The CiCLE Classic has become one of the biggest races on the British women’s racing calendar, and the numerous off-road and gravel sectors give it the feel of a Belgian Classic and have led many to claim it’s also the best. News that a brand new event co-organised with the Bourne Wheelers, who road race earlier in the season is also very popular, was therefore met with excitement – but, this late in the season, it’s notoriously difficult to get full entry lists. Simon Blackwell went along to see how it went…
A glorious weekend in Lincolnshire for RST/Cycle Division as the 2019 Women’s Team Series rolls to a close
The inaugural Bourne CiCLE Festival was an ambitious affair with a 114km women’s race, the Women’s Team Series team time trial as well as a supporting multi-distance sportives and a 175km men’s race.
Add in the supporting attractions at the Wellhead park and engagement activities that saw youngsters from local cycling clubs able to ride on the closed road of the start-finish area, this event organised by South Kesteven District Council with Bourne Wheelers Cycling Club had the feel of a race that had been running a number of years.
With a single road closure for the start-finish, Bourne town centre adapted well with event staff and volunteers in their event-branded clothing marshaling the crowds. Out of town, temporary road closures were coordinated by the police and the event traffic control subcontractors providing a safe envelope for the riders.
Rather than a simple lap-based route, the organisers opted for three different loops around the local countryside, with each lap passing through the grounds of Grimsthorpe Castle and back into Bourne to the waiting spectators.
Women’s Road Race
At 3:45pm the 41 starters, including Emily Nelson (RST/Cycle Division), winner of this year’s Melton CiCLE Womens Classic, rolled out of town. A relatively quite first loop burst in to life as the race approached the first pass through the Grimsthorpe Estate when Helen Ralston (Team LDN) jumped off the front and gained a 16 second advantage. With the first sprint approaching, the peloton finally started to chase her down with Nelson stealing the sprint points by a matter of inches.
Following the first pass through Bourne Town Centre the first significant break was made, with Alice Lethbridge (Kingston Wheelers) and Danni Shrosbree (Team LDN) building an advantage that would reach 1 minute 10 seconds. Lethbridge, riding her second competitive event of the day following that morning’s National 10 mile Time Trial, took the Corby Glen Sprint.
Back in the peloton, the second loop saw punctures for Bexy Dew (Army Cycling), Kerry Middleton (Team LDN) and the Bianchi Dama pair of Charlotte Colclough and Tasha Ready. A crash would also leave Jessica Woodworth (Cycle Team OnForm) with a broken collar bone.
Entering the Grimsthorpe Estate for the second time, the race was back together and Nelson and Ralston reprised their 1:2 from the first Castle Sprint. Nelson then followed that up as the race went back through Bourne town centre, soon after which Ralston abandoned the race and thus handed Nelson an unassailable lead in the sprint competition.
The final loop started quietly heading out to the final feed zone before Jess Finney (Brother-Tifosi p/b OnForm), Josie Knight (Team Breeze) and Nelson made a short lived bid for freedom that acted as a catalyst for a fifteen rider break that splintered the race. Team LDN attacked and the the final Castle Sprint was taken by Francesca Cutts, which was followed up by an attack by Team Breeze. As the race descended into Bourne and the finish line the group was stretched and the ever-dominant Nelson was able to power to the line and take the win from Knight and Finney.
As well as the race win, Nelson also took the Castle Sprints competition and topped the day off with the Under 23 win. Other winners on the day were Team LDN, who took the team win, and Corrine Side (Team OnForm) with the U19 title. A shocked Alice Lethebridge took the Corby Glen Sprint.
