Road works often go on for much longer than those who plan them ever expected, and for that reason they’re the bane of race organisers’ lives – in any one week, it seems that at least a few road races and time trials have to be cancelled when the bright orange barriers are still in place a week or two after the work was meant to be finished.
This year’s Diss CC Summer Road Race could have been one of them, but fortunately a combination of local knowledge and viable alternative roads nearby made it possible to hold the event on a different circuit, and although this changed the nature of the event dramatically (fewer hills and ten laps instead of five, though the total distance remained the same at 71km) it in no way made for a lesser race – in fact, the general consensus after the race among those who had been here on the usual course last year was that the new one was actually preferable.
Due to a large number of races taking place around the country, including the latest rounds of the National Series and the Women’s Team Series in Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire, entries were greatly reduced compared to last year, when 40 riders signed up, with just 16 leaving North Lopham village hall to be escorted to the circuit. However, with a number of tight corners to come, this may have been a good thing because, almost as soon as the first lap began, it started to rain – really rain, the kind of downpour in which any drop that misses you hits the ground with sufficient force to bounce and get you on the way back up (the riders were soaked instantly; photographers trying to shelter in hedges didn’t stay dry for much longer and before too long began to consider giving up and heading to the inviting pub along the lanes the riders had taken to get to the circuit – when this was mentioned after the race, a few riders admitted they’d considered doing the same thing): a larger peloton, tackling the three tight corners, could easily have ended up on the deck; a smaller group was able to get around without endangering one another.
With such a small number of riders, the same faces kept appearing at the front of the pack. However, some stayed there for longer than others, with two especially notable examples being those of Connie Hayes (Liv-AWOL), one of the youngest riders in the race, and Catherine Coley (VC Londres) who was competing in her first road race since September last year. CC London jerseys were always there too: while this could have been put down to chance since their riders made up 25% of the entry list, it was pretty clear they were targeting this one and were always in control.
The wet conditions hadn’t caused many punctures but around halfway through, after the rain had stopped, Liv-AWOL’s Hannah Graveney got a flat. Mechanical assistance wasn’t far away, but unfortunately for her the sun was warm enough to have dried out the roads and her bad luck just happened to coincide with the peloton’s decision to crank the speed up a bit. Her never-wavering effort to get back on was heroic, but ultimately unsuccessful – she was simply too far back to catch them alone. With two laps to go and the speed still increasing the peloton finally began to show signs of fracturing and, as it approached the last corner leading to the finish line for the penultimate time, Francesca Cutts (CC London) kicked hard.
Considering the length of time since she last raced and the fact that she’d been on the front without team mates to support her since the race got under way, it was remarkable that Coley was able to go with her (even if she was the only 1st Cat. rider in the race); she was able to hold her wheel too, and as the pair of them came down the long straight of Garboldisham Road their advantage over the chasers could be clearly seen across the fields from the finish line as they headed towards the last corner. With only a kilometre to go, it was as good as given that one of them would win, but they remained neck-and-neck up the last slight climb to the line. Only in the last few metres did Cutts make her move, lunging forward to take the victory. Coley, right behind her, looked delighted.
Meanwhile, not too far away down the hill, Connie Hayes suddenly launched herself off the front of the pack and began sprinting to the finish for third place. Lindsay Hamilton (Cambridge CC) followed but was unable to catch her and took fourth, while Sophie Lankford (Aprire-HSS) led the remnants of the peloton and took fifth.
(Gallery below the results)
1 Francesca Cutts (CC London; Cat. 2) 30pts
2 Catherine Coley (VC Londres; Cat. 1) 25pts
3 Connie Hayes (Liv-AWOL; Cat. 3) 21pts
4 Lindsay Hamilton (Cambridge CC; Cat. 4) 17pts
5 Sophie Lankford (Aprire-HSS; Cat. 2) 14pts
6 Vivienne Tomlin (CC London; Cat. 3) 12pts
7 Gina Heiss (CC London; Cat. 3) 10pts
8 Polly Mason (Iceni Velo; Cat. 4) 8pts
9 Emma Bentley (CC London; Cat. 3) 7pts
10 Katie Ward (Cat. 4) 6pts
11 Amy Johnson (Dulwich Paragon CC; Cat. 4) 5pts
12 Jane Wilson (St Neots CC; Cat. 3) 4pts
13 Catherine Pearce (Iceni Velo; Cat. 3) 3pts
14 Katie Scotter (Iceni Velo; Cat. 3) 2pts
15 Jennifer Andrews (CC Ashwell; Cat. 3) 1pt
16 Hannah Graveney (Liv-AWOL; Cat. 2)