Saturday 30 October 2021

Winning on Winnats (Part 8): Monica Greenwood, Tracy Gregory and Wendy Mathie on the National Hill Climb Championships

The final athletes we are hearing from on the eve of the National Hill Climb Championships are an experienced racer and a couple of newbies.

Monica Greenwood and Tracy Gregory are both relatively local to Winnats Pass, being based respectively in the Macclesfield and in Buxton areas. Where Monica is last year's bronze medallist and an expert racer, Tracy is a new racer, keen to challenge herself on one of her local hills and just have a go - much the same as Wendy Mathie. Wendy is from my local area in South London, and Winnats Pass will cap what has been an exciting year for her, full of new sporting challenges.

Monica Greenwood (Macclesfield Wheelers)

The first time I rode up Winnats I was 15 years old and I think I may have cried because it was so hard, so it will be brutal for sure. For me it's the second to last climb home when doing rides around that way, so your legs are always broken by the time you get to the cattle grid. It will be nice to only have to start from there for a change! The women's field is super strong and I'm excited to see who will take the honours this year. I expect it to be between Bithja [Jones], Mary [Wilkinson], Rebecca [Richardson] and Illi [Gardner]. Jo Blackburn will be right up there too. They are all amazing, so it should be a great race.

This season my biggest challenge has been to fit riding in alongside work. I started a new role as women's endurance coach for the GB cycling team after last year's hill climb so I have had blocks of time off the bike for the Olympics, European and World championships. The Olympics was the longest I've had off the bike for a long time. I spent August spinning but managed to get some good work in and get what I would say was my best result of the season, with fourth place at the Curlew Cup National series in September. 

In terms of hill climbs I haven't been able to do any open hill climbs, as the last few weeks (I entered a few then work plans intervened) I have been in Switzerland and France working at the major track competitions. I just managed to slot in the Lincoln Hill Dash in the few days back home and took the win. That one-minute climb suited me as I'm built for the short punchy climbs - anything around 3mins and under. So I expect Winnats Pass will be too long and too steep for me.

Luckily my club, Macclesfield Wheelers ran a summer hill climb series so I rode as many of those as I could around work.  I'm not expecting anything on Sunday as the efforts I've done in anger since getting back on Monday from the World Track Championships in Roubaix have been below par. However, I felt the same prior to the Lincoln Hill Dash, so maybe something will return – you never know! I'm just going to soak up racing on an epic climb which is only over the hill from where I live, so there should be lots of local support out.

[Monica sets off from the cattle grid near Speedwell Cavern at 10.29am on Sunday 31st October] 


Tracy Gregory (Buxton CC/Sett Valley Cycles)

I only started cycling late in life and am doing it increasingly more each year.  This is the first year that I have done any hill climb events.  I enjoy the challenge of pushing myself to try and make it to the top of the hill! I couldn't pass up the opportunity of taking part in the National Hill Climbing Championship and riding up the iconic Winnats Pass.  

I am only slow, but I don't care - it's the personal challenge and satisfaction of achieving something so difficult.  I hope that I inspire more women to take part in events.  

Don't listen to the people who tell you that you shouldn't do something because you are too slow, too old, not good enough, etc.  If you want to do something, go ahead and do it for yourself.  Ignore the others!  

If I make it up Winnats Pass on Sunday, I'll be ecstatic.  If I'm last, who cares?  I'll have taken part and achieved something.  To all those who say "Why?", I say "Why not?"!

[Tracy sets off from the cattle grid near Speedwell Cavern at 10.14:30 seconds am on Sunday 31st October] 


Wendy Mathie (Penge Cycle Club)

2021 has been a year of firsts for me – my first duathlon (I’ve done many triathlons but never a duathlon!), first crit, first time trial, first cyclocross race, first hill climb.

I only decided to give hill climbs a go after I crashed out at my second crit race ever. After my first hill climb [Kingston Wheelers event on Leith Hill], I was hooked.

I think every hill climb teaches you so much about yourself, and you can always improve.

Last Sunday I raced at Ironman Sardinia after seven days of no sleep, mainly due to my sick son. So you feel in no way prepared for Winnats physically, but mentally….I love going uphill.

[Wendy sets off from the cattle grid near Speedwell Cavern at 10.06:30 seconds am on Sunday 31st October] 

Related posts

Winning on Winnats (Part 7): Maddie Heywood on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 6): Illi Gardner and Vikki Filsell on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 5): Becky Hair on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 4): Frances Owen on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 3): Rebecca Richardson on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 2): Mary Wilkinson on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 1): Bithja Jones on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 7): Maddie Heywood on the National Hill Climb Championships

On the eve of the National Hill Climb Championships at Winnats Pass we hear from Maddie Heywood (Team Watto), who is now doing her third Nationals and has steadily climbed in the rankings each time. She went from 16th on Haytor Vale (2019) to 7th on Streatley Hill (2020). Maybe tomorrow could see the Londoner end up on the podium.

Maddie at the 2020 Nationals on Streatley Hill (photo: Tim Phillips) 

"I feel so lucky in the UK that we have such an incredible hill climb community. This year, being a part of the UK hill climbing season, making new friends and having friendly chats on start lines and finish lines I have really grown to love not just attacking hills, but the entirety of the event. Being around like-minded individuals and being able to share our passion for brutality and also the desire for shiny light bike parts has given me a new lease of life.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am very competitive and a strong lover of hills. I particularly like steep ones (as that’s what I am good at), with minimum flat bits, so I am very excited about the hill being on Winnats Pass this year.

What I am less excited about is the never-ending cold I picked up during my triple hill climb weekend: double header (Chippenham and Severn) [Bowden Hill and Hinton Hill respectively] on Saturday, followed by Monsal Head on Sunday.

I had a go at the Nationals back in 2019 up Haytor Vale. I learned a lot from this race, such as to sort mechanicals out before the day of the race as I was stuck in the small ring on my road bike which wasn’t ideal for such a varying hill. I also later learned that a 2-hour ride to the start and smashing up the long hill as a warmup wasn’t the best prep. 

Last year at Streatley I learned a few more lessons such as don’t try new wheels on race day (wheelspin galore) and don’t try rollers for the first time on overgrown grass.

