This season marks the first for Sigma Sport Women’s Race Team – a London based squad of seven riders supported by the Kingston bike shop. Riders include Cat 1 superstars, such as regional champion, Bella Leach and retired rower Mathilde Pauls. Despite being experts on the road, track, and in the muddy fields of cyclocross, all the riders juggle training with the demands of busy jobs and will be targeting regional and national racing.

We’ll be bringing you updates from members of the team throughout the race season - to give you a little insight into what it's like being a working racer, and some hints and tips along the way. First up, we’ve got an update from Lydia Brookes, a road and track specialist who joined the team as a category 2 rider from Henley G.S.

For Brookes, the season started with the Dave Peck Road Race in April, where she was pleased to finish in the top 20, followed by mid-May success when she won the Cotswold Veldrijden road race. She then went on to ride the 500km from London to Paris with HotChillee events at the end of the month, returning from the trip just one week before the London Nocturne on Saturday 4 May and the Central Regional Championships the following day.

Brookes tells us more about her race preparation, and gives us a blow by blow account of her warm up for the central London crit race, The London Nocturne…

The week before….

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At the end of May the team had a great opportunity to take part in the HotChillee London to Paris, a 500km event over 3 days. The event was an amazing experience, and more than any ‘training effect’ it was great to get time with the rest of the team. However, 500km of riding over 3 days does drain the body, so it was important I struck the balance right over the following week to ‘taper’ for the Nocturne and Regional Championships.

Having returned from Paris on the Sunday prior to Nocturne, on Monday I went out on a very easy 2 hour ‘coffee shop’ ride, an active recovery to stop the legs seizing up after the travelling back. Unfortunately, Tuesday through Thursday were extremely busy at work, and I didn’t get the chance to get on the bike at all. That's not ideal, but I made sure that I was stretching and rollering to try and keep the legs supple.

On Friday I managed to squeeze in a ‘leg opener’, a short 1 hour session with some high cadence intervals, and a little bit of intensity, enough to prime my mind and legs hopefully, without really creating fatigue.

Saturday: The London Nocturne

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I went out for an easy 1 hour spin early in the morning after breakfast, as much to clear the head and to enjoy the weather! It helps my confidence too. I find it makes the warm up for an evening race a little easier; my legs tend to feel a little looser. It also gives me a chance to make sure the bike is fully prepped and everything is working as it should!

The pre-race warm up

I arrived about 90 minutes prior to the race, and started warming up on rollers about 45 minutes before race start, this would give me 30 minutes of stress free warm up, even if it did feel absurd warming up next to the Wiggins and Team Sky cars.

  • 10 minutes easy, good cadence, zone one
  • 5 minutes with cadence 100 rpm, zone 2
  • 5 minutes zone 3 with 20 second intense busts
  • 5 minutes easy spin, back to zone 1
  • 5 minutes with 4-5 high gear efforts, picking up cadence to highest possible in strong gear
  • 5 minutes easy spinning

At the start of the warm up I do about 10 minutes super easy, just a light load on the legs, turning the pedals at good cadence, in ‘Zone 1’ [read about heart rate zones here and powermeter zones here]. Then I pick up the cadence to around 100 and power into Zone 2 for 5 minutes, starting (on a warm day!) to get a bit of a sweat on. My legs will start feeling a little more lucid. Then I will start adding more load on the legs maybe Zone 3, with some 20 second cadence bursts, really starting to fire things up and pick the heart rate up with each successive burst. It’s not hard, but it’s starting the countdown, getting systems primed and fired up. I followed this with about 5 minutes of easy spinning, a chance to regain composure and feel good (hopefully). The final stage is race replication efforts, I think I did 4 or 5 biggest gear 20-30 second efforts, winding up to maximum cadence. After those efforts, it’s back to an easy spin to get ready for the off.

With the warm up done, I had a gel. I don’t have a lot of caffeine in my diet in general, so as soon as I have a caffeine gel I am absolutely ready to race, in fact I have to!

The race

For the Nocture we had one recce lap, and one neutralised lap, this was a good opportunity to look at the road surface, pick the lines, make sure I am in the right gear for the start and also get into a good starting position.

I finished in the second group on the road, exhilarated and exhausted! I got straight back on the rollers (after some hugs and high fives). It was really important to spin the legs out for 10-15 minutes to prepare for the tough race early the next morning, and hopefully clear the lactate from legs. I also had plenty of fluids and some food prepared for the drive home, and was back at midnight.

Sunday: Regional Champs

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I was up at 6am, trying to eat at least 3 hours before the race. I arrived at race HQ an hour and a half before the race, this gives me a chance to get ready properly, a good 20 minute warm up on rollers which I hoped would clear some fatigue! And off we go, the gel (along with the couple I had stashed in my jersey for later in the race) again has down the trick to get me racing on perhaps one of the hardest road race courses I'll face this year.

The course was only 75km, but included 1300M of elevation and some steep climbs (around 15 per cent in places). The endurance I had built up from London to Paris, the weekend before, helped me plug away and not fade, but certainly didn't stop it hurting, a lot! I was in great company, with several of the girls having also ridden the Nocturne the night before. I finished ninth, I was happy to make it to end, but just didn’t have the power on the finishing climb. A tough, but unforgettable weekend overall!

Now its back to training to get some more power into the legs, but I think I'll have an easier week first!

We hope that gives you an idea what it's like to be a regional team racer, juggling training with work and everything else - awesome fun, but very busy! We'll be bringing you more updates as the season goes on, and you can keep up to date via the team page here.