Peloton Watch
  Annasley Park: 2016 Season Race Diary  
  December 1st 2016 By Annasley Park  
  Annasley Park celebrates winning Redditch round of the Matrix Fitness GP Series. Photo: SweetSpot  
  My season started a little bit later than what I wanted it to, due to injuries and niggles. However, I started to overcome these injuries and focus on the racing scene. I did a few races such as Tour of the Reservoir, Tour De Yorkshire and Lincoln GP to see where the form was at and get me back into the swing of racing. Carrying on from this, our next target was the Tour Series. I love racing the criterium series, as it's fast, technical and hard racing.

The first round was at Motherwell. I liked this circuit as it had a nice drag that to the finish that would allow a break to form. Alice Barnes attacked quite early, in which I had to react quite fast due to two other strong riders (Nikki Juniper and Eileen Roe) chasing the attack. We managed to get together as a four and work to stay away from the rest of the peloton. I took a second and third in the sprints and got piped on the line to take fourth.

We went into the second round (Redditch) second team. I was also in the sprinters jersey as Alice and Eileen didn't participate. I was really looking forward to this race, as the terrain suited me and I also had my family come and support. The races started off quite steady and a few attacks went but nothing stayed. Again, I placed myself towards the front, followed any dangerous moves and stayed out of trouble. The race lulled a little a lap before the sprint lap and Nikki had had a mechanical. I saw this as my chance to make a move and see what happened. I didn't think I had much left in the tank, but I went and just told myself not to look back until I got caught.

I used the descent to recover and when you are on your own you can carry the speed and best line in and out of the corners. Every lap I looked at my coach (Chris Newton) for information. I think with about three laps to go I heard him say I had a 40 second lead. I had to keep digging in until I crossed the finish line. I could also hear my parents, boyfriend and friends from Hereford cheering that spurred me on. I went up the climb for the final time and couldn't see anyone behind me. It was great to get my hands in the air and keep the sprinters jersey too. We also got best team on the night and stayed in second place in the team rakings.

Next up, Stoke On Trent. I did this one a couple of years ago as my first Tour Series and got lapped, so I didn't have great memories from this course. However, they had put an extra loop in this year, which made it a little more technical. I managed to get two second places in the sprint laps and the pack had whittled down to about nine. With two laps to go I thought I would sit at the back and try and attack on the last lap from the back and see how far I would get. But on the second to last lap I took too much speed going into the bottom corner and hit the tarmac. That was game over for me in that race. I thought I had broken my elbow, so panic set in. All that was going through my head was not being able to compete at the Women's Tour. Luckily the X-rays showed I had nothing broken. Few!! A couple of days of R&R and I was back on my bike.

Aviva Women's Tour - To be selected to represent Great Britain in a World Tour race was a dream for me. I watched the Aviva Women's Tour on TV last year and said to myself how brilliant it would be if one day I could race in it. I was super excited and nervous to be racing against the best in the world over five days. It was incredibly tough racing and one that challenged me in many ways. There were moments were it mentally challenged me, but every day was a step forward. I was there to learn and gain as much experience as possible and every day brought new situations that I hadn't come across before.

Having home crowds watching and family/ friends shouting from the sidelines made it that bit more special. Emma came up to me on one of the days and she said, "Annasley, did you see that big banner with your name on it?" I was in too much of a box to look up. It was fantastic having such great and supportive teammates too.

Nationals were my next biggest goal. Coming out of the Women's Tour I was tired but in good form. The time trial was the first race. It was a great course, but also a tough course. I enjoyed the race, but unfortunately didn't get the result I wanted. I felt that I really needed to do well in the road race. We looked at the course as a team and I was pleased with the course. It was undulating and fast. I knew where potential breaks could go, so I had to be on it and be at the top end of the race. There were incredibly strong riders that were going to dominate the race, so there was no switching off at ay point. We started off with a few small attacks going, but not getting away.

Then we turned right onto a narrow lane and up a power climb. This was where I knew moves would be made. A few times up that people tried to make a break, but again nothing stuck. Then on the last big lap Dani King and Nikki Harris made a break for it. I managed to get on the back of the move along with ten others. We worked together to stay away and catch Sarah Storey who was up the road. There were lots of counter attacks within the break, but nothing went away from the break. It came down to a bunch sprint, but I just didn't have the legs to go with it. I managed to get tenth. I was very pleased with my race!

Thüringen-Rundfahrt – I was so nervous for this race. It was the longest UCI stage race I had done so far in my career, against the best in the world. The terrain was relentless and the pace was full on from the start. I got caught in a crash the first day, but managed to make it in the first group. It took it out of me a little, but I had to forget about it and focus for the next day. I had great teamies that always kept the mood and motivation high. Towards the end of the week I was racing on anything I had left. I was determined to finish each stage and play as much of a team role as I could so Alice could stay in the young leaders jersey. I was in a complete box by the end, but I was relieved to finish such a hard race.

