First year as a competitive cyclist

Its been roughly a year since I started taking road cycling seriously, and let me tell you it has been a fast one.  A lot of the past twelve months have consisted of many achievements and unexpected turns.  This blog will be a long one, updating about my season as a first year junior.


From January to March 2017 I continued attending the gym weight training sessions, followed by an hour of rollers every Thursday evening at Meggetland gym.  These sessions helped me become stronger and prepared for the race season ahead.  I continued to go out every Saturday on the club runs (unless I had a race) which helped me meet new people every week – a lot of who still help and train me to this day.  I have found these great fun and very useful as I can familiarise myself with the routes for when I decide to go out during the week.


Kames Criterium – 23rd April 2017

Kames, based in Muirkirk, Ayrshire was my first race as a junior.  Like always, your first race never goes to plan, you don’t know what you are going to or the ability of others that day.  The main goal for me was that I finished it – which was well achieved.  I was not expecting to be racing around a tight windy circuit at speeds of 30-40kmph for half an hour.  I had been so use to doing long road rides at slower speeds, so I was definitely not prepared.  There is no time to have a drink because you are constantly having to think about attacks etc, but also no time to take a rest.  On the bright side, there was only two of us in the junior category that day, so I got a second place.  Thanks to my team mates and friends, it was a great day out.



Back to training

After this particular race, it was a sign I needed to up my training – which did not last for very long due to exams approaching and I was in school most of my time (which i do regret).  The motivation of others, and having organised training sessions that kept me going.  Every second Thursday, I would go along to the rides with my coach Jarlath and some of the ladies from ERC, and we would do about 40-50Km down to Temple and back.  On these rides were various intervals and challenging hills which made it more competitive and interesting.  This made me get my bug back for cycling as it showed taking time out of revising to go a cycle helps mentally, but also I realised I would rather be going through pain from climbing hills than revising at a desk.


Harts Criterium Series – May 2017

Unfortunately I could not attend the first crit of the series due to having an exam that day, but I strongly attended the other three.

The series was well organised and a great experience as I was able to see what racing in a women’s bunch was like.  However, not the most successful of races as I did not get the standings I hoped for, but I kept in mind that this was only my first season racing and it was not the time to give up.





It was also around this time I wanted to start track, so I looked into it more and found track sessions at Meadowbank Velodrome every Friday evening.  By the end of my first session I was riding above the blue line and going around the top of the bankings – which was a nice accomplishment.  I got very keen with track and wanted to start racing, but due to the closing of Meadowbank altogether I had to find an alternative way to do this.  By the end of summer there was no option but to stop track as I did not own a track bike and had no access of getting to Glasgow frequently.  So back to road it was for good 🙂


During my rest week in summer, I went on a family holiday to Italy.  During my stay, we did one day of cycling down the Amalfi Coast, which I have to admit was really hard and tiring, but equally a great experience.  So hopefully when I get to ride abroad in the future I will know what I am going to.  Once I returned from my holiday, I took advantage of the hot sunny weather to do lots of base miles, and also threw in some cafe runs in the pouring rain.  So it looks like I spent my school break productively 🙂



Kames Criterium – 26th August 2017

On this date I returned to the Kames circuit to see what improvement I had made in the past four months.  For sure I had made improvement, I had greater speeds and faster recoveries, however it was another unsuccessful race.  It could have been lack of sprint training, the wrong diet, not enough sleep, but it could also mean that the circuit just is not my type.  Again, due to there only being two juniors in the race, I got another second place.





Kilmarnock Criterium – 24th September 2017

My next race a few weeks later was at Howard Park in Kilmarnock.  From the minute I woke up, I could tell it just was not the day for a race, not because of the pouring rain, heavy wind weather conditions – but because of the incidents lying ahead due to these.  But I turned up, had a good warm up and made my way to the start line.  The race had started and I managed to get comfortable in the bunch for the first few laps.  But after bunny-hopping over wheels of those who got taken down, avoiding potholes with cyclists all around me, I decided the safest option was to pull off the back and finish the race myself.  During the race, I watched almost every rider go down, one by one.  It was basically as slippery as an ice rink.  I clearly figured that road tyres don’t mix well with water logged tarmac.  I managed to finish the race and not come last, but also made it across the line with no broken bones 🙂



Scottish National Circuit Championships – 30th September 2017

After my previous race at Kilmarnock I had one more to go and that would be the road season over 😦

This meant I had one week to get my head down and train hard as I wanted to end my first season on a high note.  I have to say, this was the best time I have probably had on my bike in my life.  It was competitive, fast, but successful.  I have a great liking to the Ingliston east circuit as it fits me well, it is flat, has wide corners, and a smooth surface.  I had a decent enough warm up, the right fuel in my body, and a good mindset – those are the three key things you need prior to a race, as well as spending time with those in the race too before-hand.  As the whistle blew, the competitors were off the line within a second, and automatically i made it for the leading bunch.  At first I had doubts whether it was a good idea or not as I could burn out any moment, but I took the risk and stayed.  Within a few laps some broke away, so there were a good number of us left to make it a chasing bunch.  Due to it being a fast, technical race, time flew by quickly and round came the ring for the last lap.  Instantly myself and another junior broke away from the bunch and raced for first place – I missed that top step by a few metres, however I am very pleased with how I performed that day, second junior and sixth overall.  I could finally see from this race that my form was starting to come together!




Now it was back to the winter season again, training harder than ever as next season was going to be a challenging one.  I luckily enough got the opportunity around November to be part of a Scottish Cycling programme “idevelop”.  This means I can get back into track cycling again, but this time at Glasgow!  So every second week I head through to the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, and sessions such as road rides, turbo, track, and various workshops are held during the time I am there.  The coaches there have been amazing so far and have taught me to become more strict on my training and diet – which I have taken into account.  What makes it an even better experience is that I am there with my team mates, but also other junior racers from across Scotland.



The final thing I would like to mention is that I got awarded the Junior Women’s Road Series Champion 2017, for the East and Central region.  I attended the awards ceremony at Heriot Watt University, which was also interesting as Evan Oliphant gave out the awards, but also held a Q&A.  So this was good to hear some tips from a commonwealth bike racer.


My goals for the 2018 season

For the 2018 season, I would like every race to be a successful one, as the experience I have gained can now be put into serious practice.  I will continue to do criteriums, but as I am now a second year junior, I will also compete in road races/stage races, and hopefully some track.  I hope to also achieve better standings at the end of the season.  I am also very excited to now be part of a junior race team, as last season there were only two of us in ERC competing as juniors, so it will be good to have a lot of us training and racing together.


Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and to those who have helped me come this far in order to be able to write a blog as a bike racer.  Thank you to my coaches from Edinburgh Road Club and Scottish Cycling for putting in the effort to make training worthwhile, thanks to my team mates for being great training partners and race partners to come 🙂 and finally thank you to my Mum and Dad for driving me around the country to races and for helping me get kit when I need it.  It has been a great journey so far and can’t wait to see what the future holds!

Happy pedalling

Hollie Begg