In terms of actual climbs – I think I am very suited to Winnats Pass as you have more time in vo2 max territory and I also do better on steep sections of hills as I am a ‘true’ climber and, for now, quite under optimised on the flat. Haytor Vale felt more like a time trial effort than a hill climb, and Streatley was great but a little on the short side of things for me.

This season I signed up for a hill climb training plan with Becky Hair and Natalie Creswick. This included turbo sessions, strength and conditioning, and webinars on race prep and confidence etc. I have absolutely loved being a part of this. 

The way Becky and Natalie have helped us prepare mentally for the race has been incredible, including using mantras, and planning for the things you can control on race day and fully documenting those things you can’t control and trying to find some peace with that. Anyway, I won’t give away any more of their amazing tips but it has been incredible to have their support at this time.

I have also been coached by my partner Daryl Maffey, who has used the sessions created by Natalie and Becky as a base and adapted these, structuring them around my menstrual cycle. He ensures I get sufficient rest to shift enough fatigue after my first season of road and crit racing for the new ladies’ team (Team Watto-LDN) and obtained my Cat 2 license in July.

But oh my, the competition is fiercer than ever! This year we see the reigning National Champion Bithja Jones go up against Mary Wilkinson who favours slightly longer hills. Rivalling those two is Illi Gardner who has also been taking course records by huge margins this season and absolutely stunning competitors and spectators. Rebecca Richardson is also on the startlist, so it is going to be quite a battle for the podium.

Joanna Blackburn and Frances Owen, both incredible time trialists and quite new to hill climbs have absolutely owned this season. Then there is Becky Hair and Jessica Evans who I am somewhat evenly matched to. Jamie-Lee Wright has also taken some incredible course records this season in Guernsey and is one to watch.

This season has seen fewer women’s entrants in hill climb races overall, due to the road race season being extended which has been a bit of a shame. However, year on year, it is amazing to see the attitude to women’s cycling improve with equal prize money becoming the norm. 

I know most people that sign up to hill climbs don’t do it for the money but it’s the impression it gives, and I am excited to see the day when it is equal in all aspects of women’s racing. I really think hill climbing has led the way here."

[Maddie sets off from the cattle grid near Speedwell Cavern at 10.26:30 seconds am on Sunday 31st October] 

Related posts

Winning on Winnats (Part 6): Illi Gardner and Vikki Filsell on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 5): Becky Hair on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 4): Frances Owen on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 3): Rebecca Richardson on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 2): Mary Wilkinson on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 1): Bithja Jones on the National Hill Climb Championships

Friday 29 October 2021

Winning on Winnats (Part 6): Illi Gardner and Vikki Filsell on the National Hill Climb Championships

 As we head towards the big day in which we find out who will be the inaugural Queen of Winnats Pass at the National Hill Climb Championships we hear from one of the youngest competitors in the women's senior race, and one of the older competitors 

22-year old Illi Gardner (CAMS Racing) is a hot contender for the overall crown. Having recently broken the world Everesting Record by riding up the formidable Bwlch Y Groes 72 times, the Wales-based rider will have nothing to fear on Winnats Pass. 

Meanwhile Vikki Filsell, who races for the Surrey-based all-women cycling club BellaVello CC, was in the mix of fast Vets on Streatley Hill, in her maiden season last year. This year she is hoping to build on her solid performance.

Illi Gardner (CAMS Racing)

World Everesting record holder, Illi Gardner (photo: Paul Gardner)

"This has been my first proper hill climb season as I also race on the road which is at the same time. This year I was really keen to do more hill climbs, so mixed it in with the end of the road season. I was hoping to attend the Nationals in 2020 but unfortunately couldn't due to lockdown restrictions in Wales, so these will be my first Nationals.

All the hill climbs have been really fun but I think the Porlock Hill Climb [Exmoor] and the University of Bristol hill climb [Belmont Hill] were my favourites, even though they were kind of opposites being the longest and shortest ones at ~17mins and ~3mins respectively.

I think racing on Winnats Pass is going to be special as it's such a unique, well-known climb that hasn't been raced on in so many years. I'm looking forward to the atmosphere. I rode up it for the first time earlier this year (in the snow), then again last weekend. I'd forgotten how brutal it is! My favourite kind of hills are steep ones, which Winnats certainly is; I usually prefer long grinds rather than short punchy climbs but I'm really excited to give it a go.

Everesting is such a different effort from all-out hill climbs but it definitely cemented my love for climbing, my motivation to get involved in more hill climbs, and maybe increased my pain tolerance too!

I beat Bithja Jones earlier in the season [on Bowden Hill], but it still doesn’t give me much confidence at all.... anything can happen on the day."

[Illi sets off from the cattle grid near Speedwell Cavern at 10.28:30 seconds am on Sunday 31st October]


Vikki Filsell (BellaVelo CC)

Photo: Vikki Filsell

"I am very excited (and grateful) to have the opportunity to race on Sunday. I’m not a contender, as such, but hope to do well in the over 50s category.

I visited the area in the summer and found the Winnats climb super-hard and extremely full of cars. It will be amazing to ride up it ‘traffic-free’. I think I’m ready for the windy and wet conditions, having cycled outside quite a lot recently. Training has been going well for both hill climbs and cross-country running. I try to combine the two disciplines and quite enjoy the challenging conditions.

I’ve tried two new hill climbs (for me) this season: Catford and Bec. They were my first experience of the wall of sound from the spectators. It was deafening and inspiring! Gary Beckett knows which climb I enjoyed the most (and wasn’t happy!)

There is a large womens’ field this year but not quite so large as last year. I have a prediction for the womens’ race winner for 2021 but will keep it to myself!"

[Vikki sets off from the cattle grid near Speedwell Cavern at 10.07:30 seconds am on Sunday 31st October] 

Related posts

Winning on Winnats (Part 5): Becky Hair on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 4): Frances Owen on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 3): Rebecca Richardson on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 2): Mary Wilkinson on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 1): Bithja Jones on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 5): Becky Hair on the National Hill Climb Championships

Continuing my mini series on women racing in the National Hill Climb Championships at Winnats Pass, in the Peak District, here are the words of Becky Hair (Magspeed Racing), who has been an ambassador for women's cycling, and a real advocate in encouraging women's participation in cycle sport.

