Lincoln GP is one of the most prestigious road races in Britain and best known for its gruelling cobbled climb up Michaelgate Street. This was myself and Clare’s first national road race so it’s safe to say we were very apprehensive. Having watched this course many times on television, we sort of knew what we were getting ourselves into. But we were told by Clare’s partner Oscar, who has raced this course 6 times before, that nothing could prepare us for the cobbles of Michaelgate (just to add to our nervousness!).
Clare has been suffering with sciatica in her hip on and off for a few years and it majorly flared up a few days before the race. It was touch and go if she would be able to start. Mind over matter, she pinned her numbers on and tried to put the pain into the back of her mind.
There were 120 women on the start sheet and we all lined up at race HQ, a couple of miles away from the course. The race convoy lead us into Lincoln, to the top of Michaelgate Street but something had gone wrong and they lead us in the wrong direction meaning we were all facing the wrong way to start. After fighting for positions near the front of the peloton, the whole bunch had to turn around to face the other way in an extremely narrow section of the course. Somehow the convoy managed to squeeze past all of us riders and our bikes. This didn’t help the nerves and the start was delayed. Luckily the first few miles of lap 1 were neutralised, so again we could justle for position.
The race consisted of 8 laps of an 8 mile circuit. It was a sketchy start with people fighting for positions, it wasn’t until the first slight incline into Lincoln, that a crash happened. Luckily, me and Clare managed to avoid it and sat safely in the bunch. This race is all about positioning, I knew that if I went into the climb near the back of the peloton, my race would be over as it bottlenecks at the bottom of the climb and climbing is not my strength! We both sat nicely in the middle of the field and the first time up was super fast. I was worried I was burning too many matches early on, but I dug deep to make sure I wasn’t distanced (having fresh legs helped). The cobbles were tough and people were changing lines here there and everywhere so we really had to be switched on. Over the top of the climb was most challenging as riders did get away on the climb and on each lap we had to close a gap. With legs still burning from the climb, we just had to keep pushing the pedals hard. At this point, Clare was near the front of the peloton but she was in excruciating pain, so much so that she stopped on the side of the road. I came passed to find her, but she had a word with herself, got back on and was back in the bunch, now feeling like she was pedalling with one leg. One quick descent gave our legs a slight chance to recover until we had to kick out of the twists and turns into a narrow lane.
The wind was playing in our favour, as it was a headwind on the wide stretch of road, meaning it was tough for attacks to go. After two laps, we were allowed to feed. Sean, my dad and Oscar were in the feed zone with bottles at the ready (not that I knew where Dad and Oscar were ha!). Sean and I managed the first feed successfully, thankfully! The next time around, I hesitated, tried to go for a bottle and we were unsuccessful. It was a really warm day and I was drinking energy powder. I didn’t have any electrolytes and I paid the price for not replenishing the salts. I have never felt a cramp like it when trying to stand up, going up the inclines, luckily, sitting down I could manage it.
After the 7th time up the climb, I had to work really hard to get back on the front group as a gap had formed up the climb. Luckily, a few of us worked together and we managed to bridge the gap, by this point I had burnt a lot of matches but I knew all I had to do now was try and recover as much as possible and then give everything I had left up to the finish. The atmosphere with the crowds was insane, really pushed us on and kept morale high.
Clare and I both finished in the bunch which we're super happy with. Huge thanks to my dad, Sean, Oscar and Gerry Mcgar, who had travelled up from Gloucester to support us with his bugle, which was heard every lap!