Thursday 19 April 2012

Round 2 at Hillingdon

The start line, miraculously dry! (thanks to Rebecca Slack for the pic)

Persistent rain throughout the day did little to dampen the spirits of the 31 hardy ladies who took to the start line at Hillingdon for the second League race, promoted by Twickenham Cycling Club. A heavy downpour at 6pm saw most riders get a thorough soaking on their way out to the track, but the weather gods looked down favourably on West London at exactly 7pm and helpfully paused the rain for the entire duration of the race. Less helpfully, they failed to dry the track or raise the air temperature!

The classy field included three 1st cats, eight 2nd cats and a couple of juniors, so it promised to be an exciting and fast moving race from the start. The early laps saw a number of riders trying to stretch the elastic including the experienced Nikki Wheeler (Team Wiggle) and Karla Boddy (High Wycombe CC), but they could not escape the chasing bunch. Elinor Winter (Corvida Allpress) also made an impression up front in the early laps. Around the mid point a group of six riders, including three from LMNH! RT put a few lengths between them and the bunch, but again the break didn’t last.

The pace of the race was such that it was only with two laps to go that the veteran men lapped the ladies, which muddied the water after Nikki Wheeler looked like she could establish a break. Confusion then followed as the men’s pace eased back and the ladies’ was hotting up for the final sprint. The increasingly vocal ladies managed to squeeze their way back past the men with exactly a lap to go but this was only after two ladies had collided on the tight turn, which resulted in the bunch being reduced by six.

However, true to form, the final sprint saw Karla Boddy draw effortlessly clear for the win, with Lydia Boylan and Elise Sherwell making up the final podium places. Karla’s passage to the front was far from straightforward as she explained after the race: “coming into the penultimate lap a crash occurred on the bend; I was almost in it but somehow managed to take my speed out the corner and into the grass verge whilst trying to figure out if I was about to crash or if it was controllable! Fortunately it was controllable and I got back on the track with the bunch now up the mini-hill and beyond. I fought my way back on and by the last lap was towards the back of the bunch. I wrestled my way up on the inside of the last back straight and got a good position into the final turn. I went with about 220m to go and just got my head down and managed to hold my advantage until the line.”

Karla wins in the near darkness (thanks to Pauline English for the pic).

The atmosphere was buzzing in the clubhouse post race and all the ladies seemed to have enjoyed themselves despite the rather inclement weather. Tess Pugh (London Dynamo) said it was “fantastic to see more than 30 ladies turn up to race at Hillingdon on a pretty miserable Wednesday evening. The race was consistently fast with some very competent riding. I thoroughly enjoyed being back there for the first time this year and can't wait for the next race in two weeks time! Hopefully we'll see the same great standard of racing and the same numbers turn up throughout the season.”

Lydia Boylan, 2nd on the night, retains the league leader’s jersey after her win in the first round. She felt frustrated after the race though: “it was a shame that such a positive race was ruined in the last two laps. All the teams in the LWCR are definitely stepping up their game this year and we were all were very eager to set up our riders for a good sprint finish. However with the men's bunch so close to us there was clear confusion amongst the ladies about whether to sit up or push through and overtake the men's bunch. This confusion led to a crash in the bunch. Safety in races is paramount, and I feel the commissaire should have acted to keep the bunches separated and to have a fair finish for everyone.”

The podium: Lydia Boylan (left, 2nd place) and Elise Sherwell (right, 3rd place) flank winner Karla Boddy. Lydia retains the red leader's jersey. (thanks to LondonCycleSport for the pic.)

Many thanks to West Thames Promotions for putting on this series -- there are races every other Wednesday at Hillingdon circuit. As women's racing becomes more and more popular with bigger and stronger fields, organisers and commissaires will get used to the speed of the bunch and hopefully do better at keeping the finish fair and separate from the concurrent men's races.

1 Karla Boddy H.W.C.C.
2 Lydia Boylan L.M.N.H.
3 Elise Sherwell L.M.N.H.
4 Abbie Dentus Welwyn Whlrs.
5 Louise Mahe Mule Bar Girls *
6 Dyanne Holland Inverse/cyclaim
7 Tessa Pugh London Dynamo
8 Anna Grundy L.M.N.H.
9 Emily Bagnall WYNDYMILLA
11 Mary Evans H.W.C.C
12 Helen Ralston Pearson
13 Kimberley English welwyn Whlrs
14 Karen Chisnall TM. MK *
15 Jo. McRae L.M.N.H
16 Kate Fisher Pearson
17 Elinor Winter Corida/Allpress
18 clare Gillott Dulwych Paragon
19 Eleanor Francis SkyVelo *
20 Emma Towers Twickenham CC
21 Julie Granshaw Wyndymilla
22 Jane Hunt H.W.C.C
23 Aimee Wright H.W.C.C
24 Rachel Przybylski Wyndymilla
25 Anna Mcnuff SkyVelo *
26 Nicola Wheeler TM. Wiggle *
27 Stephanie Dreyer Pearsons CC
28 Nikki Englebach Pearsons CC
29 Louise Fellingham London Dynamo
30 Nicole Oh Pearsons CC
31 Selina Graham Twickenham CC

* denotes non-League riders