When Jen Taylor won the Scottish women’s road race championships in Mid-may, up in Aberdeenshire, I recognised her name but that was about it. She has now just competed in the National Road Race Championships in Glasgow, so here is a belated hat-tip to Scotland’s women’s champion.
By all accounts the Scottish championships was a well-run event, put on by Phil Allan and was ‘enjoyed’ (if that is the right word) by the riders. The organiser, freshly taking on a big event such as this has enough on their plate, but I’d hoped for a wee bit more coverage leading up to and after the race. Scottish Cycling’s publicity output has increased noticeably in the past weeks and months with reference to our champions and other races and results, but leading up to the event there was not a huge amount of information available.
Ed and Martin at Velo Veritas paid good attention to the day, the course and the men’s race and ran an interview with winner Gary Hand. My mind was turning over about the women’s race though – who was the winner who had beaten several full time athletes and a few pros – Jennifer Taylor.
Much of the Scottish cycling scene is about volunteering – often get more out of it, the more you put in. As I mentioned in my preview piece, the women’s scene is growing but still needs a leg-up if it is to achieve parity with the men’s I contacted Jen to find out more about her riding.
Originally from Tamworth in the Midlands, Jen, 27, moved to Scotland in 2011 for her work as a Safety Engineering Consultant, and was inspired by work colleagues to get into cycling, having not really ridden a bike since the age of 15. Jen found an immediate love of cycling and enjoyment of extended evening and weekend rides led to her completing 95 miles in the Pedal for Scotland sportive. Jen knew she wanted to pursue it more seriously in 2012 but a winter of travelling and work commitments meant that she didn’t get back on the saddle until March.
Her first races, the Lake APR and the Lang Whang hilly TT were in her own words, “eye openers” but although she claims she finished nearly last in both, she loved the experience. Here Jen’s combination of modesty and confidence are revealed, because a mutual friend who was also at the event described her time as decent for someone new to the bike and was impressed by her friendly, outward-going demeanour – not always typical for a complete newcomer to the Scottish cycling scene.
She set about building base fitness with long-distance sportives, and although undeterred by a difficult ride in the Scottish Road Race Championships (dropped on lap 1, she was a minute from being lapped and crossed the line as the medals were being presented), she decided not to enter another race until she was much fitter.
Scotland’s clubs are usually the best route to develop race fitness and skills and the inclusive West Lothian Clarion welcomed her in and helped her along with club runs and weekly 10’s, while the Pedal Power chaingang provided the speed work.
Riders with a good amount of natural ability tend to improve rapidly and so it was with Jen, ‘denting a few male egos’, I’m told, on the chaingang and posting better times in the time trials she entered towards the end of the season. She finished 2nd in the Ivy CC Ladies Road Race and won the women’s category in the Tour de Trossachs TT (above). This improvement, and her enthusiasm, seemed to feed off one another: “I just didn’t want the season to end, so then entered the hill climbs” she told me. The base and build-up work was paying off and she won the women’s prize at Logie Kirk (below), Kingscavil and Scottish Championship hill climbs.
Gregor Russell of Velo Ecosse lent training advice, a TT bike and lightweight wheels for the hill climbs and in November asked Jen to join Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers. She describes this as a hard decision as she had made lasting friends at the Clarion and had enjoyed doing well for them. I saw this generosity of spirit repaid recently at the 2013 British national championships in Glasgow, where several West Lothian Clarion members tweeted their support for Jen.
Jen’s 2013 winter build-up was blighted by illness – we’ve all been there – as soon as you think you have shaken off a cold and get back into training, another one comes along, or maybe it was the same one rearing it’s ugly head? I detected a sense of pressure to perform for her new team as Jen told me of her embarrassment at being dropped on Velo Ecosse runs during this time.
As the season approached her desire to get back into competition with the Tour of the Meldons TT, and new lightweight bike boosted her confidence as did a winning ride, despite the tail-end of yet another cold and torrential rain, gales and gusts.
2nd behind Julie Erskine in the Glasgow Wheelers CC women’s RR (above), a 25TT personal best and a silver medal behind Jay Burgess in the Scottish 10 champs followed. Jen described herself as chuffed with these results and her racing form as better than expected, but the anxiety of colds and illness that all racing cyclists must suffer is also apparent. When you are new to the sport, and especially when you are doing well, you don’t want to stop and it can lead to overdoing things, but Jen seems very aware of the need to rest and kick the bugs into touch. However, leading up to the Scottish champs up in Aberdeenshire she still had her head in a basin of Vick’s, and was nervous about her form.
The race is over a month past now and unfortunately it feels too long after the event to recap Jen’s race. I am a long way from a master tactician but she seems to have played it well, the right balance of caution and ambition – covering some attacks from Breast Cancer Care, having a dig herself but not wasting energy when a break failed to be established.
She has clearly learnt and retained a huge amount in the few road races she has done, with comments like: “the hill before the descent into Auchleven, I had planned to push on up this and make an attack if I could … I knew Julie Erskine was a strong climber and would put in a big effort [on the Suie]…we got a gap… we had to work together and go for it! ”
Jen and Julie Erskine stayed away on the descent and the few miles to the finish and she was shocked, surprised but happy to win the 2-up sprint.
I’ll leave the last word to Jen, her enthusiasm are a breath of fresh air. Well done on your 2013 Scottish women’s championship win.
I am so surprised to have done so well already. I am so thankful to everyone who has helped me: for the constant encouragement from friends in the Clarion, such a great club; my place of work, ARC Ltd, who have offered to sponsor me; all the generous people who put themselves forward to organise and marshal the events; and last but not least, a huge thanks to Gregor Russell, who has given me bags of support (and patience!) and coaching advice. He has also made it possible for me to ride on top notch kit: Giant bike with Shimano, Mavic wheels, Continental tubs, Fizik saddle and Rudy Project helmet and glasses. I have to thank the team sponsors too, predominantly Montpeliers and Harley Hadrow for their support and subsidisation for the racing. And of course my fantastic team mates!
Images of 2013 Scottish women’s road race championships courtesy of Denise Raikkonen