Let’s chat about 2019

It’s the end of the year now, so I thought it would be a great chance to look back at the last 12 months! It’s been a big year, so it’s a longer post than usual, but I hope you enjoy reading it! Feel free to leave any comments below 🙂

My year started off with January’s”warm weather” camp in Portugal where I crashed on ice (I was fine 😆) and then thankfully drifted indoors to the National Track Championships. I got a Silver medal in the Points race there after an exciting race which saw Neah Evan’s get an early lap and take the win, and me, Katie Archibald and Laura Kenny fight for the last 2 medals in the sprints. I won the final one for the 10 points and so bagged myself the silver. I also raced the Scratch race (6th place), Individual Pursuit (NEW PB & 5th place) and the Team Pursuit (4th place). The TP had to be my highlight: a childhood dream came true when I raced alongside both my sisters (Lucy & Josie) and the talented Alice Towers (or Alice Nelson as she was known that day). We went into it hoping for a 2nd ride (so qualifying 8th or higher) and instead we qualified 4th and rode off against the GB Junior squad where we only just got beaten!

February brought about the Track World Championships in Pruskow, Poland and all the selection stress that comes with it. I was selected alongside 5 of my other team mates, but only ended up riding the IP. I’d ridden a really good time at Nationals the previous month, but couldn’t back it up. To be honest I raced awfully. I was super stressed and nervous and I let that take too much control. I also peaked about 2 weeks earlier in training, along with the rest of the squad. Non of us raced near to our potential and all of us came back feeling disappointed (except maybe Elinor Barker who won the Scratch race in a very classy fashion!).

I decided to skip the usual post-Worlds break and instead jetted off to Hong Kong with Neah Evan’s to race the 6 day (actually only 3days) there! It was super good fun to be back racing but also back racing well! Me and Neah pretty much won everything between us and so after the disappointment of Worlds it was a good confidence boost. We also went exploring and saw a lot of the hot spots of Hong Kong, courtesy of my “Top 10 things to do in HK” book and also a lot of persuading Neah to join me! She had a lot of fun though too I’m sure of it.

Me and Neah Evans at Hong Kong 6 day

After HK 6day there was Manchester 6 day (also only 3 days) where I paired up with Laura Kenny. I wasn’t on the best form and neither was she, but we had a lot of fun racing together and came away with the win in the Madison Elimination race. I always think that’s one of the hardest races to win, because it’s all about strength, technique, change timing and skill so you can’t just have the strongest legs on the day! Unfortunately I couldnt make it over to Brisbane, Australia for the 6 day Final, so that was the end of the track racing for a bit.

This year I really wanted to still be able to race on the road, but I didnt want the stress or commitment of being part of a big womens team. My sister joined RST/Cycledivision racing team last year and after chatting with Jonny Towers who owns the team, I decided to sign up to. There was only 4 girls riding for the team but it was honestly one of the most fun road seasons I’ve had!

Josie Nelson, Emily Nelson, Alice Towers, Phoebe Martin
(left to right)

I started off by throwing myself in at the deep end and racking East Klondike GP. It was so hilly and I was just not ready at all. I only lasted about 2hrs of the 3hr race. I’d had a massive shock to the system, but now I knew how high the level was and what to expect. I did a localish National Team Series race and finished 14th, but then rode home making it nearly a 6hr day. I really wanted to get the miles in and try and step up to a decent level, so me and my sister (Josie) booked a bit of a training camp to Croatia and trained in the mountains there for a week. It was such good fun and something we are already planning again for 2020!

