DISTANCE 29 miles (46km)
MAIN CLIMB Main climb: North Carlton
TOTAL CLIMB 120 metres
ACHTUNG! Low-flying jets
A daughter following her mother into a sport isn’t that out of the ordinary, but the daughter then switching to another one and her mother following her into that sport is a bit different. But then not only have Gaby and Louise Day done that, they are making as big a name for themselves in cycling as they did in athletics.
Louise Day had a long running career behind her, with five elite starts in the London marathon, a personal best of three hours one minute for the marathon, and a 10-mile best time of 60 minutes.
Her daughter, Gaby, was a good middle distance and cross-country runner, reaching the World Cross-Country Championships, but when she tasted bike racing she knew she wanted to switch. “I just preferred it. I liked the close competition, which is why I like road racing and really like cyclo-cross, because it’s short and very competitive,” says Gaby.
Cycling looked appealing to Louise too. “I was taking Gaby to races and it looked good, so I decided to give cycling a go, even though I knew I’d not be able to ride at the same level I was as a runner,” says Louise.
She surprised herself; Louise quickly started to win and now she’s taken age-group victories in national cyclo-cross and time trial championships. But what did Gaby think about the switch? “When I was young I was annoyed at her for stopping running because I used to enjoy watching her, she would always be in the top three and winning money, and I was proud of that. Now I think it’s great.”
Gabby splits her time between Belgium and Lincoln. “I’m in Belgium all winter, so it’s nice to come back. Plus I think I need to race here in the national road race series to show my face and try to get some results.”
But the top events aren’t just Gaby’s domain. Louise admits that one of the things that motivates her is open rather than age-group competition, although coming late to the sport means that she has had some catching up to do. “I’ve done some of the women’s road race series, but I’m still not really used to riding in big groups, I haven’t grown up with it, so I find that part of racing difficult,” she admits.
She’s had a lot more success at time trialling and cyclo-cross, winning national titles and finishing well up in open competition. “It’s just down to me in a time trial or cyclo-cross. I can also do better in a stage race where there is a time trial, but in straight road races my inexperience and nervousness about other riders counts against me,” Louise admits.
This ride consists of an out-and-home stretch from Lincoln, linked to a loop of quiet country lanes. The first bit runs slowly down the side of the ridge on which Lincoln is built. This geographical feature made Lincoln an important place, and it provides a dramatic backdrop for bike racing fans each year, in the form of the Lincoln GP.
The ridge runs for many miles from north to south up the centre of Lincolnshire and was the perfect platform for the Romans to build their A1 London to York road, called Ermine Street. Lincoln became an important staging post, then a walled fortress. The cobbled climb that the Lincoln GP uses was created by the river Witham cutting a gap through the ridge, and the steep hill made Lincoln a good place to defend.
While riding the ridge, the RAF’s Red Arrows buzz over Gaby and Louise’s heads. They are based at Scampton, which is on the route, and their aerobatics can add an extra dimension to this ride. Time it right and you get a free air-display.
The Days push on as the noisy jets disappear, steadily dropping to reach the flatlands normally associated with Lincolnshire. From there, they pedal towards Torksey into a stiff headwind.
Wind is the only negative aspect of riding in this part of Lincolnshire. The lanes are well surfaced and lightly trafficked, and low hedges and wide-open fields create huge views under a big sky, but there is rarely a still day.
The wind helped shaped the place, but it also shaped the life of someone who lives here. “That‘s where Michael Fish lives,” Gaby points out as she draws level with a grey stone farmhouse. In 1987, TV weatherman Fish dismissed reports that a hurricane was about to hit England. Next day the south was struck by the worst storm since 1703 and most of Kent was blown away.
With the wind behind them, the pair shift quickly towards North Carlton and the only real hill of the day, up onto the Lincoln Ridge. Back in the city, Gaby tells me her plans for the future. “I want to see how far I can go in cyclo-cross. My best UCI placing was eighth last year, so this year I want to try and finish in the first 10 overall in the UCI cross series.
“My ultimate ambition is to be world cyclo-cross champion. Behind Marianne Vos there are a lot of riders with not much between them, and I feel I’m getting level with them, so who knows?” Does she see herself racing in 20 or so years like her mum? “No, I can’t see that. I get very nervous before a race. It takes a lot of adrenaline and I think I’ll be too tired to go on competing, plus sometimes it would be nice to do normal things.”
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Age 48, lives in Bourne, Lincs and is a housekeeper
Rides for Fat Birds Don’t Fly
National age-group champion in cyclo-cross and time trials, made top 10 in 2006 national cyclo-cross series
Age 22, lives in Lincoln and Belgium and is a full-time athlete
Rides for Global Racing team
Won 2006 national cross series, came second in the National Championships. Rode for GB at world and European championships. Ranked 19th in world at cyclo-cross
Start in Lincoln and head north along the B1398 to Brattleby. Turn right (TR) on unclassified and turn left (TL) on unclassified, then join B1398. TL to Ingham and TR on unclassified towards Stow. TL on unclassified and cross A1500 to Bransby. Cross B1241 to Torksey then TL on unclassified to Saxilby. Cross B1241 to North Carlton and TR on B1398 to Lincoln.