St. Ives Nocturne Crit – and the problem of low race entry figures

Tanya Griffiths rides for the Starley-Primal team and came fifth at the St. Ives Nocturne Crit in Cambridgeshire on the 14th of June. Karla Boddy rides for Epic-Scott, and won the race. Here’s what they had to say afterwards.
Tanya
TanyaGriffiths002

Tanya Griffiths (Neutral Service CC BY-SA 3.0)

Another new race on the women’s calendar and a first race for women in Cambridgeshire, organised by the same club as the men’s highly acclaimed National A Circuit of the Fens (incidentally, they are looking to hold a women’s Circuit of the Fens next year with the same high-level set up as the men’s – one to add to the calendar for next year), the St. Ives Nocturne was described on the British Cycling calendar page as “a tight very picturesque and exciting historic town centre circuit which is completely unique”.

Being a new race, it’s always good to get as much prior knowledge of the course as possible, if you can’t visit beforehand, Google Streetview is always a good bet. Not so with this race. Half of the roads are pedestrianised, so there are no photographs and there is one right hand turn just after the start, that on Streetview, doesn’t seem to exist at all. On arrival to the course, it becomes apparent that there is no road, it’s a footpath between two buildings that is no wider than the span between your arms.

The local hotel offers convenient and cheap car parking, with only a short walk over a quaint little bridge and into the town, which at this time was already buzzing with people watching the earlier youth races. The course was lined with the usual barriers and lots of people cheering on the boys and girls with bags of chips in hand, obviously having a good time in the warm summers evening.

As promised, the course was tight and twisty and many of the men had come off in previous races, it was difficult to find a rider that didn’t have blood and grazes on their arms and legs. With a course that was far narrower and more technical than any Tour Series crits, softer tyres were the order of the day. The course was shortened slightly from the advertised route, but this made for a shorter and more exciting sprint. With lap times averaging under 1min 20secs, it was a very exciting race to watch.

The narrow twisty course left not much chance of moving up, so it’s only possible to pass one or two riders each time and with the pace at full-gas, it made it really tough to pass anyone.

Annabel Fisher (Bonito Squadra Course) launched the first attack off the line and was soon out of sight, with three riders including Karla Boddy (Epic Scott RT), Sophie Lankford (Team WNT) and Jennifer George of Dulwich Paragon. As the riders got used to the corners, the gap between Fisher and the chasers rapidly started to fall, and it was soon 4 riders racing it out for the podium positions. Unfortunately, Jennifer fell victim to one of the corners, leaving just the three riders to fight it out for for the win.

In a tight sprint, Boddy took Fisher on the line in a very close photo finish, with Lankford just behind.

This was a fantastic evening of racing with a great atmosphere and a packed programme of races. We hope to see this on the calendar again. Ideas for improvement – match the race length to that of the men’s (it was only 30mins + 5 laps) and this year it was held as a side-show to the elite men’s. Not helped by only a small number of women pre-entering, but it would be good to see the women’s get more of a billing next year.

Karla
Karla-Boddy

Karla Boddy (© Huw Williams)

Initially I was leading the first few laps and Annabel Fisher bridged across, giving me the signal to work together. This didn’t work: I admit my technical skills were far less superior than Annabel’s and I lost touch with her over the next couple of laps. This meant both Sophie Lankford and Jennifer George bridged to me and together we drew Annabel – who at one point was well out of site and over 15 seconds ahead – back in. The impetus was lost momentarily when the chase to Fisher was complete.

With 200m to go there is a full U-turn onto the final straight. Annabel came round me into the bend and took out circa 10 bike lengths at the bend, leaving the chase up to me and Sophie. I managed to close the gap and came through on the line.

Tom Caldwell
Neutral Service also spoke to event organiser Tom Caldwell regarding Tanya’s comments on the women’s race feeling like “a side-show to the elite men’s.”


“I think that’s fair enough from Tanya,” he said. “It was [like a sideshow], but I’m not sure how you can square that circle.””I can’t run them both at the same time and I only had limited entries – 16 pre-entered, against 37 in the men’s. If the women pre-entered in volume it would be easier to offer better prize money and raise the profile.”


However, speak to female competitive cyclists in this country and one thing you’ll hear time and time again is “we want more races” – the problem is, evidently, definitely not a lack of interest.


Tanya had previously told us that she almost didn’t enter the race at all, having not known it was taking place until a few days before.


The problem seems therefore not lie with the riders or race organisers, but in the channel of communication between them – British Cycling. The national federation does list upcoming women’s races in its website,but finding them among all the nested menus is a hassle unless you’ve got an on-the-ball DS to tell you which races would be good choices and sort out the entries for you, especially if you’re putting in a full-time week at work and having to fit your races around that (which is why we’ve started adding a list of upcoming races to our weekly news round-ups). It’s not enormously complicated, but could be simplified – a stand-alone page devoted purely to upcoming women’s races, perhaps.


“Yep, I agree with all of that,” says Tom. “As for our race, we’ll keep working on it – I think fundamentally we have all the difficult bits sorted for the event and I will try and promote the women’s race more fully next year.”


 

If you’re eligible to take part, do whatever it takes to be there next year and show Tom his efforts are appreciated.