Womens cycling has made a stellar leap in profile over the last couple of years. The calendar has increased dramatically and thanks to increased television coverage advertisers and sponsors are latching onto the fact that it is a great shop window for their wares.
The Tour Series is one of the leaders in this field and piggy backing onto the established success of the mens events the Womens Matrix Fitness series is now a firm favourite with the watching public. Indeed several of the leading riders are establishing themselves as household names to the viewer, the likes of Alice Barnes, Nikki Juniper and, with no introduction necessary, Dame Sarah Storey.
It is no mean achievement that first year team Sunsport Velo have not only put themselves up for the challenge but are rapidly making a name for themselves and competing on an even footing with some of the more established and heavyweight set ups.
In the previous round at Redditch Alice Sharpe took 13th place and a hatful of points and in the process elevated Sunsport into a creditable 6th position overall and tonights line up of Alice Sharpe, Jane Hellewell, Josie Knight, Anoushka Edwards and Maddy Scott looked professional and ready for action during the warm up.
A testing course and a strong field in Stoke on Trent was going to make it difficult to maintain that position but talking to the team beforehand it was clear that they had the bit between their teeth and would be up for the test.
The race was held in warm and pleasant early Summer conditions, not too hot and not damp under wheel either. Racing was fast from the outset and even on the opening couple of laps many girls were distanced under the hammer of Sarah Storeys Podium ambition squad, the Drops team led by Alice Barnes and Nikki Juniper of Team Ford Ecoboost. Two distinct factions formed within the field and the second group contained Alice Sharpe, Maddy Scott and Anoushka Edwards. Jane Hellewell and Josie Knight seemed to be feeling the pace along with probably half of the other riders.
As the race wore on with predictable dominance from the leading teams and an eventual victory by Claire Rose of Podium ambition Alice seemed to grow stronger. She eventually finished in a lofty 12th position and helped herself to a handful of those all important points. Maddy, looking completely unruffled throughout the race bagged a few points also and the overall posiiton was maintained.
For some it was a baptism of fire. Crit racing is tough and we caught up with Jane Hellewell afterwards to get her thoughts.
“The race can be summed up in three words- overwhelming, exciting and FAST!
It was my biggest race so far. I am very new to racing and only started racing this season, so I was really thrown in at the deep end. Nevertheless I had a fantastic night and it was such a great experience. Running up to the race I felt relatively calm and i was doing a good job of managing my nerves.
However, the nerves did not stay away for long. As soon as we were lining up on the start the heavy beats of the music and the timer above that seemed to count down ridiculously slowly, rapidly raised my nerves. I was just itching to get going!”
“Once I found a group to sit comfortably in, I rode round absorbing as much of the atmosphere as I could. The crowds were amazing and really provided motivation to keep on pushing
My next race will be the NW road race championships tomorrow and yesterday’s race has really put me in a fantastic mind set to go in and give it a good smash!”
There now follows a further three rounds for the team in Stevenage, Croydon and Portsmouth. They are going from strength to strength and it is only a matter of time before a big result comes their way
COMING UP SOON Sunsport at Stoke Photo Gallery