After a great start to the early season Team WNT has now moved on to its key target for the year, the Matrix Fitness GP, which forms part of the Pearl Izumi Tour Series. Consisting of five rounds over five weeks the Matrix Fitness GP tests riders over short, super-fast, town centre circuits, with each race having a 45 minute duration. The high speed action attracts huge crowds and those unable to attend can catch the highlights on ITV4 the night after the event.
Round One took place in Redditch and featured an extremely tough circuit with a really long drag of a climb. Team WNT was made up of Lydia Boylan, Charline (Cha) Joiner, Jo Tindley, Brit Tate and Hannah Walker. While a very strong team on paper it was weakened slightly as it was an opportunity for Jo to return to competitive riding after her broken ankle and Hannah is still recovering from the trauma of donating bone marrow earlier in the season. It was good to see strong performance from both of them proving that their recovery is on schedule, and these races are part of that recovery process to help them hone their fitness.
With 80 riders in the field crashes were inevitable and unfortunately Jo was caught up in one of these and her lack of race fitness distanced her from the front group. Hannah also had a difficult start, but made great progress working her way through the field. The rest of Team WNT, Brit, Cha and Lydia worked well together in the front group, with Lydia attacking and leading the field on her own! Lydia was eventually caught by the chasing group, but still finished in seventh place, with teammate Cha close behind in ninth in what was a very fast finish. These results put Team WNT in third place overhaul on the night, a very respectable position for the team’s first outing in the Matrix GP tour series race
Maintaining the momentum the Team was very busy the next weekend taking advantage of the gap between the first and second round of the Matrix Fitness GP (GP tour series are mid-week, either on a Tuesday or Thursday evening). Resources were spread to take in two races with Sports Director Rick taking a Brit, Lydia, Cha and Lauryn Therin to the Milk Race in Nottingham, while Team Manager Marcus took Jo, Hannah, Sam Burman, Rose Osborne and Becca Carter to the highly respected Banbury Star Road Race.
The start line up for the milk race read like a Who’s Who of ladies cycling and was full of Olympic and World Champions. Team WNT was unlucky to miss the winning break, but Cha did a great job of leading Lydia, who lives in Nottingham, into the finish. Thanks to this teamwork Lydia won the sprint to take eighth place overall with Cha hot on her heals in ninth. Both riders were disappointed to have missed the initial break, but were happy that they had done all they could to minimise the damage by leading the chasers home.
Down in Banbury it was another great example of teamwork as the Jo, Sam, Rose and Becca did a great job working for Hannah to set her up for the finish. Renowned for its steep climb this Banbury course really splits the race, and it was here that reigning National Series champion Nikki Juniper made her race winning move, taking Annabel Fisher with her. At this point Hannah couldn't quite go with Nikki's attack but did manage a terrific effort to take second in the sprint to the line and fourth overall. A result that is a much needed confidence boost and confirmed that her form is returning. This weekend of racing was the perfect preparation and everyone was excited ahead of the next round of the Matrix Fitness GP series in Motherwell, Scotland.
With only a two day rest the team was set up and ready to go in Motherwell with the same group as for the first race (Lydia, Jo, Cha, Brit and Hannah) taking to the start line. With the circuit at Motherwell being a high speed, sweeping, one with only one small climb, it was imperative that the team stayed near the front, a plan which worked perfectly from the start. As the race progressed both Jo and Hannah slipped back to a chasing second group, while Pearl Izumi's Katie Archibald made the race winning move at half distance. In the meantime Hannah pulled into the pits with a flat rear tyre (the rules allow you to change a wheel in the event of a puncture and re-join the race where you were so after a quick change she was back with the lead chasing group), The challenge now was to chase down Katie Archibald, a chase doomed to failure as Katie went on to win. Therefore the chase was on for minor placings and Lydia attacked out of the last corner going for second place, but she was just caught at the line by Nikki Juniper and National Crit champion Eileen Roe, but still came in to a very good fourth place overall, backed up by Hannah and Cha who both achieved top 15 positions and boosted the Team’s standing in the series. Team WNT is now Third overall in the team standings with Lydia third overall in the individual. “These results continue to give encouragement as the season progresses and our main aim is maintain or improve our team and individual positions in the remaining Matrix GP series races,” says Marcus Nainby.