Women’s National 25 mile time trial championship

Women’s National 25 mile time trial championship on the N1/25c course on Saturday 6 August – Bruce Williams
Eighty one of this country’s top women time triallists descended upon the Sawtry, Cambridgeshire course on Saturday afternoon to compete in the National 25 mile tt championship (promoted by the South East Midlands DC) the blue ribbon event of time trialling, with the field including a sprinkling of professional riders alongside the top amateurs.
Two weeks after breaking her own National Competition Record for the ‘25’ with a time of 49 minutes and 28 seconds (49.28 – an average speed of over 30mph) the field was headed by Hayley Simmonds (AeroCoach) the defending champion of last year and already the National Champion this year over the 50 and 100 mile distances, as well as the British Cycling (BC) tt champion, where she beat BC Olympic hopefuls on a Teesside course a few weeks ago.  Other top amateur stars included Angela Hibbs of Fusion RT (a sponsored club but not a pro team) and ex tri-athlete Anna Turvey of the superbly named Tyneside Vagabonds CC, both of whom have recorded very rapid times of around 50 to 51 minutes this season, with both aiming to run Hayley close and perhaps sneak the win.
The leading professional riders came from the Podium Ambition Pro Cycling Team headed by Claire Rose and the ever popular Sarah Storey, DBE, a multi para-olympic champion.  Other major competitors included Julia Shaw (Drag2Zero) a multi tt champion of the last 10 years and still a top performer at the age 52, Bronwen Ewing (Rye & Dist CC) and Clarice Chung and Mel Wasley both of SSLL Racing, another sponsored amateur club with top riders that has appeared on the time trial scene this season.
Apart from the high standard of competition, for me at least there were two remarkable things about the day; firstly the weather and secondly the nature of the course.  With a start time for the women after 2pm (the junior event preceeding this one) it was stinking hot so a day when all riders needed to be well hydrated before the start and take on liquid during the event – not something a lot of them would normally do for a ‘25’.  With the HQ at Sawtry, Cambs, the course itself is based on the old A1 running from a few miles north of Huntingdon at the southern end and turning a few miles before Peterborough at the top end, with two laps (that is two legs heading North and two heading back South) to make up the distance. 
Whilst I did not check the whole course, I am reliably informed that the riders had to negotiate a total of 17 roundabouts and, in addition to heat exposure, there was traffic congestion to contend with on a few of them.  Finally, this road runs precisely parallel to the modern A1M so the riders and spectators (and there were a lot of them) had to withstand the thunderous droning noise of heavy traffic blasting along the motorway a few yards to the side and below.  The race is therefore run against a backdrop of a truly appalling din!  Whilst the event was well organised, this is not exactly a scenic route or a place for a picnic – not difficult to get to but I doubt that I will go back to this course any time soon.
Despite the conditions, Hayley Simmonds retained her 25 mile title recording a remarkable time of 54.57, albeit this being more than 5 minutes slower than her recent competition record.  The top placings are :-
1. Hayley Simmonds (AeroCoach) 54.57
2. Anna Turvey (Tyneside Vagabonds CC) 56.31
3. Claire Rose (Podium Ambition) 57.03
Angela Hibbs was about 10-15 seconds down on Anna Turvey on my watch with 3 miles to go but apparently punctured, whilst Julia Shaw was not well and did not start.  Dame Sarah Storey recorded a time of 58.14 for 5th place (Podium Ambition Pro Team taking 3rd, 4th and 5th places) with Bronwen  Ewing and Mel Wasley 7th and 8th respectively.  A low total of just 10 riders got under the hour, a testimony to the nature of the course and temperature.
Norfolk riders included Jennifer Smart (VC Norwich) and Sally Withey (Team Swift) who recorded times of 1.05.48 and 1.09.28 for 39th and 51st places respectively.  Most riders found themselves 4 or 5 minutes down on times that they have achieved this season, but that was the course and the day.
28 year old Hayley Simmonds has recently completed a PhD at Cambridge University and is seeking a pro team to compete in the top UCI events next season – she is a full time cyclist since completing her studies and was briefly with pro team United Health Care this season.  At the finish, she commented that her time on the day was ‘slow’ in view of the number of roundabouts and the ‘dead road surface’, but was pleased with her performance overall.  Perhaps she is motivated by her non-selection for the Olympic time trial, losing out on selection to Emma Pooley despite beating the experienced BC pro star by a minute in the BC time trial championship a few weeks ago.  She has expressed the view that generally riders within BC training programmes and working with BC coaches are selected for Team GB duty, but is still hoping for a call up to the World Championships in Qatar later this year.  I am informed that she is also a top class road racing cyclist – you have to be if you want to be a professional rider – but confirms that her preferred and best discipline is time trialling.  I wondered for a second, therefore, if Hayley and I had one or two things in common, but had to dismiss the notion.  We don’t.
In sum up, some fine rides and intense competition, but what a day and what a course.  I said that the women’s championship was well organised, which it was, but subsequently I have heard that their are some doubts about the earlier junior event results owing to uncertainty over what distance some riders actually covered.  No jokes from me on this – it can happen to any of us on the day.  It has probably been sorted already.