Saffron Walden, Essex
Scorching racing on the scorching streets brings success for Verdegaal and Tindley
Some races have a certain vibe about them, right from the start – a positive atmosphere that infects everyone involved with enthusiasm, and encourages the riders to race hard and the spectators to celebrate, which creates an event that feels half bike race and half party. Some notable examples in recent years have been the Tickhill Velo GP and the Lovelo-Cinelli Cyclocrossmas, and now also the Monument Cycling Saffron Walden GP.
If you think all of Essex is brutalist urban concrete, Saffron Walden is going to come as a big surprise. Continuously inhabited since at least Neolithic times, it also played host to Romans, Saxons and Normans, and thanks to the grassy hills hereabouts proved to be an ideal place to raise sheep, which made the town wealthy and important in medieval times. Rich wool merchants built themselves fine houses, and unlike poorer dwellings these were of high quality and have survived. Later, when it was discovered that the local soil was ideal for the cultivation of the saffron crocus, the town became even richer – hence the many 18th and 19th Century buildings of considerable architectural and aesthetic merit, too. So what do we have? Some hills, some winding medieval lanes, lots of beautiful buildings to provide a backdrop… it’s the perfect place for a bike race, but oddly hasn’t seen one since the Tour de France passed through back in 2014. Owen Lake, chief organiser, felt it was about time the ancient streets once again rang to the sound of carbon wheels – and what a fine day of racing it was.
1 Madeline Verdegaal (Poole Wheelers; Cat. 3) 10pts
2 Rebecca Steens (Velo Sport Jersey; Cat. 3) 8pts
3 Louise Wren (Athlon CC; Cat. 4) 7pts
4 Helen Bridgman (1904 RT; Cat. 3) 6pts
5 Jess Morgan (NLTCBMBC; Cat. 3) 5pts
6 Kimberlee Charlton (DAP CC; Cat. 3) 4pts
7 Rebecca Hair (Magspeed Racing; Cat. 3) 3pts
8 Louise Ireland (Espresso Library; Cat. 3) 2pts
9 Gemma Bitaraf (Lovelo Squadra Donne; Cat. 3) 1pt
10 Emma Dunk (Se20 RT; Cat. 3) 1pt
11 Emma Pickering (Dulwich Paragon; Cat. 3), 12 Maeve Savage (London Dynamo; Cat. 3), 13 Tina Reid (1904 RT; Cat. 3), 14 Cecilia Hime (Liv-AWOL/Spok’d; Cat. 3), 15 Isabella Johnson (Datalynx-Parenesis; Cat. 3), 16 Rosina Digne-Malcolm (Velociposse; Cat. 3), 17 Laura Lawson (Velobants.cc; Cat. 3), 18 Sophie Parker (Velociposse; Cat. 4), 19 Alison Fox (Ely & Dist. CC; Cat. 4), 20 Abigail Coles (North Road CC; Cat. 3), 21 Sarah Odell (Dirty Wknd; Cat. 4), 22 Molly Cutmore (TPH Racing; Cat. 3), 23 Lucie Gallen (Team Milton Keynes; Cat. 4),
DNF Lucy Jay (TPH Racing; Cat. 4), Amy Johnson (W. Suffolk Wheelers; Cat. 3)
1 Jo Tindley (Campinense-Velo Performance; Elite) 30pts
2 Laura Massey (Torelli-Assure-Madison; Cat. 1) 25pts
3 Alicia Speake (Team LDN; Elite) 21pts
4 Charlotte Berry (Campinense-Velo Performance; Cat. 2) 17pts
5 Honor Elliott (VC Londres; Cat. 2) 14pts
6 Samantha Fawcett (Lovelo Squadra Donne; Cat. 2) 12pts
7 Josie Griffin (Team OnForm; Cat. 2) 10pts
8 Isabel Darvill (Datalynx-Parenesis; Cat. 2) 8pts
9 Anneleen Bosma (Team LDN; Cat. 1) 7pts
10 Mathilde Pauls (1904 RT; Cat. 1) 6pts
11 Victoria Lovett (Liv-AWOL; Cat. 2) 5pts
12 Gemma Melton (Pedal Power Cycles; Cat. 2) 4pts
13 Sian Botteley (Team OnForm; Cat. 2) 3pts
14 Sophie Holmes (Datalynx-Parenesis; Cat. 2) 2pts
15 Holly Hoy (Team OnForm; Cat. 2) 1pt
16 Christine Robson (VC Londres; Elite), 17 Michelle Arthurs-Brennan (1904 RT; Cat. 2), 18 Jennifer Andrews (CC Ashwell; Cat. 2), 19 Miriam Bullock (East London Velo; Cat. 2), 20 Clover Murray (Liv-AWOL; Cat. 2)
DNF Francesca Hall (DAP CC; Cat. 1), Connie Hayes (Liv-AWOL; Cat. 2)
Chief organiser Owen Lake told us that he’d deliberately made sure his first attempt at putting together a race such as this wasn’t going to become too big, and he was very wise to do so organising events of this type is a massive amount of work. Make no mistake, though – this was a big event, and so a big chapeau to Owen and his team for doing a perfect job, because this was one of the most well-organised events we’ve ever been to, and from the chats going on after the women’s races the riders tended to agree.
So where does it go from here? Well, we hope to see some junior races: the U10s, U12s, U14s and U16s don’t get many chances to race on the road, and we know from the success of those events at the Tarmac Tour of Hertfordshire that there’s an appetite for those events in this region. To do so would require taking over the town centre for a whole day, which is always problematic because in every town there are some people who feel it’s totally unreasonable that they can’t drive their cars right up to the door of the shops on one day of the year, but there’s a way around that: make the event into a fun day out for the entire family, even the ones who don’t enjoy cycling. Get some pop-up food stalls, some music, maybe some fairground rides and suchlike and bill it as a great day out with no admittance fees and before you know it the NIMBYs are in the minority and everyone else thinks it’s a great event that brings huge benefits to the community.
The GP can do all that. It has enormous potential and could even become one of the biggest and most fun events on the British cycling calendar. We’ll definitely be there next year and, hopefully, for many more years to come.