There are many ways to know Spring has arrived, and three of the best-known ways are ages old: countryfolk have for centuries watched for the appearance of bluebells, townfolk since ancient times have known as soon as more than 50% of all space in the supermarkets is full of Easter eggs and, since time (almost) immemorial, women’s cycling fans have watched for the arrival of the Women’s Team Series – which, remarkable in a sport in which few series and races last for more than a few years, is now in its 17th year and got underway at the Redbridge Cycling Centre on the 12th of March.
It was wet and at Redbridge, where rain washes tiny flints down the muddy hills and onto the track, that means plenty of punctures which was always going to create problems for at least a few riders, not least of all due to British Cycling’s new “no laps out” rule – like Ford Ecoboost’s Clover Murray, a rider who might well have been in contention for victory had a puncture on her first ascent of the Hoggenberg climb not left her far behind the peloton (though her efforts to get back, and eventually finish in a respectable 33rd place, were impressive). It’ll certainly be argued that the controversial new rule is highly unfair however, with some riders travelling very long distances to events such as this.
For the majority of the race, Sigma Sport rider Mathilde Pauls was very much in control. Having escaped with twelve laps to go the 32-year old stayed out in front and her lead never looked to be in any serious doubt, extending to around 40 seconds despite numerous strong riders making attempts to get away from the pack and catch her. This led to a split in the bunch, with Clover’s team mate Charmaine Porter, Backstedt-HotChillee’s Lorna Bowler, Elizabeth Catlow of Team 22, three riders from the new On Form team and several others driving a 20-strong group that left the rest trailing in their wake. Also in the chase group was SunSport Velo’s Lizzy Banks, who punctured with four laps to go. In her own words, “I clawed back the 40 seconds I had lost from the puncture and wheel change over the space of two laps, making it back to the front group with two to go” – her efforts to first get back on and then make her way to the near the front earned her fifth place and was perhaps the most outstanding performance of the race.
Very light rain during the first half of the hour-long race didn’t cause any problems, but as the skies darkened (hence some pretty awful photos) and the drizzle turned into proper raindrops during the second half the track began to become visably slippery on some of the corners, which in turn claimed a few victims – at least two riders crashed with one later receiving treatment for a suspected broken collarbone. Out at the front, meanwhile, Mathilde wasn’t slowing down – she crossed the line in no danger at all from Charmaine, who won the group sprint for second place followed by Lorna in third.
More photos below the results
1 Mathilde Pauls (Sigma Sport.co.uk)
2 Charmaine Porter (Ford Ecoboost)
3 Lorna Bowler (Backstedt/Hotchillee)
4 Elizabeth Catlow (Team 22)
5 Elizabeth Banks (SunSport Velo)
6 Jessica Woodworth (Team OnForm)
7 Tamara Davenne (Vision Innovative Leisure)
8 Gemma Sargent (Team On Form)
9 Natasha Reddy (Vision Innovative Leisure)
10 April Tacey (Team 22)
11 Jennifer Powell (Ford Ecoboost), 12 Rosamund Bradbury (Sigma Sport.co.uk), 13 Amy Hill (Team OnForm), 14 Maryka Sennema (Fusion RT Fierlan), 15 Kerry Middleton (Twickenham CC), 16 Rachel Mckenzie (Army Cycling), 17 Julie Erskine (Ford Ecoboost), 18 Rachel Heptonstall (Kinetic-Welwyn), 19 Becky Hoare (Army Cycling), 20 Lauren Murphy (Liv CC-Epic Coaching), 21 Dani Gloyn (Army Cycling Union)22 Victoria Lovett (Ellmore Clothing Composite Team), 23 Isabel Ellis (Backstedt/Hotchillee), 24 Felicity Gledhill (SunSport Velo), 25 Rosie Walsh (SunSport Velo), 26 Joanna Smith (BowlPhish Racing), 27 Rosie Lethbridge (Fusion RT Fierlan), 28 Rhiannon Gornall (NCC Group-Kuota-Torelli), 29 Charlotte Verrinder (Lovelo Squadra Donne), 30 Connie Hayes (Liv-AWOL), 