This year the prestigious nationwide ‘Tour Series’ has for the first time included races for women sponsored by Johnsons Health Tech. Alongside the Smithfield Nocturne, these exciting city centre criteriums have provided some of the best women’s racing ever in the U. K. and have given the Look Mum Team a chance to jump in at the deep end with the best riders in the country. Jo picks up the story….
Because of work and study commitments, we were unable to commit to the full tour series’ races this year, but fielded a small squad of brave adventurers for Stoke on Trent and Woking. And so it was that on a sunny Tuesday in June Lydia, Louis, Helen and I headed up north to take on the best in the country.
Our epic day out to Stoke lived up to expectations. Well known as a cycling epicentre, the crowds were extensive and noisy, and as we arrived onto the closed circuit the atmosphere was already building. Having been caught in traffic we did not have long before the start and were hurriedly bundled onto the podium to be introduced to the crowd. To my surprise and delight as the Look Mum Team were announced, loud whoops came from my auntie Kate who had travelled over from Derby to support us and managed to position herself right in front of the podium.
Stoke went off like a rocket and unwisely I was at the explosive end having had a particularly good start. After 5 minutes the heat was beginning to tell and I began to slip back through and out the back of the lead group, sliding past Lydia who was hanging in well up the drag past the finish line. Louise was feeling it too having not really had a proper warm up, and so spent most of the race cheering us all on from the sidelines. Having had a last minute mechanical Helen was on the back row at the start and her race was shaped largely by the 90’s hits that were booming out down the finishing straight.
At the end of it all Lydia managed a magnificent 14th to finish towards the back of the much diminished lead group. Oh and Danni King won with a clear breakaway followed by Helen Wyman. Cokes all round (thanks to Auntie Kate), a quick snap for the paparazzi and we piled into the car and back down the M1. 10 hours of driving and 35 minutes of racing later and we got home in the early hours on Wednesday.
Sandwiched between the two tour dates, the next outing was the Smithfield Nocturne the following Saturday. Much anticipated amongst the team, not least because it is just round the corner from our lovely Cafe/Workshop, the start list for this year’s race was decidedly heavyweight. Taking Smithfield in alongside the Tour Series races, most of the same Elite riders came to the Big Smoke for the evening. Notoriously technical and challenging we fielded an impressive six riders in the wome’s race with the remaining team members supporting from the roadside.
Once again the start was hectic and the race strung out all round the tight circuit with Look Mum blue vests dotted all over the place. At the front a winning break of three emerged, with Hannah Barnes once again coming away with the win supported by team mate Lucy Garner. By the final laps the lead group only had a further ten or eleven riders who could stick the pace and I had dropped off to finish 15th, just avoiding being lapped by the winners in the final straight.
All in all at the finish, we were fairly pleased with ourselves and our performance as a team. Sam’s impressive 4th in the men’s support race certainly deserves a mention, as does Nik’s cheerful (and slightly alcohol assisted) recovery from a fall. It was great to hear such vocal support for the Look Mum Team too and good to get the chance to do our best to represent Sam and ‘Look Mum No Hands!’ on the streets of London. I think we did ourselves proud.
And so to Woking, the final frontier the Tuesday afterwards. A little jaded by this stage juggling work, travel, and nerves we arranged a rendezvous at Waterloo for our final stab at the last race in the tour series. Jumping on the train we arrived in plenty of time and had a good look at the course while the guys were still setting it up! By far the most technical of all three races, it featured some significant bends, and in particular a ‘hot dog’ corner with a 180 degree turn before the drag up the finishing straight.
The difficulty of the circuit itself immediately had an impact on the race and there were several crashes as riders tried to negotiate some of the faster corners. One of these caused a fairly significant split in the bunch which left me up front, Lydia in no-mans land, and Louise and Helen somewhere behind in small groups that were forming. The excitement continued as fallen riders rejoined the race from the pits and headed straight for a sharp right turn, and in the mean time intermediate sprints were contested. In spite of all this action, the race came down to a bunch finish won by the talented Lucy Garner, whilst I managed a pleasing 10th. Lydia galantly soldiered on in a solo effort to stay away from the chasers, while Helen and Louise both finished strongly in their respective group sprints.