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Abi Smith journal: riding head-first into off season

Rider journals 2021: Abi Smith #06/November

Abi Smith and nine other cyclists have been keeping rider journals for The British Continental in 2021. First-year senior Abi joined Team TIBCO – SVB mid-season and will continue her journey with them next year as they transform into EF Education-TIBCO-SVB in 2022. In her final post, Abi reviews an eventful end to her season…

There are many ways to end the season, some good, some bad, and some rather dramatic. I think mine very possibly falls into the latter of these categories, and you’ll all be glad to hear there are numerous pictures and videos of my spectacularly embarrassing finish / front flip over the line if you haven’t already seen it on national live television. All I’ll say is I’m glad I crossed the line before crashing into the barriers! 

Since my last time of writing I have continued to have a pretty packed schedule of racing: 

  • The Rás Na mBan in Ireland: 2nd on GC, 1 x Stage win and 3 x 2nd places.
  • The Curlew Cup: I managed to take the win and National Road Series win overall.
  • The Women’s Tour: 7th in the ITT, 16th on GC and helping my teammate to take the sprints jersey.
  • And finally to the National TT, Circuit and Road Race Championships in Lincoln – 3rd in the U23 Women’s TT and 2nd in the Circuit Race. 

I had planned to do the road race the following Sunday – what a perfect story it would have been if I had been able to go from bronze to silver to gold! But yes, due to my eagerness and evidently pretty poor cornering ability, I overcooked the final bend on the sprint for second in the Crit and ended up in the barriers just after the finish line. It was clear afterward from photos and symptoms, that I had hit my head on the floor and had a concussion. Although symptoms were fairly mild, at this point it was sensible to phone the doctor, take advice, and for once be cautious.

Even I will not ignore all the signs that lie across the road in front of me saying ‘STOP’!

At this point in the year, two days before I planned to take a rest period anyway, it was clear that it was best to quit while I was ahead. As disappointing and frustrating as it was not to be able to do the road race, why start when I might (a) not finish anyway if symptoms got worse and (b) put other riders at risk if I wasn’t able to concentrate properly or passed out of something. Maybe I would have been fine, maybe I would have ridden the best race of my life, who knows. But even I will not ignore all the signs that lie across the road in front of me saying ‘STOP’! 

Picture by Craig Zadoroznyj/SWpix.com – 26/09/2021 – Cycling – HSBC UK National Road Series – Beaumont Trophy 2021 – Abi Smith of Team TIBCO SVB (1st Place) celebrates on the podium of the Curlew Cup

And what a race to finish things on anyway! A nocturne crit around the cobbled streets of Lincoln, crowds roaring along the sidelines and what appeared to be thousands of cowbells rattling so loudly that I couldn’t even hear the bell on the final lap. I felt strong, raced as best as I could and most of all enjoyed ripping things up… apart from the barriers at the end, that wasn’t so fun. It feels good to end the season on a high at a race like that. Rewarding. Satisfying. I didn’t feel that my legs were going very well in the TT the day before, so it was nice that they decided to join me for one final show. And going all the way back to my first journal in January, in which I quote: ‘I intend to hit 100W more by this time next year’, I am pleased to inform you that my powers, and in this case, peak powers, have been gradually increasing all year and I would like to say I am on track to do so when we next do power testing. In this final race, I was really pleased with these powers and how I felt throughout – always nice to finish that way, which makes me even more excited and determined for next year.

This season has been pretty epic, and it has all come so quickly. The only races I had in April were the local CTT time trials, and six months later I’m almost spoilt for choice with major championship and World Tour debuts

This season has been pretty epic, and it has all come so quickly. The only races I had in April were the local CTT time trials, and six months later I’m almost spoilt for choice with major championship and World Tour debuts. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved so far, but of course always aiming higher and wanting more. Perhaps I also need to learn a little patience and realise that it won’t all come at once. These things take time to master – but I have the time – to learn, to get stronger, to function in a team, work as a domestique, to balance life and bikes, and to enjoy the process. I do look forward to next season, but was definitely in need of some time off. This season felt just two weeks too long for me, and I was in need of a rest with a few races still to go. 

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com – 07/10/2021 – Cycling – AJ Bell Women’s Tour of Britain – Stage Four: Shoeburyness to Southend-on-Sea, England – Marta Bastianelli of Team Alé BTC Ljubljana, Elena Cecchini of Team SD Worx and Abi Smith of Team TIBCO Silicon Valley Bank of the front of the peloton

I have had a lovely time in my off season, which has doubled up as time off to recover from the concussion. Spending time in the Lake District to relax and switch off the mind (and switch off the phone), as well as walking and painting and spending time at home, has been just what was needed. But now I am already eager to get back on the bike. First though I must be careful around my concussion and take things cautiously, as I am still recovering. I’m not sure how long things will take to be totally back to normal, but fingers are crossed – I’ll see you in ’22! 

Featured photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com – 15/10/2021 – British Cycling – HSBC UK National Road Championships – Lincoln, England – Elite Women’s Circuit Race – Abi Smith of Team TIBCO Silicon Valley Bank

Find out more

Abi Smith journal #5: track success and a WorldTour debut

Abi Smith journal #4: crème de la crit and CiCLE success

Abi Smith journal #3: return of the time trial

Abi Smith journal #2: the art of rest and recuperation

Abi Smith journal #1: new starts

Rider journals 2021: introducing Abi Smith

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