Much to my surprise on the 15th August (at an ungodly hour in the morning) I was on a plane to Aigle, Switzerland for the 2018 Under 23 European Champs. Tapering had come to an end and it was time to actually start racing. Our hotel was a shrine to Charlie Chaplin with videos and various memorabilia scattered everywhere. Really, really nice place though. Little cakes on your bed everyday and a sofa in your room kind of posh. Sparkling water on tap at the end of every corridor, surely validates this too. Me and Georgia also somehow had bagged the family deluxe suite. Happy Days.
On the Monday we’d been given was some training time on track, this was interesting. Not only was I getting a feel for the track, I was learning the etiquette of international competition. Basically it’s a complete free for all and people take a split second to decide the whole track is theirs, and have no issues with completely cutting some one off. Also the coaches standing besides the track will not move an inch, even if your accidentally heading straight for their crotch. All good things to know.
Day One- Team Sprint
Three teams entered, we came last. Simply put that’s what happened. Not the way I wanted to win my first international medal but you can only do your best and race who’s there. The start just wasn’t what I’d practised, hoped for or knew I could do. It meant the rest of the lap was just a bit off. Obviously it was frustrating but acted as the ice breaker for the comp and as annoying as it was, things could only get better. Analysed it, learnt from it and put it to bed. We then headed back to the hotel all slightly depressed and mopey. Not the best start to our week. It was a long, silent car journey back to the shrine. Little did we know later that night we’d be returning, half way through dinner after a frantic call from a Com at the track. Chucked on the slides, found a skin suit and back we went. I know… it was quite a look.
Day Two- Sprint
Today I wanted to do something I could be pleased with. I wasn’t sure what that was yet, but I was sure I wanted to get it over with. I couldn’t take the nervous wait much longer. I’d mentally prepared for the consequences of messing things up in match sprints and being spat out the kierin (lost at the back, for those that need a translation). My aim was to make the most of the opportunity when it’s just me on the track, less chances to do something stupid. I wanted to be better than last year’s Milly. I just wanted to prove to myself, I could do this. The last year had payed off and I was doing the right thing spending my days pedalling in a circle. Cause in all honesty, I still ask myself that a lot, and usually I just don’t have an answer.
I was first of the girls to qualify being a complete unknown to the cycling world. I clambered on to the bike, strapped up my shoes and waited for the nod to go. Waiting felt like years but it gave me a bit of time to realise where I was. I was qualifying at the Under 23 European Champs. Who would of thought it? Not me. I felt utterly sick and looked down to see my hand was shaking like crazy. If you thought I was handled my nerves well, you obviously didn’t see the amount of chalk I had used to stop the disgusting amount my hands were nervous sweating. I had to laugh at it otherwise I’d cry. I’d come way too far to turn away now, and before I could even contemplate the thought more- I was getting the shove to start my 200. I honestly couldn’t tell you what I was thinking or anything really about the effort. I went in to some kind of daze or auto pilot, and just did what I was told to do and had been doing training.
Looked up and saw 11.2 written across the board, a PB by 4 tenths. And a PB by 1.8 seconds since ‘last years Milly’. Or Millicent as everyone now knows after being officially registered as Millicent. Shocked and speechless, I hugged everyone I saw for the next ten minutes. I’d already won, won what I’d recognised as success. It was almost annoying I had to actually do the match sprints. Though somehow I’d managed to qualify in the top 4 riders, so didn’t have to ride the first round. Back to bed it was for me!
Later in the day, I then reappeared at the sweat box formally known as the track. After having ordered my first salad in a restaurant. In the most expensive hotel in Geneva aka our hotel. Never thought I’d be that sort of girl to order a plate of leaves but, with a race in a few hours I saw it as something I had to do. Rather surprisingly to me, I won in straight rides and made it to semis. The madness continued for another day.
