It’s the race that had to happen and, despite a false start last year when organisers decided they weren’t able to deliver the sort of event that women’s cycling deserves, thanks to the belief of those organisers and the support of a private backer, this year the Women’s CiCLE Classic happened, on what may well be the toughest parcours in the sport.
At 104km in length the Classic is one of the longest races on the British women’s circuit, but that’s coincidental to the challenge – the organisers have sought out a selcetion of Belgian-style hazards including short but painful climbs and a number of narrow, rough and, in some cases, unsurfaced roads and tracks. It’s about as technical as a bike race can be before becoming a cyclocross race.
NS couldn’t be there, so here’s Sunsport Velo’s Chris Meads’ report with photos. The full results can be found on British Cycling here. Photos by Steve Rush here. (Got photos or a report? Want us to link to them? Let us know)
Why the Classic had to happen
For many years, fans and riders alike have been calling for a women’s Paris-Roubaix, widely considered the toughest one-day race of them all, to provide a showcase in which women’s cycling can be shown to be every bit as spectacular and hard as men’s cycling. However, as was the case for a long time before La Course was added to the Tour de France, organisers the ASO have been reluctant.
The men’s CiCLE Classic was a big event right from the first edition in 2005 when it attracted 110 riders, and has long drawn comparison to Paris-Roubaix. Those who rode the first edition liked what they found, and the next year a team from Australia took part. By 2008, it had grown to 180 riders, so many of them from abroad that the race was no longer permitted to form a part of the British Cycling Premier Calendar as it was deemed to have become an international event – the following year, eight UCI Continental teams entered, and it’s grown bigger and better ever since. With more and more cycling fans starting to follow women’s cycling now that it’s easier than ever before to keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the sport, the belief and determination of the organisers and the positive reports from riders and fans and the race’s location close to several large cities and within relatively easy reach of Belgium, the Netherlands and France, it looks as though the women’s Classic is an event with enormous potential to grow and develop in the next few years. Perhaps there’ll never be a women’s Paris-Roubaix – perhaps, thanks to this race, it doesn’t matter.
Welwyn Petit Tour
If you like going to watch women’s bike races, you’ll have seen a lot of crits – they’re by far the easist type of event to set up and offer several advantages too, such as letting the crowds see the riders go by numerous times without anyone having to jump in the car and find their way via the roads the race isn’t using to a spot further along the parcours. However, there are a lot of crits and all too many of them are basic four-corner circuits, so it’s not at all uncommon to hear people complain they become rather boring.
The Welwyn Petit Tour, a part of the Tarmac Tour of Hertfordshire Series, is certainly a very different sort of parcours: roughly T-shaped, it has eight corners and includes a mix of lefts and rights, of varying tightness, along with a couple of long and fast straights before a final straight along the top section of the T. As a result, a large number of fans who might otherwise not have made the effort for a crit turned out to watch – and perhaps better still, due to the event offering a whole day of action and plenty of kermesse-style town fete fun, so did a large number of locals who might never have been to a race before, including kids who with a bit of luck will now become the fans (and riders) of tomorrow.
With the open circuit, scooters and Men’s Novices done, the mixed U8 and U10 girls categories were won by Ruby O’Dell (St Ives CC; a rider who despite her young age and tiny stature has no fear of corners, piling straight in like a seasoned professional) and Florence Barnett (King’s Lynn CC) repectively. The mixed U12s took to the track following the Men’s Cat. 4, with Jodie Taylor (Colchester Rovers) and Freya Cook (Thanet RC) taking first and second.
The first women’s race of the day was the 2/3/4, which promised to be an interesting event due to a large number of very talented riders in these categories in the Central region and several others from the broader area taking part, including the Kinetic-Welwyn team of Ellie Cadzow who left no doubt that she was after a victory when she launched one of her trademark fast starts, and then led for some time, seeming to select the perfect line on each corner. However, she was certainly not the only rider capable of winning: this circuit was also well suited to the talents of Gemma Melton (Pedal Power Ipswich), Rebecca Johnson (Fast Test), Charlotte Colclough (Jadan) and other fast, technical racers, all of whom were also after the win and eventually managed to take the lead. A crash on the sixth, most technical corner came too late in the race to effect the final outcome (and the rider, thankfully, seemed OK after being treated by the paramedics) and the riders headed into a last lap as good as guaranteed to finish with a sprint. Colclough, Melton and Johnson were strongest and while the riders behind them fought for position, nobody could get past – they took first, second and third and looked very pleased to be finished after a socrchingly hot race. Sophia Chastell (Kinetic-Welwyn) was fourth, Claire Fisk (Welwyn Wheelers) fifth.
