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WOMEN’S TEAM SERIES – RACE ONE (Windsor)

Sarah Maidment Squadra Donne Windsor 2011Sunday saw the first race of the Women’s Team Series, with two Bikefood sponsored teams present – Squadra Donne and INVERSE / CyClaim RT.

This is the third year we’ve sponsored Squadra Donne and as we reported previously in the Bikefood blog, the team is going from strength to strength with new riders and sponsors in the form of ShuttVR and C-Originals. Jon Miles manages the team, and both Jon, Steve (St. Georges Cyclery) and their riders over the years have played a crucial role in supporting and developing women’s racing in the UK.

As it happens there were just two riders from the Squdra Donne team present at this race with the remainder preparing to leave for the Tour ta Malta, which Iona Sewell from Squadra Donne won last year.

Three of the newly formed INVERSE / CyClaim RT women’s team were present which is fantastic to see, we helped support the Inverse team from its original inception and its grown rapidly in less than two years.

A strong turnout of riders, the race itself had a number of small incidents and finally had to be abandoned about two thirds through due to a bad crash which required the local air ambulance to attend the scene, roads closed and a number of riders needing medical attention. We wish all the injured riders a speedy recovery.

Andy Saunders, Team Manager INVERSE / CyClaim RT says:

“Today’s National Womens Tour series race in Berkshire today was cancelled after an accident which closed the road with several riders being taken away by ambulance. Dyanne, Louise and Natalie were doing the team proud in the main group before smaller accidents started to break up the race. Congratulations girls on a strong ride up to that point. Inverse / CyClaim RT wish a speedy recovery to all the girls involved…….get well soon!

Here is a race report from Squadra Donne’s Sarah Maidement:

“There was a pretty poor show from Squadra Donne girls at the first race of the Women’s Team Series in Windsor but with the team flying out to Malta the following day, it was always going to be a challenge to get everyone together.
I really hope everyone who came off and was injured makes a really swift recovery… and that future Team Series races will be crash-free…

Tamina and I were on the start-sheet and Jon recruited a couple of girls to guest for the team. It was fun to be racing on home-territory and lovely to have some support from the local guys from Team Quest, with whom I ride regularly, and Darren Hague (from Team Shutt), who came out to watch the race. There’s nothing like a “Go Sarah” to spur you on and get the legs moving!

There were a number of nasty crashes in this race last year and I was determined to stay out of trouble, in order to make it to the start of the Tour ta Malta next week! The course was around 8.5 miles (7 laps in total) with a couple of drags, a fairly straight, wide road through some little villages and then a sharp left-hand turn onto Drift Road (a straight, wide road) with a drag up to the finish.

I tried to stay towards the front of the bunch, which meant I had to work harder than if I’d sat further back but this did help in keeping me out of trouble…

From what I remember, laps 1 and 2 were fairly uneventful. There were a few attacks, but owing to the fairly flat nature of the course, nobody really stayed away for long. There was a big crash on lap 3. I managed to avoid it and chase back onto the leading group. At some point, Tamina also went down 🙁 There was a further crash coming up to the first prime (at the end of lap 3) and a small group of us got away. I was working hard – having just chased to catch this lead group, I was now riding with some of the strongest riders from the field of 80.

There was another nasty crash on lap 4, which I avoided by the skin of my teeth (a flying bike hit me but I managed to stay upright!). I put in a bit of a sprint and caught up with the lead riders: a group of around 8-10 of us riding “through and off”, trying to keep the pace up in order to stay away.

As we approached the finish line at the end of lap 4, the pace lifted and I found myself struggling and then riding on the wheel of another rider who was also struggling. We pinged off the back of the lead group but much to my surprise (I’m not sure why I was so surprised!) the chasing bunch were coming up behind us. I dug deep until the top of the drag and then <thankfully> was able to sit in the bunch and recover for a few minutes before trying to lift the pace at the front to catch the leading group.

Just after we had turned onto Drift Road, we saw flashing lights ahead. The race was stopped. The Air Ambulance was arriving. There had been a serious crash and several riders were badly injured. I think we were all pretty shaken up by the events of the race and worried about what would happen if the race were to restart.

We waited for a good 15 minutes before the Commissaire announced that the race would be abandoned. This was a real shame but I was actually rather glad about this decision.

Sarah”

The racing was taking place on fast roads around Windsor and Maidenhead, word was there was a lot of movement in the bunch from lesser experienced riders, adding to the current feeling that a high percentage of crashes are the result of inexperinced riders – with the finger pointed firmly at the lower ranked riders.

This is an opinion that has been voiced in the pages of Cycling Weekly within mens racing on specific circuits that see a lot of Cat 4 racing. An obvious reaction, but not always a fair one – especially if you take the Inverse girls as an example. Just like the Squadra Donne team, the girls take part in training days and camps designed specifically to develop road racing skills and understanding of the requirements in order to fully prepare yourself for the realities of racing in large groups.

Judging a rider by current ranking doesn’t always tell the full story, but what is clear is that if you are serious about racing you should be developing your race skills along side improving your fitness by taking part in organised rider development days.

Despite flying bikes, riders from both our sponsored teams finished unscathed, and the girls from Inverse received positive feedback from more experienced racers who would be more than happy to race alongside them again.

Bikefood are supporting a Women’s road skills development day with Colin Batchelor. Colin is a British Cycling Level 3 coach and was Club Coach of the year 2008.
The development day will be taking place on May 21st 2011 at Litherland circuit Lancashire/Merseyside (at the end of the M58).

For more information please visit
http://www.TotalCycleCoach.co.uk
British Cycling race report here:

Women’s Team Series Race Round 1
Twickenham CC, Sunday 3rd April 2011

More photographs from British Cycling can be seen here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/britishcyclingphotos/sets/72157626296184685/

The Womens Team Series official website:
www.teamseries.co.uk

Thanks to Darren Hague (ShuttVR) and Andy Saunders (INVERSE/CyClaim RT) for the photographs.