What was planned as a rest day, became the semis and finals day. Still having a lie in though, I couldn’t really complain. I just saw it as 4 opportunities to learn how to race from some of the best riders in the world. With a full support team around me to help me do my best, there really wasn’t much of a downside as far as I was concerned. Feeling hungry? I grabbed a home made (hotel made) flapjack or rice cake. Feeling thirsty? I had a selection of coffees and hydro drinks and to chose from. Wanted to watch races back? We sat down and went through the videos instantly. Wanted a chat? Ernie (British Cycling mechanic) would always be there, and made sure I had the correct gear on my bike before I could even think about it. It was a pretty good set up, this riding in European finals business.
Granted I lost all races that day, but 4th at my first U23s- I’ll take it. To some riders that would put them torrential tears for days. But there was some good parts to the races. One even went down to a photo finish. Loads not so good too, but I didn’t feel like I’d lost. Can you really lose something you never had? I just learnt a few things the hard way.
Hopefully, I’ll never let someone come into the sprinters lane that easily again. Mistakes were made there.
Day Four- 500m
I did not wake up feeling fresh. I could feel the damage each race had done the day before. I just thought about how today was one straight race. When it’s done I can go back to bed, and finish watching another Netflix series. So just suck it up and get it done.
Warming up was painful, I wanted to get this one over with quick. This time gate execution was a hell of a lot better, the last half a lap however can only be described as my best effort to keep the bike moving and not rolling backwards. Words can not describe how much pain each and every muscle fibre was in, it wasn’t an pleasant finish. Although, I could hear the BMX team cheering me down the home straight, and this did make it slightly more enjoyable. I hugely appreciated them taking the time to come over to the track whilst they were out in Aigle, not often we’re in the same place at the same time!
After having to physically pick my leg up over the saddle. I began to warm down on the rollers and I felt like death. I could hardly walk and felt sick to my stomach. Much to my amazement, I’d managed to grab myself a medal. My now jelly legs had actually done me well. I started to head to the door for some fresh air, but as I was staggering out like I was completely smashed. A commissaire shouted at me ‘Podium now’ and ushered me in the opposite direction. No time for fresh air or being able to stand up straight. Right, not sure how this is going to end… Stay in trainers or put cleats back on? What did my hair look like? All questions I was thinking a long with ‘Can I actually stand up for this whole national anthem without throwing up?’ I was in a bit of daze the whole time for many reasons. Hence why in all the photos, I look like a deer in head lights. Although I do remember looking around and continuously asking myself, how on earth did I manage this? Still unsure on this in some aspects, my answer would be due to the team around me. Their the ones that moulded me for this.
Gave some cheesy smiles for a few cameras, and began to stagger back. Back to our deluxe suite, and Swiss Netflix. Sweet.
Day Five- Kierin
I woke up this morning feeling like the definition of empty. My legs, literally had nothing left. I’d given every ounce of spare energy to that 500m. However the last Kierin I started, I never finished. I wanted to know I could do one and stay upright. I tried a few new tactics and consequently learnt a few lessons, I just didn’t have the legs to contend for the final. I knew these would hurt a lot. The com goes past every rider before the race starts and asks if they are ready, I literally just grumbled no, I assume he didn’t like me cause he started the race anyway. And I’d drawn 6 in both kierin races. Coincidence- I think not. Definitely something fishy with the cards I was picking from.
The next day I woke up feeling like I’d done a few rounds in the ring. Although, happy with the last few days. I began with no expectations other than to do one thing I’d be proud of and just embrace being a complete newbie. Done.
A huge thank you, to all of those that wished me good luck or congratulated me afterwards each message meant a huge deal and I really appreciated them all. My tweet managed to reach around 50,000 views, I will be forever embarrassed at how many people saw my lost little face but also extremely grateful for all the love I received from it. I’m looking forward to surprisingly myself again soon and seeing what a second year training can do.
2 thoughts on “Under 23 Europeans 2018”
Phrases I’ve never used “learning the etiquette of international competitions” how cool!
Great attitude to it Millster.
Well done Pwoud vewy pwoud.
Any Netflix recommendations ?
Well done Milly, brought a tear to my eye, you are working so hard and giving it everything you have within you, you should be so proud of yourself xxx