Becky Hair on Leith Hill Climb (photo: Kingston Wheelers)

"In 2020 I managed to come 9th at the National Hill Climb Championships [at Streatley Hill, Oxfordshire]. I’d focused my training on the hill climb championships during lockdown (as a distraction from my work in critical care throughout the pandemic). I think I managed to do better than expected, also because quite a few people couldn’t attend.

I happened to be up in Chapel-en-le-Frith for a hen do the week before lockdown in March 2020, and I knew Winnats was close by, but I don’t think it had been announced as the National Champs at that time. 

On my way back to Cambridge I stopped off at Sparrowpit and popped down to do a recce and to tick off another ‘100 climb’. I don’t think I knew what was coming. I’d seen pictures of it, but hadn’t even driven up it before. As I cycled down I was awe struck. It was so beautiful, but so fierce. I then paused in Castleton before riding back up it. 

I went too hard, got too excited riding up Winnats Pass, and couldn’t get to the top. My heart rate was in my mouth, and I am not sure the hangover helped. In a stupid moment I clipped out, and there was no way I was getting my foot back into the cleats again, so I walked to the top, cars streaming past me and my head hung. 

That was my first experience of Winnats Pass, and something I won’t forget lightly. It’s the first hill that’s ever beaten me and taught me a lesson. So I need to give it the respect it deserves when it comes to racing it. The iconic 2021 hill climb doesn’t really suit me as it’s about 3 minutes too long, but there’s no way I’ll give up a chance to race with this backdrop in my first National Championships where spectators are allowed!

I’ve since ridden Winnats twice, and thankfully have made it to the top on both occasions. I’ve played around with my bike (Specialized Aethos) but have not made any major modifications to it - lighter wheels, changed the saddle, lightweight inner tubes, and taken off bottle cages but that’s it. 

It weighs in about 6.5kg - not the lightest I know, but when I was looking at making it a single ring front cog they’d run out of the size I wanted and it was too close to race day to make the change and practice on it! I’m lucky enough to borrow a bike from Specialized each year and as it’s not really mine I can’t go and chop it all up! Perhaps one year I’ll take the time to really make a specialist hill climb bike.

In terms of training this year, it’s been mixed. I focused early in the year on increasing my aerobic capacity for my road races and crits too. It's something I don’t have and have never trained, as 2-hour rides used to be the longest I ever did. I rode the hilliest coast to coast (the Albion 500) in July over 3 days and this really helped get me psyched up for the hill climb season too. 

Living in Cambridge is hard sometimes and I needed this to boost my confidence to ride some of the hardest climbs in the country back to back. Over the summer I probably ran a little bit too much, with races being back on, and my running club group were back together – I think this has hampered my ability to cycle and was my own fault as I thought I could do everything well! In hindsight I didn’t get a 5km PB (I scraped in at 17:54) and I wasn’t racing regularly enough on the bike over summer to have a decent crack at any crit races. 

However, the last 6 weeks have mainly been really good. I did an excellent training camp in Mallorca in mid-September. But then last week, when I went down to the athletics track I sprained my ankle in the warm-up and thought I’d broken it. Thankfully, one x-ray later it was okay and I was able to have a go at Bank Road last Sunday. 

My coach, Nat Creswick (Team Headset) has been an absolute dream and is a close friend of mine too. She has helped me reframe my anxieties and has told me when I’ve been doing too much. Me and Nat have also been coaching 17 women online over the last four months in a plan called ‘Upwards’. This has included cycle coaching from Nat, and strength and conditioning plans from me (I’m a physiotherapist by trade!). We backed this up with monthly webinars around sport psychology topics. 

Doing this coaching plan for them has actually really helped me and reminded me that the whole aim of this is to get more women on the start line, off the back of last years campaign #climbhighertogether. We’ve had people enter hill climbs and completed them with determination, tenacity and strong will. It’s something I’m really proud of and I hope we have planted the seed for them to return to hill climbing in the future.

Looking back on my race season last year, I rode eight hill climbs with mixed results. I’ve learnt more this year and done some of my hardest bike sessions ever - 7 mins of Tabata style sprints (20 secs on 10 secs off) x 3 is the most brutal thing I’ve ever done. This year I’ve ridden 10 races so far and have managed two wins, second place four times (always the bridesmaid to Rebecca Richardson!), third place three times and fifth, with a personal best at the Monsal Head hill climb. 

This gives me the confidence that I’ve had enough practice on the bike to do my best this weekend, and I am really hopeful that I’m ready to smash it given all the rest I’ve had this week!"

[Becky sets off from the cattle grid near Speedwell Cavern at 10.25:30seconds am on Sunday 31st October]

Related posts

Winning on Winnats (Part 4): Frances Owen on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 3): Rebecca Richardson on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 2): Mary Wilkinson on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 1): Bithja Jones on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 4): Frances Owen on the National Hill Climb Championships

Having a field of over 70 senior women at the National Hill Climb Championships at Winnats Pass, in the Peak District this Sunday, will be a momentous occasion - even more so given that the last time Winnats Pass was the venue for the National Hill Climbing Championships, in 1977, women's hill climb races didn't exist. 

I have been speaking to different women who will be competing at the event, and there is a real mix of riders. Some are elite experienced, sponsored riders, while others are newbie racers with a local club, no sponsorship. Frances Owen is the latter. In this, her first full year of racing, Frances has found that she has a talent for time trials and hill climbing, and is pretty excited about taking part in her first National Championships.

Photo credit: Dave Doohan

"Steep, straight and consistently brutal - Winnats is a power climb....and a beautiful one at that. I couldn't be more excited to revisit it on Sunday!

I did my first hill climb last year [at Longstone Edge, Peak District], and was super excited for Streatley,  but then Wales went into full lockdown and my hopes of attending the Nationals were quickly ended!

I’ve been racing since April this year, completing my first “season” of time trialling, riding for my local club - Fibrax Wrexham Roads Club. It’s been surreal, I got a little bit excited at finding out I wasn't totally rubbish and I raced pretty much every weekend over the Summer. I am quite proud of what I’ve achieved - I came 5th in the National 100, 8th in the National 25 and 2nd in the BBAR (Best British All Rounder), posting a time just 7 seconds off the 100 mile competition record last month whilst making my best attempts.