Me and my sister Josie near Split, Croatia

The first road race up after our camp was the Midlands Regional Road Race Championships. Regions wise I fall under West Midlands, but we also raced with the East Midlands to up the numbers. This was the first road race I got to do with my little sis (Josie) and so we were both excited for some team tactics! There was a decent climb each lap which caused some hurt and ended up splitting the race to pieces. Josie came up to me and said she was attacking up the climb because she felt good and did I want to come with her…. umm no thankyou my little mountain goat I’m quite alright hanging onto the peloton! So she attacked and others tried to go with her but they couldn’t. In the end there was about 6 of us left in the bunch plus Josie up front. It was a bit far out to the finish and she blew, but I countered her move (on a downhill like the trackie I am) and got away with another rider. We stayed away til the finish and I outsprinted her for my first road race win!! Josie came 2nd in her bunch sprint but the rider I was with was from the East Midlands region, so we both ended up on our respective Regional podium!

CICLE classic was up next. A notoriously hard race with off road sectors, lots of hills and a flat/rolling finishing circuit. It would be my 2nd National series race after my shocking first one and I was super nervous. I was aiming to make it half way in the bunch…that was my goal. After an early crash, a 2hr stop and then a restart with a slightly shortened race (80km instead of 100km), we were off. I actually felt very confident the whole race. It was super wet and slippy conditions, made even more difficult by the off road sectors and the steep descents. But my Scott Foil handled like a dream and I actually made it to the finish in the main bunch! I positioned myself well for the sprint and just got round everyone at the end! WOW what a shock that was! It was my biggest road win of my career and felt so good to show everyone that I am more than just a Track rider!

Winning CICLE Classic 2019

Next on my calendar was the National Road Championships and it was the longest race I’ve ever done at over 140km! I knew it was going to be a long, hard race and weather conditions meant that it was super hot and super windy. Fuelling  hydration and positioning in the cross winds played an important part in the race as a whole and I was pleased with my execution. I finished 12th with 4 riders off the front and on am uphill sprint, so more than I expected! I’d felt strong the whole race and had the last 500m been an actual sprint rather than a tight and twisty uphill, I think I’d have finished higher. I’ve only raced 2x Elite road nationals (2017 and this year) and both of them I’ve finished 12th! Let’s see if I can improve on that next year haha!

I took my well deserved off season after road nationals. I say off season but it was only 5 days long, nothing like some riders have! The way the road and track seasons are, it’s so hard to get a long break and get results. I spent my break at my families holiday home in Brittany, France with my Parents and 2 of my siblings. It was great mentally for the head to get away and spend some time in a little bubble! I took my bike out with me and did some training after my 5 days off, but mostly I spend some much needed quality time with my family to rest and reset for the coming track season.

Me and my sisters training on our family holiday in France

Before the track races began I had one final road race. It was a sister event to the CICLE Classic, so for the first time ever I went into a road race as the favourite and that made me very nervous! It was a long race, just short of 4hrs and included lots of sprints. Some of them were for money and some for points towards the sprints competition. I got myself a bit muddled and couldn’t remember which was which so ended up sprinting for them all. Out of the 6 sprints I won 4 of them and was 2nd in the other 2. That meant I won a decent amount of sprint primes and the overall Queen of the Castle sprints competition! The last 15km or so of the race was very difficult. Everyone started attacking and counter attacking and being a 1 man band I was covering everything to stay at the front of the race and make sure it was a bunch sprint. Up the last climb I was losing the wheel infront of me. It was Josie Knight and she was absolutely flying up the hill. I was hanging on for dear life, but still couldn’t quite hold the wheel. It was only a couple of bike lengths and when we got to the top I looked around holing someone would jump across and I could grab a lift, except there was about 5 of is left. She had completely split the field which made for an interesting sprint finish! I ended up on the front with about 1km to go, but paced myself, held position and when others opened up the sprint I went for it too. I got my bike infront and held out to the finish to make it my 3rd road win of the season! I was super chuffed after all the pressure I had felt going into it.
The next day was the Team Time Trial which I rode with my sister Josie Nelson, Alice Towers and Phoebe Martin. Alice and Josie were both only on junior gears and we were racing teams of 4 elite riders who had lots of experience and some of them Time trial specialists! However  we rode superbly as a team, and the young girls spun round the super fast course and we finished just ahead of 2nd place. 2 wins from 2 that weekend for RST/Cycle Division racing team !!

