Essex Roads CC Women’s Race Report and Gallery

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Hayley Simmonds was never far from the front while the bunch remained together and kept full control over the break once it escaped – but her winning advantage over Charlotte Colclough (Jadan) would likely have been reduced had it not been for the efforts of her Velosport team mates

If, like the majority of women’s cycling fans in the UK, you follow the sport through social media, you’ll almost certainly have seen race organisers pleading with riders to enter their events. There are of course plenty of reasons a rider might not be able to sign up in advance, and you probably already know those reasons so we don’t need to go through them all here. Unfortunately, this makes life difficult for organisers – they’ve got to prove to potential sponsors, local councillors and so on that women’s cycling events are worth backing, but an increasing number of them understand the problems riders may face and try to be as accommodating as possible. However, there are others who upon seeing that they have only a small number of riders confirmed two weeks before race day become convinced that women have no interest, and so they never bother again. It’s not the riders’ fault and it’s not really the organisers’ fault either, but it’s a big issue for our sport and start lists with fewer than ten names are common.

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East Hanningfield Village Hall carpark was crowded with riders – not a common sight!

Nearly forty women lined up in the carpark of East Hanningfield Village Hall to begin the Essex Roads CC’s first ever women’s road race on the 26th of April. Some of them were highly experienced Category 2 riders, 21 of them were Cat. 4s and at least two were racing for the very first time. That is an amazing turn-out, even astounding when one considers that this was the first ever edition of this race – so what made it different to all those that have trouble attracting riders?

It wasn’t the prizes: Hayley Simmonds, whose Velosport team mates made good use of tactics to make sure her superb performance brought them victory just as they did for Abbie Dentus at Susie’s Circuit Races a week earlier, took home £17 – which, it should be stated, in no reflects badly on the organisers when budgets in women’s cycling are what they are. It wasn’t the organisation, either: although a number of riders were angered when the commissaires pulled them off the circuit sooner than they felt they should have been, others took the time to congratulate the race committee members on an excellent job – but of course, nobody knew any of this nor how much fun it would be until they were out on the road.

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Tamala McGee’s impressive reactions allowed her to continue after what could have been a nasty mishap

Nor was it the parcours: that part of Essex is very pretty and nothing like the concrete wasteland misconception some people hold of the much-maligned county, but the roads are less than epic – though having said that, the circuit rapidly proved itself to be more selective than it appeared on the map with the numerous short hills having a cumulative effect over 70km and some technical bends, such as the final Z-bend near the end of each lap where Tamala McGee (London Phoenix) clashed with another rider and veered off the tarmac, somehow staying upright as she headed up a steep 50cm high verge and into a field where she gave an impromptu demonstration of her impressive cyclo cross skills (followed by a display of her feline landing abilities – when she attempted to rejoin the race, Tamala misjudged the angle of the verge and went straight over the handlebars. Fortunately she has excellent reactions, landed lightly enough to avoid injury and was laughing as she remounted and gave chase. Considering the time she lost as a result, her 20th place was superb)!

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While the bunch was together, Simmonds’ team mates Jennifer Crouch and Hayley Edwards were always at the front ready to neutralise any attacks

So what was it, then, that made it possible for a brand new event to attract so many riders? The obvious answer is the Women’s Eastern Racing League. The League, set up by Tanya Griffiths and other riders based in the Eastern Region, is dedicated to promoting women’s cycling at grassroots level by encouraging more women to take up racing and go to races, as well as provide them with support. Being female cyclists, the WERL membership has an expert knowledge of what women want from races and how organisers can appeal to them – and, it’s fair to say, considerably more social media-savvy than many organisers and have been using Facebook, Twitter and their own website to drum up interest in this race and the 30 others that together make up the League’s season-long road race and time trial competitions, and this race is proof of what can be achieved when interested parties get together, get organised and get working. If you or your club plan to organise a women’s race, you’ll have a much better chance of making it a success if you talk to them.

Women’s Eastern Racing League

Gallery below the results

TaniaWicklow1 Hayley Simmonds (Velosport)
2 Charlotte Colclough (Team Jadan)
3 Lauren Kirchel (Chelmer CC)
4 Jennifer Crouch (Velosport)
5 Sarah Burke
6 Maxine Filby (Mulebar Girl-Sigma Sport)
7 Annabel Sill (Jadan)
8 Jessica Stoddart (Kingsnorth International Wheelers)
9 Anna Muir (Colchester Rovers CC)
10 Francesca Rust (Newmarket Cycling & Triathlon Club)
11 Jennifer Lake (Squadra Donne Shutt)
12 Gemma Melton
13 Susan Wood (Maldon & District CC)
14 Melissa Dowell (Braintree VC)
15 Michelle Sellars (London Phoenix)
16 Louise Marsden (VC Norwich)
17 Charlotte Haywood
18 Elizabeth Hughes (CC London)
19 Rebecca Maynard (Welwyn Wheelers)
20 Tamala McGee (London Phoenix)
21 Judith Philip (CC Hackney)
22 Gaia Casciello (Welwyn Wheelers CC)
23 Rebecca Layland (St Neots CC)
24 Mandy Bunn (West Suffolk Wheelers & Tri Club)
25 Georgina Pymer (Performancecoaching.me)
26 Hannah McInroy (West Suffolk Wheelers & Tri Club)
27 Hannah Shean (Southend Wheelers)
28 Tania Wicklow (Cambridge CC)
29 Lesley Sharpe (CC Hackney)
30 Alison Wood (Redbridge CC)
31 Susan Turley (Haverhill CC)
32 Natasha Pack
33 Joanna Sloman (Dulwich Paragon)
34 Nicola Hark (Essex Roads CC)
35 Liz O’Riordan (Performancecoaching.me)
DNF Nicolette Chandler, Hayley Edwards (Velosport), Hayley Williams (Southend Wheelers)

Full gallery – click here

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Lauren Kirchel, who took third place, collects her Cat. 3 WERL leader jersey from Tanya Griffiths

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Annabel Sill won the WERL spot prize, selected at random from League members taking part in the race

Charlotte_Colclough_(lead)_Hayley_Simmonds DSC_2179 DSC_2207 DSC_2286 Fran004 Hannah_McInroy_Hannah_Shean_Tania_Wicklow_002 Hayley_Simmonds_(lead)_and_Charlotte_Colclough Hayley_Williams Image2aa Image3 Image11 Image31aa Image33aa Image34aa Image40aa Image68 Image75 Image77 Image82 Tania_Wicklow_Cambridge_CC Velosport_003