For much of the Women’s Novices, victory for North Road CC’s Ivana Prokopova looked like a foregone conclusion – the London-based rider rocketed off the start line, took the first couple of corners like she was on rails. Nicolette Chandler (Senova), Rebecca Fawcett (Lovelo-Cinelli), Laura Moody (London Dynamo) and others were with her and as the race went on took their turns at the front, but Ivana was rarely anywhere other than leading or second wheel. That, perhaps, was her undoing – she says she loves hot weather, but in the final laps Moody made her move and clearly had a little more left in the tank; during the final sprint Prokopova fought hard but was not able to get herself back into the lead and had to settle for second. A very fine win for Moody, and an indication that when Prokopova decides she feels ready to move up a notch from novice races she’ll be a force to be reckoned with. Fawcett was third, Chandler fourth and Leanne Cutler of Hitchin Nomads fifth.
The Petit Tour is also a round of the National Paracycling Circuit Race and TT Series. Some of the riders taking part had originally been entered for the Women’s 2/3/4, but decided instead to compete with those in the Novices. Katie Toft (Mossley CRT) won, followed by Kristy Howells (Boot Out Breast Cancer CC) and Amelia Cass (Sportcity Velo) were second and third. The mixed U16 was very much a private battle between Welwyn Wheelers’ Lauren Higham and Lee Valley Youth’s Abigail Coles, both extremely promising riders who take their cycling very seriously and, while they’re friends, fight one another hard when racing. Lauren took victory, Abigail was second and Molly Cutmore (Hadleigh CC) was third. Bethany Barnett (King’s Lynn CC) was the winning U14, followed by Jenna Miles (Welwyn Wheelers) and Melissa Warrilow (BTDCC).
The fifth and final round of the Series is the Hitchin Cobbled Classic, taking place in the North Hertfordshire town on the 25th of September. It’s another eight-corner circuit, again with some fast straights, but this one is as the name suggests all about the cobbles – described to NS by one rider at Welwyn as “the most horrible in Britain.” See you there.
Simmonds smashes 50-mile TT record
Hayley Simmonds, who joined Team Aerocoach earlier this year after deciding that life as a full-time professional with the American United Health Care squad wasn’t for her, won the National TT Championships for a second time this month when she beat Claire Rose (Podium Ambition) by 32.96″. After winning her first title last year, she then went on to win various Championships over an assortment of distances and beat a whole host of records whilst doing so.
But hey, why beat records if you’re capable of obliterating them, which is exactly what she did at the Shaftesbury CC Open on the 23rd of July (the day after her birthday, no less!) when she set a new 50-mile record, bettering the previous British competition record by an incredible 4’26” with a time of 1h42’40”. Simmonds’ average speed of 46.7kph placed her comfortably over nine minutes ahead of second-placed Clarice Chung (SSLL), who herself put in a very good time on the E2/50c course in Cambridgeshire. SSLL have a report here.
ØVB Junior RR
Huw Williams was at the ØVB Junior RR on the 23rd of July; find his photos of the event here.
More photos from Team 22
Hillingdon Slipstreamers Circuit Races got a superb start list (as it always does, thanks to the huge amount of work the Slipstreamers do for youth cycling) with 84 girls taking part across the U8, U10, U12, U14 and U16 events – including 42 in the U16 alone. Sisters Anna and Carys Lloyd, both Lee Valley Youth, won the U8 and U10 races; Grace Lister of Wolverhampton Wheelers won the U12; Becky Surridge (VC Londres), Eva Barrow (Salt Ayre Cog Set) and Emma Finucane (Towy Riders) were first, second and third in the U14; Ellie Russell (Sportcity Velo), Esme Niblett (Mid-Shrops Wheelers) and April Tacey (Leicester RC) were first, second and third in the U16. Full result
Jadan-Weldtite’s Charlotte Dalton won the U16s at the eighth round of the Broomwagon Blyton Crits, beating Evelyn Oldale (Acre RT). Tia Carr (Lichfield City CC) was second in the mixed U10, Ffion Law won the U8 Girls. Full results
The Ride 24/7 Cricklade Kermesse in Wiltshire drew a large number of riders, with several well-known riders in the women’s Cats. 2/3/4 race. Victory went to Victoria Lovett of the I-Team Cyclists’ Club; Tamara Davenne (Zappi’s) and Rebecca Waters (Performance) also stepped onto the podium. Full results
Round 3 of Houghton CC’s North East Truck Spares Closed Circuit Series in the attractive small town of Houghton Le Spring was a top value day out for fans of women’s and girls’ cycling, with U16/12/10 races and a 2/3/4. Sophie Heighton (Stockton Wheelers) took the U10, Grace Castle (Newcastle Phoenix) the U12 and the very promising Fiona Turnbull (Speedflex) the U16. In the 2/3/4, Fiona Gledhill of Sportycity Velo did very well, beating a number of well-known riders such as second-placed Sam Verrill of Team 22. Full result
