12-13.07.2014 British Cycling
Redbridge Cycling Centre, Greater London/Saffron Walden, Essex, UK
Start 52° 0’56.71″N 0°15’8.70″E
176km (6km TT, 50km criterium, 120km RR)Ah, Essex – all grey concrete, car parks, shopping centres and scary shaven-headed yobs, innit bruv? Or so you may think if you’ve never been there and believe the rumours, which are entirely false – Essex, most maligned of English counties, has beautiful countryside and some very pretty villages, as seen in Stage 5 of the Women’s Tour and again in Stage 3 of the Tour de France this year when it passed right through Saffron Walden, where this race begins.
Saffron Walden is home to almost 15,000 people, but it feels like a village – the many grand houses, dating from the medieval period, make it a fascinating place to explore and are an indication of the town’s wealth, which came first from cultivation of saffron and later from brewing. Audley End, considered by many the finest Jacobean house in England, sits in its Capability Brown-designed gardens only a short walk from the town; it’s open to the public and very much worth a visit. Radwinter, where the neutral zone ends, is an attractive village, as is Hempstead a few kilometres along the parcours; highwayman Dick Turpin was born at the Bluebell Inn which is still a pub and can be found just around the 1st Corner. Helions Bumpstead gets the first past of its name from Helléan in Brittany, birthplace of an officer of William the Conqueror who gave him the the village’s manor as a reward for service; the second part is believed to refer to the hemp or flax once grown there. Having crossed the border for a brief visit into Cambridgeshire the riders come to Castle Camps, which no longer has its castle but is picturesque. Still in Cambridgeshire is Bartlow, with its three Roman tumuli known as the Bartlow Hills – there were originally seven; the tallest, still standing and 15m high, is the largest Roman tumulus this side of the Alps. After crossing back into Essex, the race passes through Ashdon (with a small museum) before heading back to Radwinter to begin a new lap. It’s a very pleasant place to explore, especially by bike.
The race is the seventh round of the National Women’s Road Race Series and as such attracts many of the top riders in the country. As a local, current series leader Nikki Juniper (Echelon-Rotor) is familiar with the parcours; despite an acrimonious split with her former Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International she has, other than occasional appearances of the Wiggle-Honda, Boels-Dolmans professional riders and Katie Archibald, been the most impressive rider of the series this year. With Archibald, Trott, Armitstead, King and others missing the rest of the Series in order to focus on Commonwealth Games track duties, it looks like a straight fight between Juniper and the remaining Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International riders Sarah Storey and Gabriella Shaw. So far, Juniper has looked more than capable of defending her position as Series leader against these two and on local roads will be a strong favorite, if not for the win but to at least increase her points lead in the series. Full standings can be found here.
12.07.2014 Redbridge Cycling Centre, Ilford
10:00 Individual Time Trial
13.07.2014 Saffron Walden
09:00 Road Race
Road Race Parcours
Redbridge Cycling Centre maps are available here.
The road race begins with an unusually long neutral zone (yellow on our map) of 8.7km running between the Lord Butler Fitness Centre in Saffron Walden and Radwinter, where the competition gets under way at the B1054/B1053 junction to the east of the village centre. A look at the profile will reveal that the neutral zone is quite an undertaking in its own right, with a 2km climb gaining 50m – the average gradient is 2.5%, but a short section on the approach to Seward’s End surpasses 7%. Climbers will not be permitted to gain an advantage here, but it will give them a slight advantage once the race begins for real at Radwinter. The main parcours
The main parcours (red on our map) is 25.1km and will be completed four times, with the final lap ending at Ashdon where the riders continue straight ahead to Church End rather than turning left to return to Radwinter. There are no large climbs on the parcours, but all those small ones add up to around 200m of vertical gain over each lap – 800m over four laps. There is also 31m of climbing, most of it coming in one 0.75m stretch, on the route to the finish line (purple on our map) before the final 700m to the finish line.
None of the corners are particularly technical but there are several hazards along the way. Most of these are caused by driveways and field entrances along the roadsides where loose gravel and/or mud tends to collect on the road; in some cases these are just before or after corners or at the bottom of fast descents and as such can catch riders out – they’re highlighted with yellow markers on our map.
Once the riders turn left off the B1054 and onto Water Lane heading towards Helions Bumpstead, they enter a section approximately 10km in length where, due to the very large fields and lack of hedgerows, crosswinds can cause problems. Small groups of riders from the same team, should they be off the front of the pack, can form echelons here; lone riders off the front will suffer. Similarly, riders who do not have team support may be forced to remain in the bunch for shelter. Especially exposed sections are marked by flags on our map.