Features Journals

Flora Perkins journal: lessons from the school of racing

Journals 2022: Flora Perkins #02

18-year-old Flora Perkins is one of our eight journal contributors in 2022. In her second entry, the Le Col-Wahoo rider reflects on an intense period of learning from her first block of racing at the highest level.

I write this sat in Brussels airport. A couple of hours ago I crossed the finish line in Liège, having finished my last race of a three-week racing block in Belgium. It was a good race, perhaps one of my best performances yet. After a hotly contested half-hour of attacks, I made it into the early break of four. It felt good to be out front, exciting. I even managed to sweep up a prize in a prime sprint at the top of the first classified climb.

Our breakaway group was eventually caught by the main bunch on the Col de Rosier. I pushed to stay in the group, but as the decisive move of eight broke away the pace soared and the elastic was snapped. I drifted back into a grupetto and eventually rolled in OTL (out of time limit).

I’ve definitely learned that the results sheet can be a poor indicator of performance or of how well a rider has fulfilled their role for the team

I’m still coming to terms with seeing an OTL on the results sheet. I’d be lying if it sits entirely comfortably. However, I’ve definitely learned that the results sheet can be a poor indicator of performance or of how well a rider has fulfilled their role for the team.

Photo: Bastien Gason

It’s been a pretty hectic month out here in Belgium. I’ve lined up for a whole bunch of different types of races.

I’ve crashed, attacked, and led out. I had different roles; sometimes positioning, sometimes being part of the lead out, sometimes protecting a sprinter, and sometimes getting in the early break

I’ve raced on the cobbles of Roubaix, the hills of the Ardennes and the pan-flat terrain of Scheldeprijs. I’ve crashed, attacked, and led out. I had different roles; sometimes positioning, sometimes being part of the lead out, sometimes protecting a sprinter, and sometimes getting in the early break. I’ve also enjoyed racing as a part of a team with specific team roles, something I didn’t get much chance to do as a youth or junior. Amongst all that, I was trying to squeeze in revision where I could.

Le Col-Wahoo rents a house in Flanders for the classics season that staff and riders are able to stay in. This has been brilliant because it not only reduces travel time but allows us to get to know each other well – almost too well! It also allowed me to do reconnaissance of courses so that I had a better idea of what I was in for.

It’s perhaps not the most exciting, but one area that I think I have improved in the most is fuelling. My first race for the team was Omloop Van Het Hageland, back in February. It was fast and hectic on tiny roads. And I couldn’t eat. I didn’t want to take my hands off the handlebars, let alone reach into my back pocket to grab a gel. But, by the end of my time away, I’ve definitely got a better handle on fuelling. As much of a plug as this sounds, the team-supplied Sanas products have really helped with this. Their stuff tastes good, so I don’t struggle to motivate myself to eat. I also practised fuelling well around races, recovering well post-race and also making sure I arrived at the race with full carbohydrate reserves. 

Photo: Bastien Gason

A saying that gets passed around a lot in cycling is ‘work smart not hard’. Perhaps this is one of the biggest takeaways from this block. If played right, little moments in the corners, descents, and climbs can all add up to help you conserve energy so that you arrive at the key moments fresher and more able to act and react, and ultimately it enables you to do your job better. This wasn’t quite so important when I raced across shorter distances, but in these longer races, it can be decisive. This, I’m sure, will come with time and experience as I get more comfortable in the bunch and pick up the feel of the races.

For now, I’ll press pause on “pinning on the numbers” and enjoy racing from the comfort of my sofa

I plan to take a couple of days off once I get back just to debrief from it all and try to reset. After that, I’ll head into a block of training. I made the decision at the start of the year that these next couple of months in the run-up to – and during – exams, I wouldn’t race but would instead focus on revision and training. This creates more time to work but also removes the distractions that come with preparing for a race and the logistics it involves. And so, for now, I’ll press pause on “pinning on the numbers” and enjoy racing from the comfort of my sofa. In between all that super serious studying, of course!

Featured photo: Bastien Gason

Find out more

Flora Perkins journal #01: the five best things about team training camp

Journals 2022: introducing… Flora Perkins

Follow Flora on Twitter.

Follow Flora on Instagram.