Remember what it said above about Hillingdon Slipstreamers doing a lot for youth cycling? The day after their Circuit Races, the club was once again at the London track for the ninth round of its Youth Summer Race Series. Lauren Charles (Charlotteville CC0 was the winning U8, while sisters Erin and Caitlin Loveless (Hillingon Slipstreamers) won the U10 and U12. London Dynamo’s Eva Callinan led Abigail Old (Hillingdon Slipstreamers) and Emma Keiller (Charlotteville CC) across the line in the U14 and Slipstreamers team mates Zoe Brookes and Elizabeth Marvelly took first and second in the U16. Full result
At the Mallory Park Youth League on Tuesday, Edie Bott (4Life Triathlon) won the U8 before Tia Carr (Lichfield Citty CC) climbed onto a podium for the second time in three days, winning the U10 race and Amerla Southall (Wolverhampton Wheelers) won the U12. In the U14 Amelia Wayte (Zepnat-Lazer) got the better of Lotta Mansfield (MI Racing Academy) and Sarah Briggs (Matlock CC) in a hotly-contested U14. Xan Crees (Empella Cyclocross) was unchallenged as U16 winner. Full result
In London, Round 12 of Dulwich Paragon’s famous Crystal Palace Crits saw 3rd Cat. Abi Van Twisk (Drops) score a superb victory in the E/1/2/3/4 against a selection of older and more experienced riders including Christine Robson (VC Londres), Nicole Oh (Les Filles) and the super strong Jayne Paine of Willesden CC. Well done Abi! Sisters Orla and Skye Willis (Bigfoot) won the U8 and U10 respectively, Hope Inglis (Kent Velo Kids) won the U12. The U14 went to Isabella Escalera, with her VC Londres team mates Esthefania Hurtado and Flora Perkins taking second and third. Emily Ashwood (WXC), Hannah Graveney (Kent Velo RT) and Kate Shelton (VC Londres) were first, second and third in the U16. Full result
Lily Watkins-Wilson (Bolton Hot Wheels CC) won the U8 at the TCDG/Rapha Race League in Ashton-under-Lyne, Elizabeth Braithwaite (Chinley Churners CC) took the U10 and Leah Wilcox (Mossley CRT) the U12. Full result
“I heart trying new types of bike riding. So when the topic of Red Hook Crit London came up, I was like “hells yeah”! Nerves were high, but team mate tips and chatting with friends put me at ease. Gear ratio decisions dominated. Qualifiers were weird, there were a number of crashes meaning a lot of stop and go. As a newbie I didn’t quite get how fast you could take those corners…” Getting into my first Red Hook Crit, Aoife Doherty [you really need to see the photos in this one – ed.]
“Inspired by the TdF and La Course? August 2016 for Racing Chance is all about encouraging women to have a go at racing! On 7 August, the Racing Chance Foundation are running a women’s cycling novice race training session at Tameside in Greater Manchester (reduced price of £15 plus EventBrite fees). We will cover improved confidence on the bike, group riding, on the bike skills and finish with some top tips. You can sign up for the event here. We will have VeloSister in attendance on the day as well as Cyclefit Manchester and details will be issued to attendees nearer the time…” – Heather Bamforth
“Now that summer finally seems to be appearing from wherever it’s been hiding for the past couple of months, the roads are beginning to become flooded with cyclists of all shapes and sizes. From families just out for a little pootle to get an ice cream, to racing riders just keen to sap up the sun while it’s here, before inevitably, the 4 hour ride in the rain will return once more. However the group of riders of which I’ve noticed the sharpest increase in numbers, is the type of rider that Tom and I like to call ‘muggles’. These are the guys that roll out of their garages on a sunny day on the latest Team Sky edition Pinarello, dressed head to toe in the full pro kit works…” – All the gear and no idea, Sian Botteley
“So last weekend I took on the first Women’s CiCLE Classic in Melton Mowbray. This was a race that I had been looking forward to all year mainly due to the numerous off road sections which were great for a crossie like me! Unfortunately I didn’t quite realise how hilly it was… For a local race I thought nothing of the hills when driving the course the previous week… I was wrong…” Fastest and Slowest Races of the Year, Maddie Gammons
“Don’t know what a duathlon, is from an aquathlon, or triathlon? Hell, what’s an aquabike?
Am I fast enough to enter a Sprint Tri? One must need to be an Olympic athlete to enter the Olympic distance (surely?) and what’s a Middle or Half Iron compared to a Long Distance and Iron distance triathlon? Multisport may seem daunting, intimidating and unwelcoming from the outside, but having ventured into triathlon and the world of multisport in 2010 it is something that I, Mrs eKuiLibriuM, seriously wished that I had found 20 years ago…” An Intro to Multisport, Kimberley Mangelshot
Neutral Service is always interested in women’s cycling news and road, crit, cyclocross and time trial race reports and photos from any women’s/girls’ race in the United Kingdom (or abroad in the case of overseas events with significant British interest), whether produced by riders, race organisers or fans. Fancy helping out? Find us for a chat on Twitter and Facebook. Organisers – send your results to us via the same links