On the podium at Bourne Cicle having won

Finally, the weather turned and the track season begin. I started off racing Poland GP and having surprising form! I was 3rd in the Omnium, 2nd in the Madison (with Laura Kenny) and 2nd in the Scratch race after a young dutch rider timed a lap perfectly and I was best of the rest in the bunch sprint. I had a really good weekend of racing and made selection for the European Championships and the first World Cup in Minsk, Belarus.

Me and Laura Kenny at Poland GP

Unfortunately, a week before euros I was ill and missed about 6 days training. I was super gutted and sure I’d loose all my form. I was pulled out of the Team Pursuit line up and given the Scratch race and later the Elimination race as a bit of a “sorry you’re missing TP”. In the days running up to the Scratch race I was flying on the track. I was sat on our Mens TP squad, on my upright bike and sticking with them as they tocked around at world record pace! I felt really good and it showed with 2 medals! I won the Scratch race to become European champion, by leading the sprint out from about 6laps to go, as there was a group away that needed to be brought back. I sat on the front and no one came past me and I couldn’t believe it! The next day was the Elimination race and after the high of yesterday I was buzzing to try and get another medal. The Gold wasnt to be as I came head to head with the Current World champion in the Omnium, Madison and Points race- Kirsten Wild. She lead the final sprint out and I couldnt quite get round her at the end. To be a double European medalist though was super special for me and showed me that I still have the track legs. After the disappointment of 2019 Track Worlds, I felt for sure I wasnt good enough and I should pack the track in, but this showed me to keep fighting! I love bunch racing and this was that confidence boost I needed.

The look of pure shock and happiness having been crowned European Scratch race Champion

My last 2 events of 2019 were the London 6 day and Minsk World cup. They were consecutive weekends and straight after Euros, so a lot of racing in such a short time! I raced London with my longest cycling friend Manon Lloyd and we had an absolute blast together!! On the first night I finished 2nd in the Omniun and then we turned to the Madison events where we ended up with 3rd in them all, lining us up perfectly for a podium finish! The crowds in london were amazing and it makes the racing so much fun! Racing for enjoyment rather than the pressure of performance is always a nice change too and something I look forward to in the 6 day events!

Me and Manon after finishing 3rd at London 6 day

At Minsk World Cup I raced the Team Pursuit, Madison with Laura Kenny and the Scratch race (in my European stars!!). I didnt have the best of legs that weekend and was super disappointed. We were 5th in the Team Pursuit, I was 4th in the Scratch race and then me and Laura finished 2nd in the Madison. The Madison was my best event and it showed in the result. We lined up sprints well and got a lap with a couple of other teams. We finished behing the World Champions and took and well deserved Silver medal.

Me and Laura on the podium with our silver medals from the Madison at Minsk World Cup

The following week I flew to Paris for my birthday weekend and had a super fun time exploring! It was only 2 days off the bike, and instead I was trekking around Paris, but it was a nice change of scene especially after such a heavy month of track racing!

Me with the Arc de Triomphe

I thought that was it for 2019, but last minute I got a call up to race 4 jours de Genevé with the GB U23 girls as they were a rider short and there were Madison events! Of course I said yes and ended up having a really great time! The first day was an Omnium, which I was super chuffed to win and then the next 3 days were a mixture of different Madison events: team flying lap, team Elimination, team scratch to name a few, as well as individual races where I got to race in my European Champion skinsiot for the Scratch race! I won that race too which felt really good, especially with the pressure that the jersey brings. For the Madison events I teamed up with Jenny Holl and we worked really well as a pairing, winning most of the races, with a few 2nd and 3rds! This meant that we won the event overall and were crowned 4 jours de Genève Female Team winners! A good way to end my racing for 2019!

Me in my European Champs Skinsuit after winning the Scratch race at 4 Jours de Genevé
Me and Jenny Holl winning 4 Jours de Geneve

I have some exciting news for 2020 so stay tuned for a new blog update! Wishing everyone a Happy New Year x