Knowing I’d be feeling the fatigue by Autumn, I told myself the hill climbs would be a ‘bonus’ at the end of the time trial season, and not to focus on them too much or worry about results, and so I’ve been looking forward to the hill climb season all year! I live in North Wales, with monster climbs right on my doorstep that make Winnats seem easy! As an out of the saddle ‘mauler’, for me, the steeper the better - Winnats will just about do!

In terms of training, I don’t have a coach - I do my research, set my own sessions and stick to them pretty well, but I like the flexibility of being able to move stuff around life, weather and crucially, how I feel. It's very much a trial-and-error process but I think it’s worked out so far this year! Since switching from time trial to hill climb training mid-September, my training has become either very very hard, short intervals, or very very easy recovery. I love this sort of training - you are so focused on the interval you are in, and every session feels like a major success when you finish!

I love seeing everyone’s dedicated hill climb bikes, but I am admittedly just a little bit jealous! I’ll be riding my summer road bike - a Cervelo R5. I'll swap out my saddle for a cheap carbon one, and put lighter tyres/tubes on the stock DTSWISS 1450 wheels, but that’s it. It’s a very nice bike, incredibly stiff, with Dura ace, di2... but it weighs in at 6.8kg. I know that is some 2kg more than some bikes, but I don't want to tinker with it too much, and I’m not sponsored or supported, so without spending thousands, it would be pretty hard to knock any weight off! 

Frances racing up The Struggle (photo: Ellen Isherwood)
Plus, at 59kg, physically I don't consider myself a hill climber! I could probably afford to lose the kilos off my butt before justifying spending more money! 

I see body weight as something to experiment with, and reckon it will take a few years to find my ideal race weight. Sitting around 63kg most the Summer seemed to give me the numbers for the TTs. I’ve obviously lost what I reasonably can for the hill climbs, but I don't want to sacrifice power.

I’ve had a couple of wins on the hills this year - Great Dun Fell, Riber, Bank Road, and my club's host event, the Horseshoe Pass. The other hill climbs have been 2nds (and one 3rd) behind hill climb legends Rebecca [Richardson], Mary [Wilkinson] and Joanna [Blackburn]. 

I don’t know how I’ve ended up ranked in the top 10 on Spindata, and in reality, I don’t have such a high expectation for the Nationals, as there are many strong unranked women. If I can try my best, and put in a good ride, I will be happy whatever the outcome! 

Sunday is going to be so much fun - I fully expect the crowds to be wild and I am so excited to see what the women at the pointy end can do - I think it could go any way! It's this growing community that makes hill climbing special. 

One of my most rewarding moments this year was not a race I was in, but one I went to watch. I coach children's cycling for my club and one of my Go-Ride girls set off up the Burway [Shropshire] in her first hill climb, at just 10 years old, and absolutely smashed it. This kind of support has been more than returned, and I hope that I can do everyone proud on Sunday. Good luck everyone - see you on the hill!"

[Frances sets off from the cattle grid near Speedwell Cavern at 10.27am on Sunday 31st October]

Related posts

Winning on Winnats (Part 3): Rebecca Richardson on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 2): Mary Wilkinson on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 1: Bithja Jones on the National Hill Climb Championships

Thursday 28 October 2021

Winning on Winnats (Part 3): Rebecca Richardson on the National Hill Climb Championships

In my mini series on women's thoughts on contesting the National Hill Climb Championships on the iconic Winnats Pass (Peak District) for the first time in history, we focus on Rebecca Richardson. The Brother UK racer has had podium success in the past at the UK Hill Climb Championships, when she was third on Haytor Vale in 2019. Based in mid-Wales, Rebecca was unable to compete in 2020. But this year the reigning Welsh Hill Climb Champion is back, and will see if she could add to her hill climbing palmarès.  

Rebecca at Monsal Head hill climb (photo: Anthony Wood)

"Last year was a bit of a wet blanket because a week before the Nationals the Welsh Government changed its mind about where we could go [because of the Covid pandemic], so being based in mid-Wales I didn't get to race on Streatley Hill.

So I’m pretty excited about the National Championships on Sunday, and pretty relaxed. I know that I’m in the mix in terms of maybe the top 10 hill climbers but this year is competitive. The level’s really gone up. What’s great about the women’s field now is that as it gets bigger you get more specialists. We know in the men’s fields certain riders go better over a short distance, and  some go better over a long climb. In the women’s field we’ve never had that depth and breadth of field in the past, but this year we have. We’re getting some consistent women in the sport, and then when you add in new women we are starting to see this range.

A climb like Mam Nick suits me. It’s about 7.5 minutes long for women. Anything that’s sort of 5-7 minutes or 7-10 minutes is more my cup of tea.

Mam Nick has been my favourite race this season, where I broke the course record. It’s a climb that, for a couple of years my friends had been saying I should go for, and I really wanted the course record off Lizzy Banks. It’s a really beautiful, iconic climb. When I did the hill climb I put in the best 7-minute power. A minute from the end I was numb with my head down, and I was really in a place I’d never been, physically. My sight was blurring – basically all the oxygen from my brain was going! 

I was really glad to get the record, especially after the disappointment at Monsal Head where I had a massive wheel-slip and lost power. I picked back up at the end, and when I got to the top I was like aaargh! With the field of riders there, I thought I wouldn't even get a podium place. So when I found out I was third, it was a surprise. Looking at the pacing on Strava, I was actually ahead of Mary [Wilkinson], when I had the wheel-slip. I was actually in line with Bithja [Jones], so I know my result could have been a lot better. 

Winnats Pass is not my kind of climb. If you talk to people like Bithja, Mary, Illa [Gardner] and Frances Owen they will say that they love anything that’s steep. Well, I’m the total opposite! Everyone who knows me, knows how much I go backwards when it gets really steep. It’s like when I get out of the saddle my body just doesn’t propel forwards like everybody else!

My partner Rick, lives about 30 minutes away from Winnats so we rode it with Lizzy Banks. We did a ride for the Cycling Podcast tech channel, doing a full gas effort about a month and a half ago. We worked out the gearing, and then I went back and did another full gas effort last week, and we’ve changed all of my bike gearing since.

