeing her chirpy, smiley face makes even the less good results irrelevant and I love how she holds out her arms for a cuddle regardless of how sweaty I am!

In the week after Nationals I took my mid season break, only touching the bike to take 2nd place behind Lizzie Armitstead in the Otley Circuit race. It was good to have a few days of chilling time and I used it to spend some time with Tesco on their Neighbourhood Food Collection. Visiting the Food Banks and seeing the projects that the food donations help really was very insightful and humbling. We don’t always realise how lucky we are in life and it’s important not to forget how many people in the UK are in food poverty. Although I didn’t ride my bike during the week, I wasn’t far from other people who were and we joined the Sports Tours International group who stayed in Harrogate for the weekend of the Yorkshire Grand Depart.

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It was great fun to be a fan for a few days and amazing to have the opportunity to meet Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge when they came to present the jerseys in Harrogate. Louisa was very taken by Prince William and Clarence House even tweeted a photo of her holding on to his finger!

With the team placing five riders on teams for the Commonwealth Games and these riders all heading to preparation camps in July, it was my turn to be team leader for the Essex Giro, a race I had won back in 2012. It was a weekend very much of two halves, with the sun blazing down on the Saturday for the prologue and circuit race, but then the roads were flooded and dangerous for the road stage on the Sunday. In winning the prologue I took a 19 second lead in to the circuit race stage before attacking early on and taking the race with a solo victory over 2 minutes ahead of anyone else. This meant that barring disaster on the Sunday I was going to win again and the team rode brilliantly to help me protect my position for the victory.

I couldn’t have wished for a better transition race into the Tour of Brittany and three days after the biblical rain of Essex we were seeking shade prior to the start of the prologue against many top UCI teams. 5th place in the prologue meant I was set up for a good week and after not losing any time in the 1st road stage, despite the oppressive heat, I was set up well for the Individual Time Trial stage. This was the one stage we had done a good recce on as a team because in stage racing the TT’s are crucial in deciding the overall winner. It was a challenging and quite technical 11km circuit with some dodgy road surface and a few lumps and bumps to try and hamper the rhythm. Again it was warm, but with the Para Cycling Road Worlds in the heat of South Carolina at the end of August, it was perfect practice for what I will face out there.

I crossed the finish line without another pedal rev in me and rolled back to the pits and virtually fell off my bike. Averaging 340 watts for the 15 minutes and 21 seconds, I knew that if I was beaten it wasn’t through lack of effort!

Several minutes later Barney returned with a huge grin on his face, I was the stage winner by 6 seconds and had been able to put some time in to some very decent riders!

Brittany

The final two stages were still dry and sunny but not quite as hot. The challenge of the parcours got greater though and the finishing circuit of the 3rd stage was really quite something, with a 3km descent and some nasty off camber corners to take directly before the final 100m to the finish! It was certainly a challenge, but I finished with the peloton. On the final stage it felt as though we were part of a 100km criterium, the bunch was lined out all day and its wasn’t until the finishing circuit that we found some hills that started to split the field and bring back the breakaway. I had managed to clip off the front of the peloton in the final 8km and finished 11th on the stage. It was a solid way to complete the tour with 12th overall, my first UCI professional race since having Louisa.

Since then it has all been about putting the final touches to the preparation for the Road World Championships. I took an easier week whilst working on the commentary team at the Commonwealth Games and since then have been in the Manchester Metropolitan University Environment Chamber for a block of altitude work and currently a block of heat work.

As you can see it has been a busy road season but with so much support out there it has been great fun. Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International only have a few road races left before the attentions turn to the track and it won’t be long before we can announce our rider line up and plans for 2015. No one could have expected such an incredible first year but I am proud to have been a part of it and see such success come to such a great group of girls. A big thanks must go to Barney who has worked tirelessly to get everything sorted with our equipment and who spends most evenings in the garage working on someone’s bike or wheels. We have amassed 21 race victories so far and are hoping for more to come, visit www.bobccycleteam.com!

A big thanks to our sponsors:

Madison – supplying Pearl Izumi, Ridley bikes, Lazer helmets and glasses, Shimano shoes and components

Sports Tours International along with Club La Santa and My First supplying financial input and training camp

CNP Nutrition

Pro Lite Wheels

Schwalbe

2Pure – suppling Chamois B’tter and Lizard Skins

Fiat – team car

Compressport - compression wear and selling it for fundraising http://www.compressport.uk.com/e-shop/bobc/

 

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