Rider Report – Alice Cobb at the Curlew Cup


Shutt VR rider Alice Cobb writes about her race at the Curlew Cup in Stamfordham, part of the Jo Bruton Trophy Series for women

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Rider Report – Alice Cobb at the Curlew Cup

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Alice writes … Another weekend, another race and another northern road trip. This time I was off to Stamfordham (a rather quaint little village about 30 minutes away from Newcastle) to ride the Curlew Cup.

A 9am start and 7:45am sign on meant an overnight trip. My teammate and Malta roomie, Sarah, kindly offered to take me and as a result I had a far more relaxing and enjoyable pre-race build up than usual; we nattered away, had a lovely dinner and enjoyed some Saturday night TV.


The Race
The longest race in the Women’s road series calendar, the rolling 62 mile circuit which also included the notorious Ryals climb, looked set to be ideal for me. A week before the nationals, the main priority would be safety but I also wanted a hard and honest race.

The first lap and half was cagey to say the least with no one willing to push the pace at all. At one point, the bunch slowed to 13mph as everyone looked around at each other! Finally, 20 miles or so in Anna Christian (Scott Epic) decided to push the pace on and I joined her, hoping our little break would split the group and get the race going a bit.

Inevitably we were wound back in but it set the ball rolling for more attacks and midway through the third small lap, Katy Archibald and Dame Sarah Storey of Pearl Izumi attacked the group hard on a long drag and splintered the peloton.


By this point I was still feeling strong and riding well so made the decisive split and found myself in the lead bunch of 25 girls. With just one large lap left which incorporated the most challenging terrain, I was feeling confident that I was on for a good result.

I remained focused and followed any dangerous looking moves while letting the bigger teams chase down any lone attempts. At one point, Lucy Coldwell of Velosport Pasta Montegrappa had a 30 second lead with around 11 miles to go, however, Scott Epic did a good job and reeling her back in.

With 10 miles to go, my legs were still feeling great and the leading group remained in tact. My confidence of a good finishing position was growing and I was contemplating my tactics with regards to trying to escape on the Ryals.

However on the approach to the climbs, my calves just suddenly seized up and I felt as if I was being shot from behind. My feet were stuck with the toes pointing down and calves clinched too. I looked down at my legs begging them to behave and return back to normal but to no avail.

My mottos of pushing through the pain whirled through my head as I started the climb however once I tried to get out a the saddle not only did my calves scream louder shouts of dismay but the same pain surged through my squads.


I’ve never experience anything like it and as the group fractured I had to watch the leading 15 riders power there way over the climb and into the distance. Ironically the little mountain goat was undone by a climb! I managed to stay with the remaining 10 riders and the final 6 miles or so were just a blur of screaming leg muscles and feet stuck in a horrendously painful position. When I saw the 300m sign, I desperately searched for that last iota of strength and gritted my teeth and just went for the line. Four of us crossed the line almost together with milli seconds separating 17th and 21st.

However at the time my finishing position was the least of my worries as the next problem was unclipping. You may think I’m being over dramatic and embellishing my pain but I was genuinely stuck. My feet and calves were so seized up and by now my thighs were in spasms that I couldn’t twist my feet.

Luckily a car park attendant caught me and sort of pulled me off my bike and finally I got a chance to realign my calves and feet with some stretching. Walking and cooling down would be more of a challenge but that’s the fun of racing right?

Soon enough I identified the cause of my problem as I reached for my bottle. In a 62 mile road race on a humid day I stupidly only drank around 300ml. So all the pain was cramp caused by dehydration! What an idiot!

Drinking and refuelling mid race has been a problem for me as I always worry that it is the wrong moment to drink. I’m too close to someone, someone might attack, there’s a corner coming up etc… And that means that I rarely find the right moment to drink.


It’s something I’ve been trying to improve all season but for the first time it was my undoing so hopefully a week before the national road race I have finally learnt my lesson. DRINK!

It turns out I was 21st with Katy Archibald taking the win ahead of Niki Juniper. Not the result I was after but I did my best and gave it everything. I could sit and contemplate what could have been had I not suffered cramp but ultimately it was my own fault so now I just have to learn from my mistakes and focus on the nationals.

I would like to thank the organisers for a brilliant event and also giving the women a longer and harder race. The inaugural incorporation of the Ryals – although ironically my undoing – was brilliant and I hope to return next year for round 2 of Cobb vs Climb.

Also a massive thanks to Sarah who drove up and supported me all weekend despite being unwell. I am so lucky to have such an awesome team mate and friend who is prepared to do that for me. Thank you.

Until next time cycle safely,

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