I was back there on Tuesday this week, because I could see that the weather on Tuesday was looking pretty similar to what we’re going to get on Sunday. The thing about Winnats is that it completely changes with the wind. It’s like a gulley which faces the prevailing wind. When it's windy you get down draughts which are really really gusty. 

On Tuesday we had 28mph South-Westerly gusts and in the gorge in Winnats, on the actual climb, I had to get off my bike. I couldn’t physically ride up it because it was so scary. I had to walk down and my bike was getting pulled out of my arms by the wind. It was flying in the air like a kite! Then a walker in front of me fell over from the wind. 

If the weather is like that on Sunday it’s going to be really interesting. It will be just a case of who can actually get up it. I said that I don’t think I’m a contender but if the weather is anything like Tuesday, I think the advantage of being able to stay in the saddle will make the difference. So I’m going in prepared for the worst, basically. I'd rather have attritional conditions, as that might give me a chance!

In terms of bike set-up I’ve got a really special bike which was created by my partner and his business partner. They have a company called DreamBuild, and have a You Tube channel where they film dream builds – pro bikes, latest bike releases, and they work with manufacturers on projects. So my bike is one of their projects. It’s the S-Works Aethos that has string wheels and everything’s been geared towards being really lightweight. It’s their lightest frame and is around 700g. The whole bike is 4.7kg including disc brakes. Maybe it's really the wrong bike for the wind. I think for those conditions you might just want an old winter bike, or even a mountain bike!

Rebecca's S-Works Aethos as featured in Cycling Weekly

I think realistically, based on all my recons at Winnats, I am not going to be on the podium. But in my mind, that won’t be a failure because the success for me is that there are so many women now who are up there, and to be on the podium you have now got to be in top form, and a notch above

It is now like how the men have had to compete for several years. When you see 75 senior women and a full field of junior women – they’re talking about over 100 women - and you can’t even say whether you’re necessarily going to be in the top 10 because there are so many potential top 10 hill climbers, that’s really exciting. 

Even Cycling Weekly magazine recently featured three women hill climbers. They had a story about The Rake, with Mary [Wilkinson] leading the article, a profile on Bithja [Jones], and in the tech section they had my bike. So women’s hill climbing has become so exciting and unpredictable. People are talking about Bithja and Mary, but Illi has beaten Bithja this year. I personally think it will be between Mary and Illi. I think Winnats is too long for Bithja.

I’m really excited for Sunday,  because every time you go up Winnats normally, the traffic is so horrible, and I know the organisers have been working for about two years with the council to get this venue and have closed roads.

This is a unique chance, and because it’s a natural amphitheatre and quite short we’re hopefully going to get some brilliant crowds. They had the Nationals on Bank Road in Matlock in 2016, where I raced in what was my first open hill climb, and the crowds blew my mind; it was like the Tour de France. I can only imagine Winnats is going to be like that." 

[Rebecca sets off from the cattle grid near Speedwell Cavern at 10.28am on Sunday 31st October]

Related posts

Winning on Winnats (Part 2): Mary Wilkinson on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 1): Bithja Jones on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 2): Mary Wilkinson on the National Hill Climb Championships

In the run-up to the National Hill climb championships on Winnats Pass, I have been getting the thoughts from different riders as we approach another momentous occasion in women's cycle racing. This iconic climb just outside Castleton is being used as the setting for the Nationals for the first time since 1977. Given that in those days there was no hill climb competition for women, it will therefore be the first time that a women's hill climb competition is being held there. 

The women's 70+ strong field is going to be very fiercely competitive, with a number of contenders who could be crowned "Queen of Winnats Pass". Defending champion, Bithja Jones gave her thoughts in a previous post. Now it is the turn of Mary Wilkinson (Yorkshire Road Club), last year's runner-up. Mary, a former elite runner and Zwift Academy finalist, has finished in second place on three occasions in the last four years but has never won. Maybe this could be her year. 

Mary pushing herself to the limit at Monsal Head Hill Climb (photo: Anthony Wood)

"Winnats Pass is an absolutely beautiful climb. I think you’d really struggle to find a more fitting location for the championships and I’m really looking forward to it. The winners will be truly deserving champions on a course like Winnats. To me, it’s a really classic, pure hill climb with a fairly constant (brutal) gradient that will push everyone to their limit physically, mentally and tactically.

Having crowds back has already been a huge boost this year at all the events, but I can guarantee that the atmosphere on Winnats is going to take this to a different level. It is such a natural amphitheatre; I can already hear the noise!

I’ve done a few races in the area so I took those opportunities to ride Winnats a few times, as I’ve made the mistake before of not seeing a climb until race day - that can be challenging mentally. It’s certainly a hard climb, but majestic at the same time. I’ve found myself admiring the surroundings as much as focusing on my effort, so hopefully that’s out of the way before the event! Even without crowds the location feels special, so to have closed roads and screaming crowds is just going to be amazing.

I’m really lucky to live where I do and to be surrounded by some of the most amazing roads to ride in the Yorkshire Dales and the Forest of Bowland. We certainly have our fair share of steep long hills, that's for sure! It’s pretty difficult to actually go for a flat ride, but because I enjoy riding uphill so much, that’s never a problem. So living where I do certainly helps you be a hill climber whether you want to be or not.

This is the first year that I’ve had a dedicated hill climb bike. I’ve previously just ridden a slightly modified road bike (i.e. I took the bottle cages off!). I spotted another hill climber selling their specially built bike at the start of the season and I was very lucky that it was my size and I managed to buy it. It’s built around a Cannondale Supersix frame which seems to be one of the most popular choices for hill climbs, and runs SRAM Red Etap.

I’ve worked with my mechanic, Eddie Dickson (Darwen Cycle Repairs) to tweak a few things such as narrower bars and longer cranks. I managed to get hold of a nice set of lightweight wheels, also second hand from another hill climber (It’s a good community!), and have got my trusted Continental Tyres on them.

I really couldn’t be happier with the final build. Weight-wise it comes in around 5.1kg all in, but equally as important I feel really comfortable and confident riding it. Weight is important, but I believe having confidence in the handling and performance of the bike in all conditions is worth even more.

Gearing wise I run a single chain ring up front, either a 38, 36 or 34 depending on the gradient and weather, and an 11-28 cassette on the back. For Winnats a lot will depend on the wind direction, which makes a big difference to the duration and effort and that will determine which chainring I run.

