With the recent announcements that Maxgear RT’s women’s squad (the Maxgearettes) have made recently, I thought it would be a good idea to catch up with the girls to find out what has been happening in their world. The riders for next season are Nicola Soden, Melissa Bury, Lauryn Therin, Frankie White, Eve Dixon and Jo Blakeley, together with the Team Manager, Ian Bury
The Maxgearettes line up has changed slightly ready for next season. Have you changed your targets as a team for next season?
N (@nicolasoden) – As a team, the targets will be broadly similar to last year – National Road Race Series, Team Series, Tour Series and Track Nationals although the way in which they are targeted will change. The team will use a planned approach to each race based on differing courses and rider strengths. Each rider also has personal objectives within each race. There are a couple of stage races some of us would like to ride in Ireland and Jersey (Lauryn’s home turf) and we plan to make a few trips over to Belgium again.
M (@smelissabury) – This year we are aiming to have more of a presence as a team at the national series and team series races. This will hopefully enable us to get to know each other well and get to know each others riding styles so we can work to every ones strengths.
L (@lauryntherin) – From our initial team meetings we have all agreed that our targets for the coming season are to be process focused not outcome focused. A strong team ethic and developing as a group of riders who support one another is an integral part of this process. From this, we see our team developing significantly and it’s something we are all very much looking forward to.
J (@jo_blakeley) – This season we have both team and individual targets which will no doubt develop over the winter and racing season as we learn what each others strengths are and how we can work together. I think its important to allow both focuses to maximise the team potential.
You’ve brought some new riders into the fold, how do you think they will fit within the team’s dynamic?
I (@rugbyleague1) – We are delighted to have both Jo and Lauryn on board, they both bubble enthusiasm and bring new things to the team. Lauryn has an extremely exciting sporting background including world class Bobsleigh and has proved in the National Track Champs this year that she is a particularly good sprinter! Jo is very strong at Time Trial, so both riders will add new strengths to the team which should allow us to target more race types. The new team mates also means that five of our six riders are now based in Manchester within 5miles of each other, which should allow us to socialise and train better as a team, rather than just meeting up at races.
F (@frankiewhite7) – They are fitting in perfectly already! I went out with Jo on the MTB last weekend and we had great fun!
E (@eve_dixon) – We all get on really well and enjoy cycling together rather than cycling as individuals, I also think it is the strongest line up we’ve had in Maxgear in the three years I’ve been on the team!
M – After a couple of team meetings I am very excited about the new riders for next year. It will bring and open up new and different opportunities for races, as each of our riders have different strengths.
L – Being one of the new riders myself, I can see already that each individual brings something exciting to the dynamic of the team. And the best bit is, we haven’t even been out on our bikes yet!
J – I’d like to think I fit quite well into the team dynamic!! We all get on well and work/study in a variety of different areas so we all bring something a little different to the table. We also all want to
ride as a team – which I believe is one of the most important things.
Have you seen any increased level of interest since the Olympics/Paralympics, with people approaching your team for help?
E – no but there has been a rise in interest to join the team
M – We have seen an increased level of interest this year, however many seemed to be seasoned riders, so I am not sure if it was the Olympic/Paralympics that triggered this.
L – From discussions with Ian, I am aware that a number of girls contacted him displaying their interest and this was certainly more than previous years. For this reason, it is all the more important that I work hard to prove to the squad I was the right rider to choose.
How do you expect the season to unfold next year? There are new races on the calendar in the North West, how do you expect this to impact on your team?
N – It is great to see the development of a new women’s league as part of the CDNW series limited to 2/3/4 category women. It is a brilliant step forward in womens cycling in the UK as there is currently only racing available at National Level, sometimes against some of the countries or even worlds best riders. The alternative are short criteriums on closed circuits and not much in between. This new series fills this gap, offering road racing more in line with the mens split E/1/2, 3/4 system. The series will be extremely beneficial to our team as it will allow our riders to practice team tactics, build confidence and try things they may not get chance to in a National level race.
E – All new races are good for the whole of the country I think there will be women prepared to travel if they are well run events rather than just cyclists in the North West.
F – We’re really excited about the CDNW 2W/3W/4W series mainly because it should give us an opportunity to be able to dominate races as a team but also because they are local it means our family and friends can come watch.
M – I am very pleased that there are more races being put on in the North West, as I am at Manchester University so it makes getting to races a lot easier! Also a lot of the team have work commitments, so being able to get to and from a race in a day is a massive help both financially and time wise.
L – As a team we have already planned an idea of what we would like our season to look like. The North West based races is something we will target and we are confident about our team working hard for one another.
J – It’s great there’s some events close by. It’s the nature of women’s racing at the moment that races are few and far apart. To have a set of races that are close to home is great news. I’m looking
forward to them.
How would you like domestic women’s cycling to evolve?
F – Personally I would like to see even greater advancements on those made with the entry level CDNW 2W/3W/4W series this year. When I first had a go at racing 18 months ago there didn’t seem to be a great deal out there for those unable to keep with an elite women’s bunch. Jenny Gretton has done a brilliant job with season starter crits at Tameside and Palatine Circuit, but these don’t last the whole season. Things are obviously changing, though until a hoard more ladies turn up, beginners will only continue to try and hang on to the super speedy for much of the season.
