The CC Ashwell round of this year’s Eastern League featured, for the first time ever, a stand-alone women’s race – and, grateful for a chance to have the course all to themselves rather than sharing it with the 50+ Men age group and for the organisers’ determination to support women’s cycling, 40 riders showed up to race. It seems that if you build it, they will come.
With a mixture of grass, tarmac, forest, short but steep climbs and a very tricky off-camber section, this round is always a fast and difficult event and with so many riders wanting to win, it was hard-fought. Pedal Power’s Gemma Melton took the lead early and was chased by Push Sport/Barford Van Hire’s Alison Hogg, setting the scene for a battle that continued throughout the remainder of the race; Alison took over at the front for a brief while, but Gemma soon regained the upper hand and pushed on for a solo win. Afterwards, Simon Blackwell caught up with her and heard what happened in Gemma’s own words…
Neutral Service: Gemma, congratulations, a start to finish win!
Gemma Melton: Thank you, I’m so pleased, it was really tough, once I was in front I thought I just need to hold it, then Alison Hogg came past me on the third or fourth lap… I thought I know I am stronger on the tarmac than she is, so I just went for it every time up the road bit. I was losing a bit of time over the hurdles, but I know that’s a weakness.
NS: You had on the last lap about ten or fifteen metres at the hurdles coming on to the second half of the course, but at the finish a good couple of hundred metres. How did you take the last lap?
GM: Just hard, I just thought I’ve got to stay in front, because I know if she’s in front I won’t be able to get round… I then stood up round the trees to get a bit more control and just leaned the bike in because I followed Alison around that bit and she was a bit slower, I went hard down the bomb hole.
NS: How was it racing on your own today rather than chasing a bunch of veteran men around?
GM: It was brilliant! Once I knew I was in front the only riders I might catch up would be ladies who seemed very polite to pass and would get out of your way, so it was good. The men often stall on some of the more powerful climb sections, so I didn’t have any of that.
NS: Do you want to see stand-alone women’s races as the standard for cyclocross racing in the future?
GM: I don’t see why not, the timings work, it worked today, why wouldn’t it work somewhere else, it’s really good to see.
NS: Congratulations on the win.
GM: Thank you!