My best race this season was probably the last event I did, at Ripponden Bank (near Halifax) where the power was well above what I’d done for that duration before. The Rake is a close second because of the challenging conditions with the wet road, and the fact that it was an event I’ve really wanted to win. So there was extra pressure from myself to try and put in a performance to achieve that, and I was really happy to execute the ride there.

From a pure statistically point of view, to have broken the course records in every race I’ve ridden this season is more than I could have expected, and to take the win in nine out of the ten races I did is way beyond what I had hoped for. I’ve progressed my training as I wanted to, done all I can, so what will be will be!

I couldn’t really have asked for a better season. I came into it feeling healthy and strong, and have managed to progressively build on this as the season has gone on. I’ve completed all the training I’ve wanted to do, stayed healthy and most importantly I’ve really enjoyed the whole process - the training, the racing and the camaraderie at events. 

I feel that I’m in the best place I’ve ever been both fitness and enjoyment-wise and I think it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate that. Whatever happens at the Nationals I’ve had a brilliant season and enjoyed every minute, I can’t really ask for any more than that.

The level of women’s participation and the standard has increased year on year. When I started hill climbing (only a few years ago) there would be one or two women at events if you were lucky, and our presence was pretty insignificant. Nowadays, we are getting really good numbers of women riding at lots of events, and we are largely treated on par with the men which is great to see. 

There are lots of new riders getting involved too, although this year I think the overall numbers (in men & women) has been lower because of the delayed road season, but I expect that to pick back up next year and beyond. I think on the whole the hill climbing community has also progressed and there is a definite feeling of growing inclusivity and friendship among the riders, which is brilliant and something that will only help the sport grow.

Each year I’ve competed I’ve improved my power numbers and my performances, but every year the level at the top of women’s hill climbing improves too! This can only be a good thing. It keeps everyone pushing for that little bit extra, striving for that extra 1%. 

It’s also great to see that there are some younger riders coming through, because at 40 I really shouldn’t be winning events, although I’m not complaining! As long as I keep enjoying it, I’ll keep competing. 

You can always be the best version of you and as a cycling discipline, hill climbing is the perfect arena in which to achieve this because it really is you against the hill."

[Mary sets off from the cattle grid near Speedwell Cavern at 10.29:30seconds am on Sunday 31st October]

Related post

Winning on Winnats (Part 1): Bithja Jones on the National Hill Climb Championships

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Winning on Winnats (Part 1): Bithja Jones on the National Hill Climb Championships

Excitement is mounting as riders gear up (or even down!) for the National Hill Climb Championships this year at Winnats Pass. 

This hill, set in a natural amphitheatre in the Derbyshire Peak District, near Castleton, will be the scene for the heroes testing themselves, straining every sinew to battle up the 25% gradient as fast as is humanly possible over 1km. 

There will be some exciting contests to be had on the slopes of this infamous climb, which was last the venue for a national hill climb race in 1977, long before many of the competitors were born.  

In the men's competition the likes of Tom Bell and Andrew Feather have taken turns to get the better of each other in individual battles throughout the season, though previous winners like Adam Kenway, Ed Laverack, or Dan Evans could throw in a surprise on the day. So we wait with baited breath to see who will prevail in the War of Winnats Pass. 

Meanwhile, the 70+-strong women's field will not be a totally clear-cut affair either. Defending Champion Bithja Jones (Pankhurst Cycles) could be the bookies favourite, given the numerous wins and course records achieved by the Reading-based rider. She again, beat arch-rival and last year's runner up, Mary Wilkinson on Monsal Head earlier this month. But maybe local knowledge may play a decisive role, and northern-based riders like Wilkinson, plus Macclesfield's Monica Greenwood could edge ahead. In addition, one rider, Illi Gardner has managed to get the better of Jones this season, when the 22-year old World Everesting record holder was the fastest woman up Bowden Hill Climb, near Chippenham in early October.

Over the coming days we will hear the thoughts from some of the competitors.

Here is what defending Champion Bithja Jones has to say:

Bithja storming to a win at Monsal Head in October (Photo by Anthony Wood)

"It’s very exciting. I’m not thinking about it too much or else I’ll get really nervous, but it’s always good because it means I usually perform better when I’m nervous.

I've been up Winnats Pass three times. The first time I went up it I thought, 'I will go easy just to check it out – go in a low gear and just spin up' but you can’t do that on a road bike. There’s no easy way up it. Even in your lowest gear it’s hard work. It’s really really steep - a proper power climb, though quite long for a power climb.

It’s totally different from Streatley Hill, last year, and I will definitely take more time than up Streatley. I do really well on the short steep climbs, so in terms of the steepness it suits me. But in terms of length, it’s maybe just a tiny bit long. But we’ll see how I go.

Somewhere like Monsal Head, where I did really well this year, is probably my perfect climb. I was sad that I missed the Bec and Catford Hill Climbs because I was suffering from a really bad cold, and they would have probably been really good for me because they are very steep and a bit shorter than Winnats. 

I didn't race last weekend because I wanted to make sure I could be prepared for Winnats. In the first couple of weeks in October I had a cold and had to take it easy, but I am now better, just in time for the Nationals.

It’s so special to race on such an iconic climb for the first time in 44 years, and I am so so chuffed that I will be a scratch rider on Winnats Pass. That’s just amazing.

I'm looking forward to having spectators too. I raced up Haytor for the Nationals in 2019, but because it is such a long long climb the spectators were spread out a lot. Then the following year the spectators were mainly the marshalls because of Covid. This year, Monsal was amazing and Leith Hill too. Having spectators makes a massive difference and definitely makes me go a few seconds faster, I think.

Monsal was brilliant. It was absolutely amazing. There were barriers on the last quarter of the course, so people were standing in rows, even four deep. There was a massive noise. It was amazing, with the most people at the top, but by then it was all a bit of a blur for me! I loved it so much.

I have won nearly all of my hill climbs this season. I came second at one in Chippenham. It was really icy cold and so wet, and I felt cold during my warm-up. I was freezing cold when I got to the start line and felt really rubbish. Illi Gardner won that one, and she’s a really strong rider to look out for anyway; she will be one of the main contenders at Winnats, I’m sure. She’s amazing. Apart from that race, I have won all my races and set new course records on almost all of them as well.

