With a couple of big national-level races for masters and juniors taking place on the same day, the organisers of the Berkhampsted CC Women’s Road Race must have been as concerned as we were on the way to the event that they might not get a full field. However, after the club re-opened applications of the race’s British Cycling page, 33 riders (out of 36 who had entered online) rolled up to the start line at Cheddington Village Hall, which is a respectable list in anyone’s book – and all done without any of the “Only five riders have signed up to our race – use it or lose it!”-type posts that are all too common on social media and which only put riders off.*
The course helps too, because the Mentmore Loop – which hosts several races every season – really is in a beautiful part of the country this, with rolling hills and green copses and (at this time of year, at least) golden fields of wheat, which is probably why the Rothschild family, who became one of the wealthiest banking dynasties in history, chose it to build one of their (numerous) great mansions here. Those hills make it possible to put together a race which offers a little bit of everything: there’s a long, fast descent leading into a very nasty corner, then a fast straight section followed by a climb which, though far from alpine, is just steep enough to test the legs with a maximum gradient of around 8%. And, because all this can be squeezed into a circuit just under 7km long, the riders face it eight or nine times, which also makes it a very friendly race for spectators, who get to see the riders go by several times.
It also makes it a very hard race to predict. It is possible to mount a breakaway here, either solo or in a small group, but more often than not anyone who gets away on the climb will be caught only minutes later on the descent. A rider who can churn out high wattages might then get away on the flat straight, just as we thought multiple national champion and record-breaking time trial rider Alice Lethbridge (Kingston Wheelers) would do, but if you’re on your own (as Alice was) and a team has got your card marked, they can use their own strengths to make sure their rival doesn’t have everything their own way. That’s exactly what Team LDN, consisting of Francesca Cutts, Amy Marks and Kerry Middleton did, as Kerry explained when we spoke to her after she won the race…
Neutral Service: Congratulations on the win today Kerry, how was the race?
Kerry Middleton: It was a lot of fun actually, a lot of fun. I’ve done this race once before and it was really enjoyable today.
NS: Was there a plan today or did you busk it?
Kerry: We did have a plan – there were three of us from Team LDN in the race today and the plan was to drive it quite hard from the gun and to try and do a counter attack on the primes, but it was quite hard to stay away so it came down to a bunch sprint at the end.
NS: Counting down to the finish, how were the last few laps?
Kerry: I felt quite comfortable throughout; my team mates Fran Cutts and Amy Marks were absolutely amazing, so I just stuck to their wheels throughout most of it. Going up the last climb I felt comfortable, I was on the right wheels and had the extra legs compared to everyone else.
NS: There didn’t seems to be any significant attacks.
Kerry: It was really hard to stay away. On the descent after the climb there were a few people who tried to go, but it kept coming back together.
NS: How has it been going for Team LDN this year ?
Kerry: Really good! I’ve personally really enjoyed it, the team have done themselves proud. [On the same day fellow Team LDN riders Helen Ralston and Alicia Speake won National Masters Road Race titles in their respective age groups – Ed.].
NS: Congratulations on the win.
Kerry: Thank you!
1 Kerry Middleton (Team LDN; Cat. 2) 15pts
2 Francesca Hall (DAP CC; Cat. 2) 12pts
3 Lucy Lee (University of Bath CC; Cat. 2) 10pts
4 Alice Lethbridge (Kingston Wheelers; Cat. 3) 8pts
5 Amy Marks (Team LDN; Cat. 2) 6pts
6 Anna Marie Hughes (1904 RT; Cat. 2) 5pts
7 Millie Noble (Loughborough Students CC; Cat. 3) 4pts
8 Francesca Cutts (Team LDN; Cat. 1) 0pts (Note: Fran earned sufficient points to be awarded a 1st Cat. licence after entering this race and thus was not eligible for points in a 2/3/4 event)
9 Alison Rothnie (JAM RT; Cat. 2) 2pts
10 Danielle Forshaw (VCGH; Cat. 3) 1pts
Not enough photos for you? We have more: John’s are here, Simon’s are here. Take a look at Alastair Crowe’s shots, too!
We do ask that you don’t use our photos for commercial/website purposes without permission, and you’ll probably agree it’s only polite to ask us first. We’re not too bothered if riders and/or race organisers make use of them, though, especially if you credit them to us. If you want high-resolution copies without watermarks, get in touch 🙂
*Seriously, organisers – don’t do that. The riders don’t take kindly to being told what to do, and there are loads of women’s races these days so they’ll just go to another one where the organiser isn’t haranguing them. All you need to do is put together the best race you can, make it clear that you consider it every bit as important as the men’s race you organise rather than an afterthought, then advertise and allow as much time as possible for entries.