35 riders met in the spring sunshine at the pretty Essex village of East Hanningfield on the 14th of April for the latest edition of the Essex Roads CC Women’s Race – an excellent number considering there was a round of the National Road Series on the same day, and proof of how popular this race has become.
It’s an interesting course, this one: following a twisty road out of the village, the race takes in a long, straight and (despite a couple of small hills) fast A-road before a very technical left-hander leads back onto country roads, around a tight Z-band and up the final hill leading to the flat before the finish. For that reason, it’s also hard to predict – a time trial specialist can do well here (Hayley Simmonds won in 2015, two months before becoming National TT Champion), but so can a sprinter, or a climber… or anyone who happens to be feeling good on the day.
That also means that every lap is different as different riders have a go at the front to see what happens, and this year’s race was a classic example of that with positions changing throughout and attacks and breakaways going off all over the place; two especially notable examples being the solo breaks of Emma Jane Hornsby and Nicole Oh. Essex Roads is always a fast race, but with so many attacks and so many riders in with a chance to win the pace was especially high, with fractures beginning to show in the peloton early on and a handful of riders who weren’t feeling it dropping off the back in the first few laps.
Later, with a handful of laps to go, a strong break formed when Louise Moriarty (Les Filles), Kerry Middleton (Team LDN) and Polly Mason (DAP CC) got away. With several strong riders not too far behind them and a good few miles still to go, though, it was far from guaranteed that this break was going to work. However, the front of the chase group began to break up as some riders tried to chase and others didn’t, which favoured the leaders who began to gradually extend their lead and, with two laps to go, they had an advantage of more than 1’40” – it was clear now that one of the trio was going to win. Then, suddenly, Polly was out in front on her own – she tells us what happened from that point onwards below…
Neutral Service: Congratulations on the win today, how was the race?
Polly Mason: It was alright until the last lap, when I thought my legs were going to fall off!
NS: What was the plan for today ?
PM: [laughing] I didn’t really have one!
NS: You had a two minute lead with two laps to go with two other riders, at which point did you decide to go for it ?
PM: I didn’t really, we were going up the drag on the main road and I just went to the front thinking we were going to work together and I looked behind and there was a big gap so I kept going to see if I could hold it.
NS: How’s your season been ?
PM: This is only my second race this season, my last race I did was a Crit at Hog Hill and my chain fell off in the first two laps, so I ended up doing a fifty minute time trail, so this is my first proper race of the season.
NS: What’s next ?
PM: Fakenham Crits and the Hackney Primavera!
Neutral Service’s Heroes of the Race – Nicole Oh gets her second mention in two weeks, having been our Hero at the Dave Peck Memorial where she finished with only two gears, for her brilliant attack up the hill leading out of the village. However, also worthy of a mention is Emma Jane Hornsby, who hasn’t raced much recently and had an unusually quiet ‘cross season, but launched a blistering attack of her own early on as the race hit the A-road for the first time. And Polly, of course!
1 Polly Mason (DAP CC; Cat. 2) 15pts
2 Kerry Middleton (Team LDN; Cat. 2) 12pts
3 Louise Moriarty (Les Filles; Cat. 2) 10pts
4 Isabel Darvill (Datalynx-Parenesis; Cat. 2) 8pts
5 Emily Knight (Project 51; Cat. 3) 6pts
6 Gem Atkinson (Scarpa; Cat. 2) 5pts
7 Katrina Murphy (Dulwich Paragon; Cat. 2) 4pts
8 Maddie Wilson (Guernsey VC; Cat. 4) 3pts
9 Elizabeth Danckert (Army Cycling Union; Cat. 4) 2pts
10 Cindy Berry (Pedal Power; Cat. 2) 1pt
You want more photos? Well, we have more – lots more!