My training this year has been so different. Last year I just did everything on my own and just went cycling, and rode up a few hills. This year is different. A friend of mine asked me if I would consider having a coach. I thought maybe I should try it because last year I proved that you can do well without a coach. But this year I wanted to see how far I could get if I got professional coaching. 

So I am now being coached by Matt Clinton who was national hill climb champion in 2008, and a podium finisher in the national hill climb championships eight times in a row.  So he’s been training me for the last four months. I am doing intervals on the turbo now, and I’ve got a power meter - all the things that I didn’t have last year. 

It has made a massive difference and I’ve actually learned to like it as well. At first I didn’t like riding the turbo trainer, but now it’s fun. I’ve never worked as hard on my bike as I have done in the last four months on my turbo trainer. If it didn’t make a difference I would have been hugely disappointed and I would never find a coach again. 

Coaching does makes a difference. It has helped me finđ my potential I guess, so you can go that bit further if you have someone who knows exactly what you need, to train for a hill climb.

My bike is a very nice Tifosi Mons hill climb racing bike, and my amazing, committed mechanic, Rikki Pankhurst at Pankhurst Cycles (in Pangbourne) is always working on it between races to make sure everything is all right, and he is finding bits where he could save yet another few grams. He will be chopping off the drops, as I won’t need them on Winnats. He’s got a few more ideas where he can save a bit of weight and have it ready for the Nationals. So he’s very amazing there. At Pankhurst Cycles they are always supporting me, taking me to the races and making sure the bike is absolutely race ready before the start.

At the moment the bike weighs 5.8 kg. It’s heavier than some of the bikes of my competitors, but you have to get it right for what suits you. If you go for too light a bike, sometimes it gets a bit flexed and then you lose power in the end. You need it to be light, but also stiff. I’m really happy with the bike as it is at the moment.

I will have to be ready for damp conditions, given that you are out of the saddle most of the time because of the nature of the climb. However, for whatever reason I have never had any real trouble with wheelspin so far, even in the races where others were struggling. What you can do is to adjust the tyre pressure, and then maybe it’s technique as well, where you put your body weight on the bike as you are cycling up. 

Also Winnats, at least hasn’t got any trees, so you won’t have damp leaves to deal with. We’ll see how it goes, but the conditions will be the same for everyone. So we will all have the same problems to tackle, I guess.

Monsal Head podium (L-R) Mary Wilkinson, Bithja, 
and Rebecca Richardson (photo:Anthony Wood)

Thanks to the massive campaign last year, I think women’s hill climbing has become so much more exciting and so strong. Everyone in the field has stepped up, and I’ve definitely stepped up in my training - and so have my competitors. We will have an even stronger competition this year. 

Mary Wilkinson is in top form this year, and there's also Rebecca Richardson, Joanna Blackburn, Monica Greenwood. You never know how things will go. The hill will suit some people better, and there may be some surprises. It’s down to the form on the day, though I think it will be very very close. It will be exciting.

My seven-year old daughter Frieda did her first hill climb two weeks ago. It was 1.5km up Belmont Hill in Bristol. She enjoyed it, but she was exhausted. My son, Jerome has just started track cycling. 

I think they are inspired by me, but they have also got a little bit used to me hill climbing and so they expect me to win everything! I have not really disappointed them, I hope. But I think that day will come. I am getting older and my competitors are younger and younger – Illi Gardner is half my age! But at the moment it’s going well. 

I think it will be an amazing atmosphere at the Nationals, especially with the way Winnats Pass is set up on these steep banks at the side, like an amphitheatre. It will be such a big party."

[Bithja sets off from the cattle grid near Speedwell Cavern at 10.30 am on Sunday 31st October]

Related posts

52 Cycling Voices - Bithja Jones

The pain of hill climbs

National Hill Climb Championships - over and out

Monday 18 October 2021

Cycling in Paris - La vie est belle!

When I lived in Paris almost 30 years ago I never thought of travelling around by bicycle. Cycling was something I did while on holiday or as a special excursion out with friends. 
I only knew one person who travelled around Paris by bike, and he was a bit "bohemian" so I just saw it as part of his ways. Seeing cyclists go around the Bastille roundabout, or even worse the Charles de Gaulle Etoile roundabout with its 12 avenues radiating from the Arc de Triomphe made me think they must have a screw loose or are even on a death wish! 

But 30 years on, I have happily joined those folks. There is a difference though nowadays. I have just returned from a trip to Paris with my bike, and I must say it was very pleasant.

Commuting by bike is very much part of Parisian culture, and everyone seems to be doing it!

Over the years, various improvements have been made to the infrastructure to accommodate cyclists. I first noticed changes about 15 years ago, the first time I cycled from London to Paris. At that time the famous Vélib bike sharing bikes had just been introduced (the first major city in the world to have this system), and there was a segregated bike lane that went all along the boulevards north of the River Seine (the right bank) following the same route as Line 2 of the métro (Porte Dauphine to Nation). 

It was great whizzing along there, even if you had to dodge the odd vehicle parked in the bike lane, or the errant pedestrian! Outside of this lane there weren't many segregated bike lanes - just cursory lines painted on the road. So it was no different from London. 

Personally, I was still happy to ride around Paris though, as by then I had started doing a lot of bike riding, be it my daily commute, training rides or cycle races. Also I felt confident navigating around Central London by bike, so I didn't imagine cycling in Central Paris would be much worse. 

The thing I did notice, and continue to see even now, is just how compact Paris really is. Back in those days I lived in the 12th district (arrondissement) next to the Marché d'Aligre. To get to Chatelet-les Halles would be about a half-hour by métro. But by bike you can do it in about 20 minutes. These days when I visit Paris I stay in Vincennes, a nearby Eastern suburb. To cycle there from Gare du Nord just takes half an hour.

Funnily enough when I lived in Paris back then, I thought any suburb was a long way away. But through cycling, I have realised that places really aren't that far away. 