E – I would like it to become more feasible for the women to be the best they can and get a wider range of cycling in Britain rather than just an elitist sport with very few individuals getting the support.
M – As I race in Belgium a lot, I would love to see closed roads in Women’s racing. This seems to increase the quality of racing as the riders don’t have to worry about cars, and closed roads just seem to make the event more impressive.
J – I’d like to see more women taking cycling further and more publicity for womens’ cycling. This has definitely grown recently with the Olympics but there’s still a lot of people who don’t realise about the cycling groups/activities that are available around the corner. I didn’t know until just after I started cycling that there was a grass track at the park which we often went to – there’s so many different types of cycling and not enough people who know about them.
There are a number of new networks that have popped up on facebook for of regional groups for women’s cycling, so this should help massively.
Newport Velodrome – ©Dave Gratton AKA SunflowerDave (on Flickr)
For someone who always has a lot to say for himself, thinking what to write about is more difficult than I thought! I should hasten to add, that’s not because I can’t think of anything, it’s because I’ve got so many ideas running around in my head it’s so difficult to chose.
So my decision has been made for me because for the first time in weeks I have an hour or so to spare to put pen to paper (yes, I am actually writing this on paper) as I’m sitting in the stands watching my daughter Ffion take part in a Welsh Cycling youth track session. So the subject: the importance of good cycling facilities, specifically Newport Velodrome.
The difference this sporting facility has made to Wales is difficult to quantify, but if you look at the numbers of riders both before and after this facility was built who are at or on their way to the top of the cycling tree, it’s obvious that its impact has been massive! The same can be said of Manchester Velodrome and I am sure it will be the case with the Olympic Velodrome; we should also consider Herne Hill and the riders that have benefitted from that facility. What it shows it that good facilities really do make a difference to the progression of riders coming through the ranks, whatever their cycling discipline. Of course we also need champions to inspire youngsters into the sport, but we’ve got such a conveyor belt going at the moment there is no worry about these facilities being under used.
So what memories have I taken from Newport Velodrome over the last 8 or 9 years that I’ve been making the 30-minute drive from Abergavenny to get here?
Well I might as well start with my number one memory and also because “why shouldn’t women’s cycling be given priority over men’s for a change?” If I can find the photo to accompany this when I next go hunting in the attic I’ll post it at a later date, as even now I find it quite hard to believe. Picture this: a women’s keirin with six riders on the start line. In amongst the six, the current senior World Champion wearing her stripes Clara Sanchez. Also on the start line I think it was Sandie Clair. Next up to them, a few star struck young girls from the UK including two from Wales, my 13-year-old daughter Becky and Katie Curtis. I can’t recall another current senior world champion ever racing in Newport, so that line-up is implanted very firmly in my head. By the way, it was France first and second with Becky coming in third to the disbelief of the French coach, especially when finding out Becky’s age.
As for other memories of female competition in Newport, between 2006 and 2007 the Youth and Junior Track National Championships had such strong fields the racing really was fantastic to watch. Seeing Becky, Lizzie Armistead, Joanna Rowsell, Jess Varnish, Laura Trott, Dani King…(I could go on) racing against each other with Hugh Porter getting very excited on the microphone really was brilliant. Looking back now I honestly think you could see then who was going to make it to the top and they weren’t all winners. The look of determination in a rider’s eyes is something I believe is what sets them apart and that is something you can spot at a young age. If someone happens to win a Youth National Championship on the way to the top that’s nice, but ultimately you need to look at the bigger picture and remember it’s not a sprint, it takes a lot of time and effort to win at elite level. And that’s what people will remember; senior champions not 11-year-old ‘superstars’!
On that last point, some really bad memories for me have been watching young girls of Under 12 and Under 14 level attempting to break a National Record as if it was the be all and end all. They have been all kitted out with the best equipment money can buy and their parents have been shouting so loudly at them as if they were doing it themselves, but why? Many of those I have watched are either no longer riding or just riding now and again. And why provide the best equipment at such a young age? Good equipment yes, but keep the very best as a reward and as an incentive when they are racing at international level. I really would like to see some sort of equipment specification cap on all youth riders to make it more of a level playing field and to give them something to aim for.
While I’m in the process of airing my concerns, the other thing that really worries me is that young riders seem to be specialising on one cycling discipline at ever-younger ages and training to the detriment of their education. Youth sport should not be like that. If I could single out one young rider who has got the balance right and sets an example for other to follow it is Elinor Barker and look where she is now! Elinor has given most forms of cycling a go, but over the time I’ve known her and the family her education has come first. She’s obviously had coaching, but it has been Elinor’s drive and determination to succeed that has won her the Junior World Time Trial and of course her supportive parents (I believe there could be another reason and the same applies to Becky as well; both Graham, Elinor’s dad and myself are ardent Newcastle United followers and maybe it’s because the girls have never seen us celebrate the winning of a trophy that they are doing their bit to cheer us up!).
