2015: the year that was.

As I look back on what’s been an incredible year on two wheels, I remember the highs and lows of my adventures.

The winter of 2014/15 was particularly tough, especially since it was my first British winter since moving back here from Adelaide. I had very little winter cycling gear, I definitely wasn’t acclimatised and I had no idea where I was going in this new city. I fell 90km short in the 2014 Festive 500 but I realised this was still an accomplishment to be proud of as I kickstarted 2015. Had I done those last 90km, I’d have gone through a very tough ride and I’ve always maintained that riding bikes must be fun. I will put up with a level of suffering to get me over the hill but I’m certainly not in it for the long haul. I came here for fun!

Rapha Ambassadors

Rapha Ambassadors

In April, I became an ambassador for Rapha through which I’ve met some of the best people. I’ve challenged myself, hopefully inspired others as well as be inspired by the many other Rapha women near and far. I remember during the Ambassador Summit in the Peak District that I had a really hard time with hills. Mentally, I didn’t have the strength and physically I was really struggling. It was a long, warm day and I crumbled like the pastry of the mince pie that sits in front of me as I write this. It got to a point where I really panicked and got really emotional up a climb. I’m not afraid to admit any of this – it was hard and I felt so low. At the same time, I took it as a learning exercise. It was at this moment that I committed to climbing more hills in 2015. I had to face my uphill demons.

Rapha Prestige Ambassadors

Prestige Team of Ambassadors

The weather began improving in May but not before I set out on a pretty grim ride through the northern hills (Hebden Bridge, Sowerby Bridge, Ripponden etc). It rained the entire time I was out that day but the scenery was amazing. I’ve since come to love going out north of Manchester. It makes a change from my usual Peak District/Cheshire expeditions.

Rapha Rising Oxenhope

Rapha Rising Oxenhope

In June, I went to see Sir Bradley Wiggins complete his Hour Record. The atmosphere inside the Velodrome was like I’d never seen before despite attending the Track World Cup the December prior. It was electric and the Mexican wave of cheering did not relent for the whole hour Wiggo was in the hamster wheel. I did my first bike race in June too – a loose term as it was a standard Tameside crit. A learning exercise if nothing else but I didn’t come last so that inspired me to try my hand at another race (Stockton GP).

Sir Bradley Wiggins Hour Record

Sir Bradley Wiggins Hour Record

In the middle of June, I took part in Rapha Prestige Peak District in an all-female team (Cat, Ruth, Beth and myself). Again, the conditions were once again typically northern: rain, wind and cold. The idea of this event was to self-navigate to checkpoints across the Peak District in a time limit. Things started off a bit weirdly as we completely missed the first checkpoint and we were only a stone’s throw from the second. We were absolutely drenched and still had another checkpoint to go, which just so happened to be at the top of a major climb in the Peak District – Mam Tor. Spirits were pretty high at this point because I knew that after that, it was the home run into town. Or was it? We were up and down country lanes when Beth had a game-ending mechanical: her chain was stuck between the cassette and spokes. There wasn’t a tool or strong arm between us that could fix this. In the end, Cat and I carried on as John from Manchester Wheelers came to rescue Ruth and Beth. I got back to the club house and I was, once again, emotional! It was relief after being out all day in horrific weather then having a mechanical to deal with so close, yet so far from home. In hindsight (and as always) it was a fantastic event and really put me out of my comfort zone.

Rapha Prestige: Top of Mam Tor

Rapha Prestige: Top of Mam Tor

Thinking about it, June was a hefty month. 21st June was the summer solstice so the RCC kids decided to go on the longest ride ever beginning at 3:45am: 202km and 3,000m of climbing all in a day’s work. The company was fabulous as always – RCCMCR is brilliant!

Photo by Tommy

Photo by Tommy

If my memory serves me correctly, I also entered Manchester to London in June: a 220mi/354km fully supported ride between the two power houses of England. More to come on that…

That’s taken us six months through the year but still so much more to come!

July was Rapha Rising whereby the task was to ride 9,366m in 9 days (the total combined height of the major cols the pros raced over the Pyrenees. Given I’d had such a hard time with climbing the last few months, I decided that this and M2L were my two major challenges this year. I went out on the weekends to my usual haunts as well as northern Wales (now some of my favourite rides) and on weeknights, I went anywhere between Cheshire and Hebden Bridge between northern hills (West Yorkshire, Bacup) and I reached the crescendo at the top of Long Hill during the Women’s 100. It was a brilliant moment and despite awful weather on that ride, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for the rest of the day! The week of 20-26th July was my biggest week of cycling in terms of both distance and elevation: 566.10km and 7,472m respectively.

Rapha Rising 2015

Rapha Rising 2015

Holme Moss Summit

Holme Moss Summit

After this point, everything I did was for M2L and even then, I didn’t do any specific training. It was just a series of standard days in the office. I even rode to Hathersage Pool and back with a cheeky dip at the half way point!

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Final time: 15:33

Final time: 15:33

I've never worked so hard for a beer

I’ve never worked so hard for a beer

In all, 2015 has been my best year for me on the bike so far. I’ve met some great people in RCCMCR, I’ve ridden the prettiest roads that no photo could ever do justice, the other ambassadors are so encouraging to not only me but to many others. I’ve ridden distances I didn’t think was possible in one innings and I’ve ridden in conditions I would not wish on my worst enemy. I’ve achieved what I set out to do and I’m so proud of that. I switched from a 12-30 to an 11-28 and I can safely say I can climb hills. I’m not a mountain goat, I’m not breaking any TT records: I get there in my own time. I started track cycling and cyclocross – two disciplines which weren’t on my radar prior to this year.

First Cyclocross Race

First Cyclocross Race

Steady away and I’ll see you at the top, my friends. I hope 2016 is even better – I’ll be starting my year in Australia so I’ll hope to cover some old familiar roads that were once familiar to me many moons ago.

Message for 2016: face your demons, do what scares you but most of all RIDE YOUR BIKE! Oh and enter M2L because it’s the best time you’ll have on a bike ever!

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GraceQOM

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