In the last four or five years there has been a massive growth in the number of cycle lanes in Paris. As well as the "line 2" cycle lane there are segregated lanes in many other places. My ride from Chatelet to Vincennes (via the Marais, Bastille, Faubourg Saint-Antoine, Nation, Cour de Vincennes) takes in separated lanes. Then there are cycle lanes along the "boulevard exterieur" (the boundary between Paris and the suburbs), plus along both sides of the River Seine. The right bank is actually a traffic-free path, the Voie Georges Pompidou, with various other activities going on - running, rollerskating, picnics, mini expeditions, and a few hammocks if you want to just lounge and watch the world go by. 

These days there are loads of people on all kinds of bikes - all shapes, sizes, genders, race, levels of fitness (and competencies), dressed however they want - some even with mini sound systems blaring out. It's great to see this democratisation of cycling. 

The improved infrastructure has largely been as a result of the policies of Paris Mayor, Anne Hidalgo, who is aiming to reduce pollution in Paris by slashing motorised traffic, and promising a bike lane in every street in Paris.

Last year I interviewed Jean-Sébatien Catier of Paris en Selle, Paris's answer to the London Cycling Campaign and they had similar gripes to their London counterparts - not enough was being done. 

However, it was acknowledged that for changes to be made to the cycling infrastructure, the road layout is altered and this needs approval from the Home Office (Ministère de l'Interieur). So it's all in the bureaucracy - just like London Mayor Sadiq Khan has to get the green light from each London Borough before he can change the road layout. 

A couple of other points of interest around the Paris cycling network are a) they took ideas from the London Cycle Superhighway network when they designed their lanes, which is interesting considering that folks in London regularly slam the London Cycling network and b) Anne Hidalgo was up for reelection last year (postponed to this year due to the pandemic). She was unanimously voted in for a second term, and now she's just been confirmed as the Socialist Party candidate in the upcoming Presidential elections. 

Does that remind you of a trajectory of another Mayor of a capital city across the English Channel who put in place a decent cycle network and later ended up as head of state....?? 

That aside, I would certainly recommend taking a bike to Paris. It really enhances your experience of a trip to this beautiful city. Granted, it's not yet Amsterdam or Copenhagen, but it's definitely going in the right direction.

Friday 15 October 2021

Excitement at the reborn Women's Tour de France - it doesn't need to be three weeks long!

At Palais des Congrès, Paris
Yesterday I attended the presentation of the 2022 Tour de France, at the Palais des Congrés at Porte Maillot, Paris. 

It's a pretty big affair with the auditorium being packed out with a couple of thousand people - among them, team riders, sponsors, dignitaries, community cycling groups, and journalists. 

This event always garners excitement - finding out what novelties there will be in the route, but the really noteworthy thing was the unveiling of the route of the inaugural Women's Tour de France. 

Yes, a women's version of the men's 108-year old event will take place next year. As the men finish their race on Champs Elysees on 24th July, the women will begin their event shortly afterwards at the Eiffel Tower.

The race will then consist eight stages, all in the North Eastern part of France, and will have use the infrastructure of the men's event organised by Amaury Sports Organisation, as well as being televised.

After the 82km-race around central Paris, the remaining stages will be around 130km, passing through towns like Meaux, Epernay, Troyes, Bar-le-Duc, with a 175km-stage to Saint Die Des Vosges and finish on the really challenging Superplanche des Belles Filles. 

Auditorium filling up at Palais des Congrès

Although they will only be racing for eight days, the women will have some pretty tough stages. A couple of stages will include steep gravel roads, and a couple of stages will go over the Grande Ballon, the Petit Ballon, and the Ballon d'Alsace - some infamously steep hills in the Vosges regions. 

The stage race will see an exciting end as women have to race up the 20%+ gradients of the Superplanche des Belles Filles, and sprint to the finish line along a 1km uphill stretch of gravel road.

These stages do look exciting, and it will be great to see them getting the scheduled two-hours' TV coverage that was announced, as women contesting for a share of the 250,000-euro (£210k) prize fund.

This is not the first time an ASO-organised women's Tour de France is taking place. This event took place between 1984 and 1989, with the winning woman being pictured on the podium alongside the winning man. The women did not win any prize money, and the event was not televised (though there was print media coverage). However, the event was not financially viable and was difficult to manage logistically.

Much campaigning has been done for a women's ASO-organised event that would get the same coverage, and be on par with the men's event. Since 2014, a one-day race, La Course has taken place during the Tour de France, on the route of one stage of the Tour de France, and that was televised. However, activists were quite dissatisfied with the event and saw it as a token gesture.

When this women's route was revealed, the audience response was positive, with spontaneous applause. The professional women racers I spoke to - Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Elisa Balsamo, and Evita Muzic - for Cycling News, were glad to have Tour de France and saw the route as correct, and in line with their expectations.

Tour de France Femmes with Zwift 2022 route

Some observers have bemoaned the fact that this so-called Tour of France is only concentrated within one region within Northern France, and is only eight stages long. But it has to be understood that a) women's road racing teams are smaller than men's teams (~13 riders vs. 30 respectively) and so there is less rotation of riders in races. Riders end up doing different types of races back-to-back, where men's teams operate a double roster. So a women's team doesn't have enough riders to compete in three-week stage races; 

b) there are a few stage races taking place within a short time frame - the Women's Tour of Italy, the Women's Tour, and another new stage race in Scandinavia (Battle of the North), so rider well-being needs to be kept in mind when setting out the number of stages in a race (as well as following the UCI rules on the length of races); c) over an eight-stage race it would be impractical to move the whole peloton across large geographic areas of France within an eight-day time frame.

In the last nine years that I have interviewed professional women, I have never met anyone who said they wanted to do a three-week stage race with 200km stages. It seems that these calls have been from activists who are calling out for their ideals of what equality means, independently of what current professional women's peloton actually want.

So I would rather take my lead from the feedback of the professional women racers. For them, the rebirth of a women's Tour de France is a very positive thing, and so I am inclined to agree with that. Of course, there are a few outstanding elements like a lack of a time trial stage. 

Also, the prize money, though significantly higher than other women's races is still a long way behind the 2.3M-euro (£1.9M) fund set aside for the men's Tour de France. This is something that can only really be addressed over time as media organisations gain confidence in televising women's cycle races and viewer numbers increase.

What has been announced is a good start, and I look forward to seeing the race play out next year. As Tour Director Christian Prudhomme says, I like to see it as something that will still be going in 100 year's time.

[I also wrote about the Tour de France reveal for The Times. Link here.]