On the male side of things, at the same time as that outstanding crop of girls I mentioned the boys’ fields were also amazingly strong and they provided fantastic racing to watch. Jason Kenny, Peter Kennaugh, Alex Dowsett, Luke Rowe, Adam Blythe, Andy Fenn…(once again, I could go on) are just a few of the names that cycling fans would recognise from the Olympics and pro-peloton this last year. Despite many outstanding races and individual performances the one that stands out still after these years is Andy Fenn’s Youth 500 metre time trial. Here was someone mixing it up with the best youth riders this country had to offer in all the circuit races around the country and he was winning the endurance and pursuit events on the track. In the 500 metre time trail he was up against all the best youth sprinters in the country including current BC Academy sprint member Peter Mitchell. I can still picture him going around the track now. I seem to recall I was sitting in the stands next to Iain Dyer, National Sprint Coach and Trevor King, father of Dani and a few others and the first thing that came to my mind was that here was the person to follow in Jason Kenny’s footsteps. Well I was wrong on that front, but I really think he has the potential to be the next big road sprinter from GB. I am not saying that Andy will be another ‘Cav’, because I am not sure there’ll be another in my lifetime, but I am sure that he’ll be winning many races and stages over the next few years. Another rider I’ve watched in Newport in a similar mold to Andy is Sam Harrison, although he’s got a few years to catch up yet.
As recent as last winter I was sitting in the stands of Newport Velodrome watching the annual ‘Winter Track League’, which mixes all abilities up into different races, both male and female. In Wales we are very lucky indeed to not only have Elinor Barker coming up into the senior ranks, but we also have Amy Roberts. To see both Elinor and Amy mixing it up with the men in the ‘A’ league really is a great sight and I am really excited about the prospect of those two girls representing Wales and GB around the world over the next few years. The girls often found themselves riding in amongst elite men, well not just elite, but professional riders. Last year watching Luke Rowe, Magnus Backstedt, Jonny Bellis and many more on a Tuesday night with the rain hammering down on the velodrome roof, whilst sipping a cup of tea, is fascinating, enjoyable and a relaxing time in amongst my hectic lifestyle.
I have never been in Newport Velodrome with a full stand of spectators, but with the success of this last season and the accessibility of cycling stars to the general public I think I might get to see that over the next couple of years. What Newport needs is the right event to fill the stands, something that has got my mind running wildfire again! Now, if that event gives equal precedence to the women riders or better still star billing, wouldn’t that be amazing?
…Next time, whenever that will be, I’ll probably write about organising my first ever hill-climb and also about the importance and thrills of cyclocross.
Thanks for reading.
With the National Road Series for Women being open to E/1/2/3 only, with no room at the inn for 4th category riders, British Cycling are working hard to engage with women who are new to bike racing. From the circuit races that are being held at Saltaire, Lancaster, to the training sessions held at Tameside Cycling Circuit, which are complimented with the Tameside Season Starter races at the same circuit, British Cycling are obviously keen to develop women’s riding skills, which Jenny Gretton, North West Regional Event Officer, has been working hard to promote.
You may be forgiven for thinking that these events are just happening in the North West, however this is not the case. There are events across the country, from the North East, to the Midlands, to London and the South West. The purpose of these events is to get women used to riding in a bunch, on closed circuits, where it is safe to learn, without the added fear of some random motorist driving headlong into the bunch, which happened last year on one of the National Road Race Series races.
The majority of these events seem to be in March and April, though, which leaves a gap for the rest of the season. Hopefully, the theory is that the women riding these events will pick up sufficient points to become fledgling third category riders, who are then able to ride the National Road Series.
For those of you who are keen to get on the road though, as opposed to closed circuit races, the Team Series events may be just what you are looking for. These events are put on with the idea of promoting women’s racing, without putting anybody off, so the courses are not necessarily too difficult, more “manageable”. Their popularity has grown over the years, with more and more women entering them – the Bedford 2 Day being one of the most coveted wins in the Series!
But don’t despair if you are looking for an event that caters for everybody later on in the year! That is where Andrew Parker, South West Regional Events Officer at British Cycling can help you. He is organising a three stage, one day event on 15 July 2012 for women, and he is encouraging women who aren’t members of BC to come along and have a go, with the idea that the South West Road Race Work Group will cover the cost of a day licence.
Andrew’s reasoning for the event is as follows: “I think a lot of women’s events tend to be shoehorned into a busy day’s racing and the competitors aren’t given the recognition they are due. I thought it would be good to have a dedicated days racing which can showcase the sport. The format is based on an omnium, with points awarded for each stages placings instead of time, the overall winner will have the least amount of points. I’m hoping that it will be really successful and not only encourage more local women to take up racing but also draw in riders from outside the region.”
The event will include a time trial, handicap road race and a circuit race, and you won’t need to worry about staying over as it is all done on the same day. If you would like any more information, please contact Andrew on [email protected]
Click here to be taken to the stage race webpage.
So there’s even less excuses to ride a stage race now – you don’t even need a racing licence! What more could you need? Get your entries in, it is bound to be popular!