Women’s cycling fans in Yorkshire have got an absolutely fantastic summer to look forward to this year with two new high-profile criterium events sure to deliver typically high-speed excitement (there’s also some men’s race or another passing through on its way to London before it heads off to France, of course). The second event, taking place in late August, is the Tickford Women’s GP, which you can read about here. The first, taking place just a few kilometres away, is another Women’s GP at the Doncaster Cycle Festival on the 1st of June.
In January, Neutral Service spoke to the organisers of the festival to ask why they felt it was important to include a women’s race and their experiences in making it happen.
“Each year, more and more women are taking up cycling and racing, so we are really happy to support this rapidly growing section of the sport,” race director Martin Maltby told us. “In Yorkshire alone there are some excellent female riders coming through with lots of talent for town centre racing. It’s an area we’d love to see continual growth in!”
Many organisers feel that it’s not worth trying to establish a women’s race because they won’t be able to find sufficient sponsorship, but Maltby had not found this to be the case: “The women’s race was actually one of the first of our races to attract a race sponsor, highlighting both the popularity of the sport and also the confidence that not only we have but the wider community too,” he explained. “It’s great to have had such fantastic support for both this event and our other races.”
The race uses the familiar criterium format, which offers a number of benefits including being cheaper and easier to organise and, for the fans, makes it possible to see the riders pass by numerous times as well as move around to see them negotiating the various corners and arrive at the finish. The circuit in roughly square in shape and the riders will travel anti-clockwise around it; like most criterium circuits it’s short just 930.5m – however, with no climbing at all (total elevation gain over each gap is only 2m) it’s also very fast, so expect plenty of laps and plenty of action around the tight corners.
The race begins at a large car park on Waterdale and immediately enters a straight 230m section, which is likely to mean a very fast start; after 100m the road is split into two with the riders taking the left carriageway, which may lead to some rough jockeying as riders try to find new positions in the narrower space. The first corner, left onto Wood Street, is wide and fast, but is also sharp enough to warrant some care.
Wood Street runs straight and wide for 205m, narrowing only very slightly in the latter half coming up to the second corner where the riders turn left onto Cleveland street – riders on the right of the central white line approaching the corner should be aware of the slightly raised drain cover which will be especially hazardous in wet weather. The corner is more technical than it first appears and offers an ideal point for the faster riders to make potentially race-winning attacks in the final laps.
There are two mini roundabouts on Cleveland Street, but both are set slightly to the right of the centre of the road and thus do not create pinchpoints. At the first, 61m from the second corner, the kerb on the left juts quite far into the road, creating a potential hazard; the second is 110m ahead. Almost immediately after the second roundabout, the road is again split into two and becomes narrower; riders stay left.
The third corner, another left leading onto College Road, lies 50m past the second roundabout in Cleveland Street. Like the previous corner, it’s more technical than it first appears and, with limited space leading into the apex and the much narrower road after the corner, a rider who breaks away will have an advantage over a chasing group for a short while on College Road – with the finish only 240m away on the final lap and another difficult corner just ahead, attacks are even more likely here than on the second corner. Riders on the right of the road should be aware that the kerb juts into the road 18m after the apex. The road widens along its middle stretch, but only temporarily – it becomes narrower again at the point where the footbridge crosses, then bends to the right 30m later.
The fourth corner, 80m past the footbridge and takes the riders left back onto Waterdale, is the most difficult on the parcours – please note that the corner has been extensively remodeled recently and maps (including ours) may not correspond to the current road layout. While not as technical as older maps suggest, it remains a very tight corner and can be put to good use by any rider with the bike handling skills to get around it at high speed ready for the sprint along the final 70m to the finish line.
Doncaster lies on the A1 and is only a short distance from the M1 motorway, making it easy to reach by car, and the railway station is just a few minutes’ walk from the circuit. Numerous A and B roads leading into the town make it a simple matter to arrive by bike; Google Earth and Maps both have functions that can hep you design a route.
Doncaster offers a range of hotels from a budget Travelodge to pricey luxury. South Yorkshire’s rolling hills and villages make it an ideal region for fans wishing to combine a visit to the Festival with a cycling tour.