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Back for more! Toni Basset and Condor crew brush-up their advanced group riding & race skills with Bella Velo Featured

On what felt like a painfully early start on Sunday 26th March (thanks to daylight savings, or maybe the previous nights’ cocktails...), a pink contingent arrived at the Hillingdon circuit for a morning of race skills hosted by Bella Velo, and led by Holly Seear of Spring Cycle Coaching.

Having attended the TT skills session in February, a few of us were familiar with the set-up and, on arrival, headed to the club house after the all-important morning car rave. Warm welcomes were had, coffee was consumed and soon the club house was awash with women from clubs both local and further a field.

After a brief overview of the morning, we set out onto the track for some warm-up laps. Warm, and a little more awake, we gathered for our first set of exercises of the day; cone weaving. Cone weaving seems pretty easy right?! How about one handed on the drops, or with one foot unclipped? What about as a pair in unison, or trying to nudge each into other and push through? Everyone stepped-up and the challenge was completed with focus, laughter and smiles.

Next up we were asked to split into groups. It seemed only natural for the pink and black flock to stay together, and we set off around the track, riding alongside each other with one hand on the next riders shoulder. Once again this could be considered a ‘easy’ exercise, but five abreast  riding around a track with technical corners, and a couple of little bumps, it required both good bike handling and communication amongst the group.

Back to the start line for a briefing, tips on cornering and riding etiquette, and then we all set off round the track to ride in a bunch under race conditions. Initially we rode in structured lines with those at the back filtering their way to the front of the group. This progressed into a more typical bunch situation with riders squeezing into spaces while attempting to maintain a good position. I found this exercise particularly beneficial at building some much needed confidence, as during my first race I was overwhelmed by the close proximity of riders and was reluctant to move forward and stay in the bunch (inevitably dropping off the back and TTing it to the end).

Another area we focussed on were race starts and finishes. For this we practised aggressive starts off the line, however many of us failed to clip-in at the start line, and in some instances not at all. After a couple of go’s, we learned that this didn’t really matter and we should just carry on trusting that our cleat would find the pedal eventually! As for the finishes, we practised sprinting out of the saddle - something that more than a few of us will be practising from now on.

Our final exercise concentrated on group riding using the through and off technique. After working in groups of four, we paired up with someone of similar ability and set off round the track at intervals with the aim of catching the group ahead. Some pairs of riders spontaneously worked together to catch those further ahead, whilst others cheekily rode wheels in secret (no names…). To finish, we had the opportunity to consolidate our skills in a three lap race. We were all allocated roles unbeknown to fellow riders; some had to attack, some had to sit in the bunch and a lucky few got to ride as a team (Condors obviously). Being able to ride as a team highlighted that even with a race plan (albeit one created in the 30 seconds prior to starting) things don’t always work out! Special shout out to Kristen for her photo finish sprint to the line.

After a few cool down laps we headed back inside for tea, cake and a Q&A session before the day came to a close. Overall the session was great fun, offered a wide variety of skills to practice, and the opportunity to ride on a closed circuit without the worry of traffic, or poor surfaces. For anyone wanting an introduction into racing, or just the opportunity to practice skills in a safe and supportive environment, I’d highly recommend attending one of these sessions.

Last modified on April 15, 2018
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