Anna Glowinski threw caution to the wind and decided to enter the newly launched Parkour Ride. As one of only two girls to enter, her performance certainly did us proud. Find out how she got on...
A couple of days before the big Parkour Ride event, a new concept from the bringers of the London Nocturne, FACE Partnership, I was emailed and asked if I could ride in the "Pro" category.
The thing about this, is that I am not a Professional bike rider. I may be a sponsored rider thanks to the work I have done on the profile of women's cycling and on TV, but I have a full time job and just like everyone else, have to find time to ride my bike. The other thing is that I am a woman. Without separate male and female categories, I must admit, I felt like I would make a bit of an idiot of myself. But of course, I did what I always do, and said yes.
Parkour Ride was to be a race in a multi-story car park that included a bit of going up, a few obstacles and 7 storeys of descending. Although there was a map of the course online, the whole thing was bit of a mystery to everyone going and that was, I feel, part of its intrigue. Their hashtag #chooseyourweapon was borne from the idea that it was a race that was open to all bike disciplines and even up to 15 minutes before I left my house I was dithering over which bike to bring. I settled upon my Mongoose jump bike and BMX.
When I arrived I was ushered to the "Pro" riders pits and found myself amongst the likes of Liam Phillips and David Millar. I signed on with the only other female comrade, my friend and the hero that is Manon Carpenter who is currently flying the World Downhill Champion Rainbow Stripes. When I was called up by the commentator and saw the crowd at the start line I felt totally out of my depth and awfully embarrassed.
We got given one sighting lap and then a qualifying lap as a time trial. We would all qualify no matter what time we put down but it was important to see how fast we could go. I had chosen my jump bike and put on clipped in SPD pedals. I was so nervous I felt like crying, I didn't want to make eye-contact with anyone and I really wished that I had not accepted the "Pro" position. I told myself to shut-up. I had wanted to see females in the line-up and now they had two. I was confident that Manon could give it to the guys and that perhaps, by me being there, I could inspire more women to give it a go next year.
I qualified last. By miles. I was 5 seconds behind Manon, which is a large amount on a 1 minute course and a whopping 15 seconds behind Liam! However, I was through to the next round by default.
At this point my brother and friends turned up, with a few beers down them and in a party good mood. My brother, ever the race psychologist, convinced me that I would relax and ride better if I had a beer, so I had one, laughed along with their jokes and somehow my nerves transpired into excitement. I thought "what is good about this course?" ...Well, it's an explosive sprint start, I like that. It has whoops and a little jump, they're fun. It goes down and around and around 7 storeys of a car-park...THAT IS REALLY FUN!!!!
Manon came back from her first head-to-head. The guy she was racing against had crashed on a wet, outside corner and she had managed to nip past him and hold the lead down to the finish. I was stoked for her and just wished that more really brilliant girls were there to knock out the guys, not just me! But her race had inspired me, it's not all lost on the start, if you can keep a cool head anything could happen.
I was up against Ben, who had qualified 5 seconds faster than me. He won the heads or tails for to choose which gate he started in but was actually kind enough to give me the better, inside line. It was gate starts. If you have never tried gates starts, they're really weird, you push your front wheel up against a metal fence and then lift both feet onto the pedals. You try really hard not to wobble and you push forward. Suddenly the metal fence disappears and you are moving forward. Ben had a much faster start and despite having the better line he was away and up the hill and onto the roof.
As you come out onto the roof you take a hard left turn up and over the Rollapalzua whoops (two rollers, similar to car speed bumps) in the wet. I saw Ben slide and regain himself but I realised that he was pushing it so I shouldn't give up. Sure enough (insert gleeful laugh) he went too fast into the corner that came off the roof and back into the car-park and hit the barrier! I saw my moment and took it, nipping through the inside. As I came back into the car-park ahead of Ben the crowd were so loud. I must admit, being one of just two females meant that we had full crowd support and I loved it!
I knew that so long as I remained in control of the bike on the fast, sweeping descent back down to the ticket barriers Ben would have a hard job overtaking me. Sure enough I crossed the finish line first and had secured my place in the next round!!
Manon and I high-fived in the pits and I was buzzing to see that I had knocked 3 seconds off my quali time.
Round two and I positioned myself at one of the several TV screens that were available for the spectators to watch Manon launch a particularly fast start and take the lead from the beginning and hold it all the way to the bottom! I was cheering my head off, as was everyone else!
I was now up against Sam Pilgrim who gave me a toothless smile and told me "I'm not worried about beating you because you are a girl." Thanks, Sam.
He won the heads or tails but despite not worrying about my competition he, naturally, chose the faster, inside line. His comment had fired me up and I was so focused on the start line that I didn't wobble and when the gate dropped I launched straight into the lead!! I was ahead of Sam and knew that if I could squeeze him at the first corner there was a chance that I could get out onto the roof first.
I felt his handlebars hit my inside arm and he was determined to bash me off my line and get past, I didn't flinch and those elbows-out track races as a kid came back into play and I barged him right back. I sensed his surprise, felt his back wheel skid out and was convinced that I had him! But Sam is no rubbish rider, nor of petite stature and he held it with incredible skill and pushed me right back out of the way and into the lead.
From there I didn't have the legs to keep near him up the hill and I knew he wouldn't crash going down the hill, I mean, why would he? He's Sam Pilgrim for a living! We both cruised down to the finish line and that's where my Parkour Ride ended.
Unfortunately Manon was next up against Liam Phillips, the BMXer who went on to win the whole event and place the fastest lap time of an incredible 50.06 seconds. Liam's starts are insane and it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Manon would go out in her third round of head-to-heads.
In the end, despite the nerves I had had a brilliant time and feel that I managed to put down some good racing and not embarrass myself! The concept of the race was exciting both to take part in and as a crowd-pleaser.
I would love to see more women entering and having a go, the opportunity to fly around a closed-off multi-storey car-park is just too good to miss. Yet I do also understand that without a female category it can seem like a lot of money and a whole day set-aside to not really have an opportunity to get through the qualifications and into the evening's racing. I am so glad that I did it and even glad that I did it as a "pro" otherwise I'd never have made it through Quali's and into the head-to-head racing against the guys. Which was super fun!
So ladies, see you there next year?
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