Millie Donald’s 2023 Road & Track Season (so far)

Before I started MTB the only racing I did was road and track. My first big event after MTB Schools Nationals was Te Awamutu Tour.

Te Awamutu Tour is graded racing so it often ends up being a tough ride for me because I usually end up riding with older men. Luckily this year they had separate prizes for the women which was further motivation to dig hard.

The first stage was the longest stage with a decent hill not too far in which suited me well. Heading into the hill it was fast and I ended up in the front group over the top. We stayed away for majority of the race until being caught by the chase group which I got completely swamped in the sprint but it was good to learn what I needed to do next time.

Going into the second stage I was 2nd on womens GC and a few seconds down. This stage was fast and furious and the bunch stayed together resulting in another bunch sprint where I placed myself better but still 2nd on GC.

Heading into the final stage I was confident in myself because it was a Time Trial and I had recently been time trialling really well. I started and 5 mins into the ride I was worried I had gone off too fast but kept pushing because I was determined to take back the time I had lost. I didn’t get caught in the Time Trial and finished strong but remained unsure of the results, my goal had been to take back 8 seconds. 

 Through podium presentations I was called for GC and was absolutely stoked to have been able to take back enough time and take home the yellow jersey.

Photo credit: NCP Images

Not too long after Te Awamutu Tour I headed way down south to Invercargill to get some time on the boards at Round 1 of the National Track Series.

In this event you can choose between sprint events or endurance events. I chose to do the Endurance events as it suits me best. I wasn’t expecting too much in the way of results - I was hoping to have a good time and meet people. The events were longer than what I normally get to do which suited me. I consistently placed in the top few in every race.

In the Women’s Madison I partnered with Meg Baker who is attending Junior Track Worlds later this year in Columbia. With Meg’s strength our team ended up off the front and I was able to hold the gap when it was my turn to be riding. Meg and I won both Womens Madison's and we were able to communicate well as a team while riding too.

I also took part in a Mixed Madison, which I found myself quite nervous about because I had never raced with boys on the track before. The thought of the speed differences and change overs with the boys was quite scary to me. Before the race I partnered up with one of my Christchurch friends and we got a little bit of practice in, it actually was quite fun being slung so fast around the track.

I had been really looking forward to this years North Island Road Championships, because after doing this event 4 time, I felt that this year I was strong enough to finally take home a gold medal. Before the road race I felt I was prepared and energised, just a bit cold. My friends and I had been joking about repeating what I did last year, which was attacking out of the first corner so I decided I’d do it again this year to see what happened.

After attacking out of the first corner I established a mini group off the front with maybe 5 riders. From then my plan was to attack hard up the hill on every lap. After the first lap only one girl kept up with me on the hill but she refused to do any work on the front so I decided I had to get rid of her. Up the hill the second time I pushed really hard knowing if I did the work now it would eventually pay off. After the first rise I had a gap and pushed hard up the second rise and made the gap grow. I knew if she caught me she wouldn’t work so I knew I had to stay away, so I rode time trial mode off the front for the final 20km.

Coming into the finish I almost couldn’t believe what I had done. I felt so proud of myself not only for winning but for having the strength to stay off the front. It felt like a really well deserved win for me.

The next day was the North Island Criterium Championships which I didn’t have much of a plan other than sprinting up the little hill every lap. The crit day was far more chill as my race was late in the day. Once we were racing it was clear that there were only a few girls willing to do work on the front. From sprinting up the hill I managed to create a group of 3 consistent riders, one of which wouldn’t work at the front so we couldn’t keep a consistently fast pace. This led to a small sprint finish of 3 riders in which I came 2nd.

I had a days rest and then it was onto Schools North Island and National Track Championships. I didn’t perform as well as I had hoped and found myself not racing in the smartest way. This lead to a solid learning experience on how I should race smarter, especially in races that don’t suit me.

After competing in composite teams for the second day of racing I had another days rest and then moved on to National Track Series Round 2. I still wasn’t riding too well but, I managed to ride closer in some of the races and even got a bit of elbowing going on which was a good confidence boost. I also took part in a DrugFree sports course which was really informative.

Coming into the North Island Cyclo Cross Championship I had recently gotten a new CX bike. I did a skills session before the event to make sure I was fully comfortable and knew my way around the new bike before racing. The event was in Whanganui which is more local than most other events I go to. Unfortunately one of the girls pulled out meaning I was only racing one other girl in my category. This was okay though, because they started U16, U17 and U20 girls all at the same time so I had other girls to race. The start of CX races makes me quite nervous because they give us a warning and then blow the whistle at an unknown time meaning you want to have fast reactions.

Luckily I haven’t been caught out yet and had a strong start leading all the girls into the first corner. As the laps ticked on I watched the gap to me and the next girl grow and grow until I couldn’t see much more of them. I finally finished after doing 12 laps! I’m surprised no one got dizzy from the amount of laps we did in 40 mins. I ended up winning by 3 minutes and took home a loaf of the event sponsors bread.

Words and photos supplied by Millie Donald.