Women’s Road Race Result
1 Emily Nelson (RST/Cycle Division; Elite) 30pts
2 Josie Knight (Team Breeze; Cat. 2) 25pts
3 Jessica Finney (Brother UK-Tifosi p/b OnForm; Cat. 1) 21pts
4 Francesca Cutts (Team LDN; Cat. 1) 17pts
5 Corinne Side (Team OnForm; Cat. 2) 14pts
6 Nicole Oh (Les Filles; Cat. 2) 12pts
7 Alicia Speake (Team LDN; Elite) 10pts
8 Molly Patch (Brother UK-Fusion; Cat. 2) 8pts
9 Danielle Shrosbree (Team LDN; Cat. 2) 7pts
10 Holly MacMahon (Bianchi Dama; Cat. 2) 6pts
11 Jenny Holl (Team Breeze; Cat. 1) 5pts
12 Polly Mason (DAP CC; Cat. 2) 4pts
13 Michelle Arthurs-Brennan (1904 RT; Cat. 2) 3pts
14 Phoebe Martin (RST/Cycle Division; Cat. 2) 2pts
15 Gabriella Nordin (TW1; Cat. 2) 1pt
16 Alice Lethbridge (Kingston Wheelers; Cat. 2), 17 Isabel Darvill (Datalynx-Parenesis; Cat. 2), 18 Kimberlee Charlton (DAP CC; Cat. 3) 19 Anna Docherty (Team Breeze; Elite), 20 Amy Gornall (Racing Chance Foundation; Cat. 2), 21 Rachael Brown (Pro Vision; Cat. 2), 22 Louise Moriarty (Les Filles; Cat. 2), 23 Helen Ralston (Team LDN; Cat. 1),
1st U23 Emily Nelson (RST/Cycle Division)
1st U19 Corrine Side (Team OnForm)
Top Team Team LDN
Corby Glen Sprint Alice Lethbridge (Kingston Wheelers)
Castle Sprints Emily Nelson (RST/Cycle Division)
DNF Lydia Brookes (Les Filles; Cat. 2), Rachael Brown (Pro Vision; Cat. 2), Charlotte Colclough (Bianchi Dama; Cat. 2), Bexy Dew (Army Cycling Union; Cat. 2), Madeleine Gammons (Datalynx-Parenesis; Cat. 2), Charlotte Heywood-Mahé (Les Filles; Cat. 3) Sophie Holmes (Datalynx-Parenesis; Cat. 2), Elizabeth Hughes (Team LDN; Cat. 1) Ione Johnson (Team OnForm), Dannielle Khan (Lotto-Soudal Ladies; Cat. 2), Kerry Middleton (Team LDN; Cat. 2), Clover Murray (Liv-Awol; Cat. 2), Megan Panton (Project 51; Cat. 2), Natasha Reddy (Bianchi Dama; Cat. 2), Emily Robinson (Albarosa CC; Cat. 3) Maggie Skinner (Cat. 2), Jessica Woodworth (Team OnForm; Cat. 2), Louise Woolrich (Velo Sport Jersey; Cat. 2)
Women’s Team Series – Team Time Trial
On Sunday morning seven teams of four lined up for the final event of this year’s Women’s Team Series. Academic in terms of the series result – as Cycle Team OnForm had already secured the trophy – six teams contested the event which consisted of a run-out from the Bourne start/finish line via the A151 to the A1 roundabout and back for an overall distance of 54km.
First up were 1904RT with ace time trialer (and multiple record-holder) Alice Lethbridge guesting. Four soon became three and they set a target time of 1:00:04. The RST/Cycle Division team, with the previous day’s winner Emily Nelson were up next, and with a tight formation on the road it was no surprise when they set the new lead time of 0:59:01.
LIV-AWOL then gave chase and were soon down to three, but some vocal encouragement from Connie Hayes during her stints on the front and a strong return to Bourne saw them stop the clock at 1:00:29. Team Vision Innovative Leisure and TW1, the next two on the road, were not able to challenge the podium and both returned times in excess of 1:01:00
With two teams remaining, Team LDN departed and the most controversial sequence of events from the weekends racing was set in motion. Given the protection of an official lead car, the riders set off well but, at some point on the course, the driver took a wrong turning and the riders followed off course and after some time lost contact with the vehicle before spending the next hour finding their way back to Bourne.
Finally, the OnForm squad of Ione Johnson, Corinne Side, Lydia Watts and Gaby Homer departed and returned without challenging the top three.
At this point, the official standings showed RST/Cycle Division in first place with a time of 0:59:01, followed by 1904RT and Liv-AWOL at 1:00:04 and 1:00:29 respectively. When Team LDN found the way back to the start/finish area they launched an appeal, while with commissaires argued that the car was not there to lead them but to protect them on open roads. A decision was ultimately made to allow the squad to take another run during the first lap of the afternoons men’s race, and after returning to the start in a time of 0:59:45 they were awarded second place, displacing 1904RT to third as Liv-AWOL were pushed from the podium places.
Women’s Team Series Team Time Trial Result
1 RST/Cycle Division 0:59:01
2 Team LDN 0:59:45
3 1904RT 1:00:04
Unfortunately, by the time a final result could be declared Emily Nelson, Josie Nelson and Alice Towers from RST/Cycle Division had already had to leave and it was left to Phoebe Martin to stand alone on the podium and accept the prizes.
The issues around the Team TT should never happened. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the initial error by the lead car and the decision to allow the team a re-run, it led to the memories of the event and the weekend being tainted for a number of riders, teams and their supporters.
Reflections on the weekend
This event is a welcome addition to the women’s race calendar and probably has the ambition to become a Women’s National Road Series event.
The biggest challenge it needs to overcome is the small number of starters in the women’s road race. Coming after the end of the National Road Series and four days before Ireland’s Rás na mBan stage race will have had an effect on entries, as will the fact that women’s races in August are notorious for small fields. That said, the scale of the weekend’s events and the infrastructure put in place should generate good word of mouth and bring in more riders next year.
There is also some work to be done on the equity between the Men’s and the Women’s events. In the otherwise excellent event brochure, all but one of the features and accompanying photographs are about the men and their teams. There were also a few subtle differences in the podium ceremonies. Finally, why were the riders brought to the town centre 30 mins before the scheduled start – 10 minutes would have been more than enough for interviews, VIP meet & greets and photographs, and prevented them risking wasting their efforts to warm up prior to the race.