I was very excited for National Crit Champs! I love crit racing and really wanted to do well in this. The course was fast and had a nice little power climb in it, but it wasn't demanding in regards to technicality. It started off quite fast. A few moves went but nothing really got away. The pace then settled mid race and Claire Rose drove it on the front for quite a bit of the race. I tried to make a break myself, but quickly got pulled back. We all had our eyes on certain riders, so any dangerous moves never got away. I knew it would come down to a sprint finish. My sprint isn't that great, but positioning was key. I got onto a good wheel, but unfortunately wasn't able to deliver the result I was hoping for. I was gutted to get sixth, but with every disappointment come new opportunities to reflect on performance and learn.

Ride London – The Prudential Ride London race was a fantastic race last year and I knew it would be another great race this year. Racing against world class teams, in the middle of London... Ace! It was fast from the gun. I got into a few early moves at the start and kept towards the front. The streets were packed with people and the support all the way through the race was electric. There were few tight spots on the course and switchbacks, which made the race that bit harder/challenging. However, it also made it that bit more exciting and nerve racking too. There was a crash on the finishing straight, which I narrowly avoided to finish 36th. I enjoyed every moment of that race!

Finally onto the two biggest races of my career. First out of the two was Europeans, which was held in Plumelec. This was a hard, wearing down course. We started off with a neutral half lap. This was a bit chaotic as there were a few crashes to dodge. I could feel the tension, but once we were released the race got going. My job was to protect Alice Barnes and make sure she was in every major move. She was in good form to get that u23 title, so I was determined to do everything I could as a domestique. The first four and a half laps were pretty good.

However, disaster struck when Alice came down. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to get back on her bike. By this point there was only Abby-Mae Parkinson and myself left in the race for GB. I went back to the GB car to ask what was going on and what I should do. I was told to do the best I could and that I was racing for myself. I had burnt out most of matches by this point, so I just tried to hang on till the very end. I was happy with how I raced this race and I leant a lot from it. I thought that that was my racing season over. But this wasn't to be. I was told that I was going to be one of eight riders to be selected to go to the World Road Race Champs in Doha. EAK!

Doha, here I come. I was so happy to have the opportunity to race not only in Doha, but also to race against the worlds best with the 2015 World Road Race Champ (Lizzie Deignan) as our captain. We got there and goodness the heat was something else. On average it was about 39 degrees, so not the typical weather conditions I am used to racing in.

We had about five days to get used to the heat and get the legs spinning before race day. The daily ritual was to be weighed before we went on the bikes and after we finished to make sure we were keeping hydrated. It took its toll on us after a while… Race day came around pretty quickly. I was so nervous and when I get nervous I go quite. However, most of the girls in the team are bubbly, love to play music and have a chinwag. This gave me a bit of a distraction and not think too much into the race. We had these amazing energy ice slushies and ice vests to keep us cool.

Then, it was time to hit the battlefield. My job was to cover any early moves and dangerous attacks. Nothing really went for ages. Luckily we had radios, so we could communicate to the car and between each other. I stayed towards the front for a lot of the race. I found myself speaking to Lizzie before Vos made her attack. I chased it down, before bridging across to another attack. I thought I had nothing left, but about ten minutes later I had to chase down another attack. I managed to get it and we got caught. Dani King made a big move too, so our job was to sit towards the front and cover anything that tried to chase her down.

In the last two laps I was hanging on and using anything I had left in the tank. The race picked with about half a lap to go and my legs just couldn't go with it. I crossed the finish line and all I wanted to do was sit down and get a cold drink. That I got, FEW! We rode back to the hotel and got some well earned grub down us. We were over the moon with fourth from Lizzie and the whole team performance.

Overall, I think it's fair to say it's been a pretty big learning curve all round this year for me. Completing two WorldTour races, four UCI races, getting a Tour Series win, a top ten the National Road Race Champs and competing in at the European and World Road Race Championships. If someone were to have said that to me at the start of the year, I would have said they were dreaming. Especially after an injury prone winter. I'm looking forward to getting stuck into my winter training now and see what next year brings.

I have recently announced that I am an ambassador for For Rangers. This is an amazing charity, which is very close to my heart. This charity works to train rangers to the top level, providing equipment and technology so that they can protect our greatest mammals in Africa and Asia from extinction. I am very excited and privileged to be working with this charity and I hope that people will take a couple of minutes out of their day to read more about what For Rangers do and how they can support them. You can follow For Rangers on Twitter and Facebook.
 © 2016