31 Tina Hartwright (Fusion RT Fierlan), 32 Sophie Fennell (Ford Ecoboost), 33 Clover Murray (Ford Ecoboost), 34 Alexandra Farquhar (Army Cycling), 35 Niamh Jones (Backstedt/Hotchillee), 36 Sophie Curle (Les Filles), 37 Claire Fisk (Kinetic-Welwyn), 38 Nicola Roberts (Army Cycling Union), 39 Tracy Corbett (Les Filles), 40 Lesley Courtney (Kinetic-Welwyn), 41 Phoebe Martin (Team 22), 42 Matilda Gurney (BowlPhish Racing), 43 Hannah Nicklin (VC Londres), 44 Claire Hammond (Twickenham CC), 45 Anna Henderson (Team OnForm), 46 Alicia Speake (Team OnForm), 47 Charlotte Burford (Sigma Sport.co.uk), 48 Samantha Fawcett (Lovelo Squadra Donne), 49 Kelly Murphy (Ford Ecoboost), 50 Charlotte Heywood-Mahe (Twickenham CC), 51 Rachel Jary (VC Londres), 52 Sue McFarlane (Army Cycling)
1 Team Ford EcoBoost 251pts
2 Sigma Sport.co.uk 203pts
3 Team On Form 200pts
4 Team 22 165pts, 5 Backstedt/Hotchillee 162pts, 6 Sunsport Velo 147pts, 7 Vision Innovative Leisure 130pts, 8 Army Cycling 126pts, 9 Fusion RT Feirlan 97pts, 10 Kinetic-Welwyn 69pts, 11 Twickenham CC 50pts, 12 BowlPhish 36pts, 13 Liv CC-Epic Coaching 33pts, 14 Les Fills 29pts, 15 NCC Group-Kuota-Torelli 25pts, 16 Lovelo Squadra Donne 24pts, 17 Liv-AWOL 23pts, 18 VC Londres 8pts
Women’s Team Series
Let’s think back to 2000, when the WTS started – that year had for decades symbolised the future, but in women’s cycling it may as well have been the dark ages. Nowadays, the sport is becoming something of a buyers’ market: there are a large number of races almost every weekend from March to October, giving riders (or those able to travel to them, at least) a wide choice. This has been a good thing for the sport, overall: if you build it they won’t necessarily come, especially if there’s a better race taking place on the same day, and as a result (most) race organisers have stepped up their game to ensure riders want to come to their events.
It was Jon Miles that started this process – although women’s cycling had looked to be gaining some ground during the 1990s, by 2000 it had been allowed to wither on the vine due to a seemingly almost total lack of interest by the old guard at clubs and, higher up, at the national federation. Jon was one of the few who cared enough to do something, and so that year the WTS was born. It’s an important part of the sport’s history in this country, and with seven rounds still to go there may be one offering a chance for you to go along and cheer for the best cyclists in the country.
Round 2 – Dave Peck Memorial
St Ann’s Heath Junior School, Sandhills Lane, Virginia Water, Surrey, GU25 4DS
Round 4 – Banbury Star RR
Drayton Pavilion, Drayton Road, Banbury, Oxfordshire, OX16 0UD
Round 5 – Oakley Road Races
Oakley Village Hall, Oxford Road, Oakley, Buckinghamshire, HP18 9RD
Round 6 – Duncan Murray Wines Road Races
Naseby Village Hall, Newlands, Naseby, Northamptonshire, NN6 6DE
Round 7 – Cyclopark Women’s GP
Cyclopark, The Tollgate, Wrotham Road, Gravesend, Kent, DA11 7NP
Round 8 – Coalville Wheelers WTS
Coalville Wheelers Clubhouse, Top Road, Griffydam, Coalville, LE67 8HX
“Women’s racing reached an all time low in 1999 when the BCF decided to handicap the Bruton Series, (now called the National Points Series for some reason) an action that saw a general decline in the number of riders, followed by a decline in the number of races (3 Bruton Series events scheduled for 2000); indeed in August 2000 the general feeling was that the Bruton Series should be allowed ”die”. Following a meeting with the BCF in Leicester in 1999, Jenny Gretton and I met in the car park and spoke about the poor state of women”s racing; and after about 30 minutes an outline of the Women’s Team Race Series was formed.
The Women’s Team Race Series continues to evolve today and will in following years; it was the right format at the right time but the ethos behind the Team Series remains – to allow all categories of women to race in a welcoming atmosphere, to develop their skills and fitness in a team environment.” – Read Jon’s full description of how the WTS started here.