It’s an exciting time to be a cyclist in Britain, especially in Northamptonshire this year. Not only do we have the Grand Depart of the Tour de France to look forwards to in Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire and London, but Wednesday May the 7th sees the opening stage of the inaugural FriendsLife Women’s Tour right here in Northants.
The 93.8km stage departs from Oundle and finishes a swift two and a half hours later in Northampton. With a uniquely undulating landscape it promises to be an exciting day capped with what is tipped to be a sprint finish. Big names like Laura Trott and Marianne Vos have got everybody buzzing for what will be the biggest women’s cycle race in Britain since Lizzie Armitstead took silver in the 2012 Olympic road race.
The warmup to the tour has seen a frenzy of activity in the world of women’s cycling. The Nigel Measom Women’s Road Race in Lutterworth last month offered some of the teams such as Matrix Vulpine an introduction to the undulating topography of the region, and the local cycling community has fully embraced the coming of the female pro peloton with a host of events celebrating the area’s cycling heritage.
The Nigel Measom 2 Day road Race in Lutterworth
To the delight of local cyclists Stage 1 of the race finishes in the heart of Northampton, on the Derngate. Northampton Museum has been doing a fantastic job of promoting the event and making it accessible to all, starting with a vibrant ‘Women on Wheels’ exhibition celebrating the success of local professional cyclists Hannah Barnes and Lucy Garner. The exhibition runs until the 1st of June and showcases some great bits of kit including Lucy Garner’s team Pinnarello bikes and some of legendary cyclist and five times world champ Beryl Burton’s jerseys from the 1960s.
Local British Cycling Breeze Network Champion and Area Coordinator Liane Higham gets a fab mention in the display with details of how to get into the saddle for budding female riders. See the bottom of the page for more details on the Breeze Network.
The Northampton Museum has planned two big rides in May for all ages and abilities, details of both can be found at the bottom of the page. I was lucky enough to attend an evening hosted by the Museum on April 29th with local professional Hannah Barnes, who has been taking time off her busy training schedule with US team United Healthcare to promote the Tour in the local area.
Ask any local club member at a time trial and they are sure to have a story about Hannah beating them up hills and destroying their TT times, so it was no surprise that the audience of local cycling enthusiasts packed into the museum were keen to try and glean advice and a secret or two from Hannah’s training plan.
Amid an amateur cycling culture of obsessing over training plans, nutrition, and data readings like mileage, heartrate and power, it was incredibly refreshing to hear Hannah talk of her simple love of getting out on her bike and putting the hours in without too much focus on the techy side of things.
To the audience’s surprise Hannah revealed that training in a professional women’s team is not quite as high-tech as the amateur cyclist would like to believe. When quizzed on readings from her power meter, Hannah revealed that she had only been training with her Pioneer power meter for a couple of weeks and admitted amid giggles that she wasn’t sure what all the numbers meant. To satisfy a persistent male questioner she did quote an average power reading of around 140watts and a max of 500w when out training on Spratton Hill recently, but it was clear that there are other aspects of her training that she values more than wattage readings. She even had everyone in stitches with a story of her 15 year old cousin beating her power reading first go and demanding she buy him a power meter!
Although she trains around 20 hours a week in the US with her United Healthcare teammates, the team has no full time nutritionist and the girls get by with advice on nutrition from the team doctor. It was great to hear Hannah likes to indulge in coffee and cake in the training ride, and, like a lot of us, she enjoys the beneficial effects of offsetting hours on the bike against eating whatever she likes off the bike! Sticking to basic advice such as eating within 20 minutes of finishing training, she did admit to being partial to a protein pancake – a not so tempting mix of banana, egg and protein powder.
Training junkies or the triathletes among us will be disappointed to hear that it is possible to reach elite level without ay cross-training whatsoever. Hannah doesn’t supplement her training with any other activities; she even went as far as to say that she ‘hates’ running.
Like many other local cyclists I have been buzzing at the thought of the Women’s Tour coming through my own back garden. It’s exciting to think that the training routes and climbs I have ridden hundreds of times are worthy of the pro peloton, more so that they are demanding enough to produce world class riders like Hannah. Although training out in America can be punishing with epic mountain ranges and lengthy climbs, there was one question I had to ask: what was Hannah’s favourite training hill back here in humble Northamptonshire? Quoting a hill near Preston Capes that we surmised to be the locally notorious Priors Marston climb, Hannah went on to describe the local undulating topography to be ‘zapping’. Whereas her training in the US frequently includes 30 minute climbs, the relentlessly rolling scenery of Northants lacks the lengthy descents that offer long recovery periods, making for excellent training. The exhausting terrain between Oundle and Northampton should provide a fantastic challenge for the peloton next week week, and will no doubt play a part in proving to the world that women’s racing CAN be exciting!
So what can we expect from our local girl next Wednesday? Well, she is certainly feeling the pressure to win from the local community, and of course will be aiming for the podium.
However, she has admitted that if Marianne Vos makes an early break on Spratton Hill, she, rather sensibly, won’t be joining her.
Left to right: Liane Higham – Breeze Area Co-ordinator, Hannah Barnes, Natalie Smith (me!)- Director at Joyride Cycles
GET INVOLVED, GET EXCITED, GET RIDING!
WOW – Women on Wheels
When runs until 1st June
Where Northampton Museum & Gallery
For more details and opening times visit the Northampton Museum website
One for the Ladies
The British Cycling funded Breeze Network offers fun, friendly and free bike rides for women of all ages and abilities. To find your nearest ride check the Breeze website or check out the Joyride Summer Road Series rides, the first one if on the 18th of May
Get the family involved
When 17th May 10am-4pm, FREE
Where Northampton Museum & Gallery
What Find out about the cycling scene in Northamptonshire and explore how you and your family can get involved. Local cycling organisations, clubs and shops will all be on hand to help you take your first steps in this great sport.
When 30th May 6-9pm
Where Northampton Museum & Gallery
What It’s the last friday of the month and CRITICAL MASS are bringing their May cycle ride to the Museum. Anyone can be part of it – just turn up at the Pavillion Car Park on the Racecourse at 6pm with a road worthy bike. After an enjoyable ride lasting about an hour, you’ll arrive at the museum where you’ll be able to view the WOW – Women on Wheels Exhibiton and refresh yourself ready for the ride home!