SKYPE: Andy Layhe - Bike Pure info at bikepure.org

First year junior to World Champion in one season ….. my special year

22
Oct

This is the personal journey of my season as a first year junior in British Cycling. My ups, my downs and the learning and development I went through, including my injury woes in the beginning, to my coveted rainbow bands at the end.

The end of August last year saw me crash in the National Youth Points Race Championship injuring myself and putting me out of competition and training for the best part of two months. During this time I found out that I had been accepted onto the British Cycling Olympic Development Programme (ODP) which further motivated me to get back to fitness as quick as possible.

With over a month of intense physiotherapy and exercises, my fitness was back up to a level to be able to take part in the Induction Camp for ODP at the end of October. Getting back into riding, I didn’t quite realise how much fitness I would lose, but with a lot of hard work, determination, and help from my ODP coach Matt Winston and Welsh coach Mike Heaven, I  slowly regained my fitness. To say I got a kicking at training sessions and camps for the first couple of months is no exaggeration!

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In January, I got selected to compete in Belgium at the Ghent International Track Meet for Great Britain. It was a great experience racing both the Team Pursuit (TP) and Omnium for the first time as a junior, and even better to come away with the win in both events! Although I made some mistakes in the individual disciplines it was a great confidence boost for me moving forward.

Throughout March and April, I raced for both Great Britain and Wales in both Belgium and Netherlands on the road.These were either singular, or stage races where I gained valuable experience at racing the increased distances that come with the move up to the junior ranks, as well as getting to race against international competitors. Although I didn’t take any wins myself, my teams mates, whom I was racing for, won on several occasions, meaning a successful team outing for all.

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During the following months my aim was more track based, which shows in the amount of road races I attended. However, I did manage to get to the Senior National Criterion Championships in late July where I achieved a respectful 12th place.

The weeks following consisted of a lot of time spent in Manchester and Newport preparing for the Junior Track World Championships in Glasgow, which I had been successfully selected to ride in. I would compete for Great Britain in the Team Pursuit alongside team-mates Amy Hill, Hayley Jones and Emily Kay. Having trained together in the discipline on camps and in training sessions, we had steadily improved and developed as a team.

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With all the preparation done, we spent a couple of days in Glasgow before the start of the championships in order to remove the travel from our legs and get settled in. The day before our race was the worst as we were all really nervous. However having seen the boys ride their TP and come away with a respectful 4th, we were all itching to race.

The morning of the race was completely different story however. For me, I had gone into a state of ’emotionless zombie’ resulting in me showing no nerves or fears about the race ahead. I think that this really helped as if I had continually been thinking “What if?…” I would have lost my focus. I think getting to the track with just enough time to change and warm up before our qualifier, as well as having no idea of the times posted by other teams, helped as there was no time to worry. The only thing I remember pre-qualifier, was Matt and his ‘pep’ talk. It gave me the final boost of confidence needed to go out onto the track and race infront of the home crowd.

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I don’t really have a recollection of the race itself. With the hum of the bikes and the wind in your face, all you think about is giving your turns everything you’ve got. When we finished and I saw were ranked #1with the letters WR next to it indicating that we’d set a new world record, there were tears in my eyes.With only Australia left to go, all our hard work in training had paid off – we were in the GOLD/SILVER ride off.

To say we were ecstatic is an understatement! With Australia qualifying 7 secs slower than us after one of their riders crashed out, it meant that we were against Russia in the final, whom we’d beaten by 4 secs in the qualifier.

Keeping the task ahead in mind, we went back to the hotel, rested and ate in preparation for our final.

Going into that race, not only was I more nervous, but we were all fatigued from the mornings race.

Again, we put all we had into the race; my breathing was ragged from the gun and my legs burned throughout. At the 1km mark I remember hearing the commentator announce that we were down on Russia, but blocked everything out after that.

As planned, after giving my last turn to the team, I pulled out leaving the girls to do theirs. I rode round the top of the track frantically switching my focus from team to team. When the girls crossed the line there was nothing but pure elation from us, the GB staff and the crowd. Not only had we won the world title, but we’d set another world record in the process shaving 2 secs off our qualifying time!

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After that, everything was a blur: the celebrations, podium, press, photos and then doping control. It was an amazing and overwhelming experience that I will never forget. A massive thank you must go to coach Matt Winston and all the GB support staff. Without them the outcome could well have been different!

After the World Champs it was back to reality. I had the Junior National Track Champs in Manchester the week after where I raced in the Points race, Scratch race, 2km Individual Pursuit (IP) and the 500m Time Trial (TT).

In the two bunch races I finished in a disappointing 7th place for each, thankfully both my IP and TT made up for the bad start.

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With a personal best in the IP in the qualifier I was set to ride against fellow ODP ride Beth Hayward in the BRONZE/4th ride

off. I won the BRONZE medal and took another PB with it! In the 500mTT the next day, after a rushed warm up due to a change in race times, I took another PB and a 5th place, with newly crowded World Champion Danni Khan taking the GOLD and her fellow ODP sprinters taking SILVER-4th place.

After a two week holiday in France with the family where I had a pretty intense training block in preparation for the Senior National Track champs, I had my last road race of the season. This was the Westminster GP which was on the concluding stage of the Tour of Britain and was there to promote Women’s cycling. After an extremely fast race where we rode past Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Downing Street a successive amount of times, the race concluded with a bunch sprint won by Hannah Barnes in which I placed 3rd. This was the first Senior podium I’ve had and what a place to do it, surrounded by massive crowds, photographers and TV crew with the race aired live on ITV4. It was an unmissable experience that resulted in a mini tour of London which was even better!

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My final track race of the season was the Senior National Track Championships where I was set to ride five events. The first event was the 500m TT in which a poor start out of the gate resulted in a disappointing time. The next day however I refocussed for my first ever 3km IP. Having never ridden the event before I was just riding it for experience, but I came away with a time I was proud of and placed 11th against the likes of Laura Trott and Dani King! This concluded the week on a good note which added to an even better month!

Unfortunately, it went downhill from there when I woke up the next morning with a sore throat and headache. I did participate in the Points race that day, but placed no where and ended up making myself feel even worse. After that I made the decision to pull out of the remaining two races (the Scratch race and Madison) which I was upset about, but there was no point in racing and making myself more ill.IMG_1373

It was a disappointing end to an eventful season, but my 3km IP earlier that week helped cover the majority of my disappointment.

To conclude, I would like to say a special thank you to a host of people whom without, my season would have been shaped very differently:

The British Cycling and Welsh Cycling staff ,who without their camps and racing opportunities, my success wouldn’t have been possible.

Karl Nielsen, who has consistently helped and supported me throughout this season.

Prendas, who have helped me out with riding kit for the end part of this season which is a massive help!

The Lichfield Chiropractor Clinic, especially Danny, who have been on hand to help me recover from my original injury and a number of smaller ones throughout the season, as well as teaching me techniques in order to look after my body better and help aid recovery.

Ian Wright my mechanic, who has been on hand to help me with any bike issues and sorting out extra equipment needs or replacements in record time.

And finally, my parents whom I couldn’t have got to training sessions, camps and races without, and their invaluable support and encouragement.

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We are extremely proud to have Emily as one of our Junior Ambassadors and look forward to her second junior year and further success I am sure.

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