Girls on the Podium in Barcelona!
I have always wanted to visit Barcelona so an European Handcycle Circuit (EHC) race which was a P1 competition with the UCI, combined with a bit of sightseeing plus practice for my first UCI World Cup in May seemed a great idea. I would also gain points for my world ranking depending on my finishing position.
The Hotel, airport transfers, and a trip to the Formula 1 track for training were organised by Handbike Barcelona Club and two members also kindly accompanied me on two rides during my visit. The roads were busier than I was used to in Lincolnshire, so I was grateful to Martin for helping me train.
The TT was held around the Olympic Rowing lake, which meant a headwind into the finishing straight but a bit of wind assist at the start. The University of Barcelona was doing some research and we lined up after registration the evening before for calliper tests with bicep measurements, The same tests were repeated straight after the TT and I was so occupied that I hadn’t realised I’d come second!
The RR was held on the flat beach road the next day with a loop of about 4km with one technical turn and a roundabout. I made the mistake of assuming the race format was one hour plus a lap but it turned out to be the first rider past the post having done 38km. I was working with Romina from Italy sharing the drafting and sprinted when I heard the bell, only to do an entire lap at my best pace unnecessarily! I did, however, come second and was pleased with my race preparation for Italy in a few weeks time.
Me posing in front of my hand bike
People often wonder why I never have time to phone them back, email or text them but I am usually busy either out training, cooking proper food to fuel my training, looking after my dogs or travelling! Then of course, are events or meetings that I get asked to attend on a voluntary basis. This visit to the University of Lincoln for a photo shoot was in-between two back-to-back trips abroad for EHC Races.
I’ve been in touch with the University of Lincoln Sports Science Department for some time now and they have recently agreed to sponsor me with support for the next year. That’s a huge bonus for someone not on a UK Sport Lottery funded program or supported by their NGB and the EIS as I am able to tap into a huge reservoir of sports science and knowledge for free. They are taking a huge interest in me and hand cycling and I will also be able to speak to engineers about various adaptations and modifications I’d like to make to my bike for next season.
The photo shoot came about because Dr. Willmott at the University had a friend doing a 52 portraits in 52 weeks project and asked if he knew of anyone wanting free photographs done. I arrived back from the Czech Republic, put the bike back together and off I went to Lincoln the next day.
I was a Graphic Designer working in London in my 20’s and am no stranger to photo shoots, although I was normally the person art directing it. We went through some shots David had thought about after I’d given him some input on where to find shots of hand cyclists on the web.
My bike is nearly six-foot long, has reflective elements on it and lying in it does not always mean a flattering picture of oneself, or show the components of the bike and how low it is to the ground.
To his credit, David took all this on board and produced some wonderful pictures, which includes my favourite above. To have a look at his project visit: https://www.facebook.com/davidtravisphotography
Romina and I chatting before the TT
Barely three days at home before I jetted off to the Czech Republic for another EHC Race, this time with the TT and RR on the same day. I arrived at 10:30 at night and put my bike back together as I had an early start to register for the races in the morning, with the TT scheduled for 10am.
I love coming to Louny, a town outside Prague, as the countryside is beautiful and the roads are really, really good! I can confidently leave my race wheels on my bike for a training ride, knowing that my route will not involve pot holes, surface dressing or many cars.
It’s a great advantage to know the course before you ride it, so I was well prepared for the fast downhill, but gruelling uphill for the TT. I felt fantastic and really strong and was over 3 minutes faster than third place.
The RR unfortunately, had been changed to a tight and technical 4km sprint round the town, with a nasty 180 up a hill and round a cobbled roundabout. I drafted Romina for the first lap, but then dropped her when I went in front. She chased hard for the entire race, and was a mere 35 seconds behind at the finish. It was impossible to pick up any decent speed with constant braking for corners and the uphill section, so I was lucky to stay in front of her. Two second places were a great boost to my morale.
I spent the next two days biking round the scenic hills and enjoying the company of Seine and his mum, regulars on the EHC scene.
Flowers on the Podium
Getting up at 2am on Friday 13th is not my idea of fun, but a trip to Poland was on the cards, this being the first EHC hand cycle race ever to be held here. To get an overall European ranking, I need to compete in at least 8 of the 12 races and Poland offered both a TT and a RR over one weekend.
I decided not to recce the course as the roads of Rzeszow were busy, and so the hill climb on both the TT and RR came as an unwelcome surprise! I had a bad dream the night before, felt a bit chesty and ill and had decided on using disks which were a mistake considering the side winds encountered on the course because of the buildings. The only consolation was producing higher Watts than in Italy, but it is impossible to compare a flat with a hilly TT.
I spoke at length to hand cycle legend and Paralympic Gold Medallist Walter Albinger at the dinner laid on for us by the organisers and came away reassured that I was on the right path and just required more years of training. Competing in Europe means I get to talk to many hand cyclists, discuss equipment modifications and learn lots from my fellow competitors, who push me to do better.
So I faced the RR with renewed enthusiasm and rode positively despite being unable to draft the faster girls. The hill was more a mental problem than physical, as there were 9 laps to do, but I was relieved to hear the bell after 1 hour, having tackled it 7 times already. I came away with two 3rd places-and a bouquet of sunflowers.