Riders get a taste of what is in store for the world’s top female cyclists
A group of 22 cyclists got a taste of what the elite riders will be coming up against when the OVO Energy Women’s Tour thunders through the area in less than a month’s time.
A peloton made up of councillors, civil servants, cycling club members, women’s cycling champions and members of the media tackled the final 20-mile stretch of the prestigious race’s opening Suffolk stage on Monday.
Flanked by two Suffolk Police motorbikes and support cars, to mimic a professional race, they cycled from West Suffolk Council’s West Suffolk House in Bury St Edmunds to Stowmarket Town Council’s offices, just beyond the Stage One finish line in Stowmarket.
Bury town and district councillor Anne Williamson, who is one of the founder’s of the all-female Bury Cycling Collective group (searchable to join on Facebook), was among the riders.
She said: “It’s the start of showcasing Suffolk ahead of the Women’s Tour coming through.
“What we really need to do is hopefully use it to encourage more women to get out cycling.
“Participation is growing. Although we have 280 ladies in our group we are way behind the men still.”
Jackie Henley, part of Newmarket Cycling & Triathlon Club, echoed those sentiments.
“It is still male dominated in the clubs but things like this are good to encourage more women to come through.
“It is a great atmosphere and I would encourage people to go and see it.”
Suffolk will host the first of the six stages of the OVO Energy Women’s Tour for a record fourth time, with Beccles hosting the Grand Depart on Monday, June 10. Riders will complete the 157.6km stage in Stowmarket, having also passed through Walsham-le-Willows, Ixworth, Honington and Fornham-All-Saints before hitting the cobbles of Bury’s Angel Hill.
That is the scene of where Marianne Vos famously won the final stage and overall of the first ever Women’s Tour race in 2014.
Monday’s group got to experience how the route then goes through Nowton, Felsham and Rattlesden, including the SKODA Queen of the Mountains climb at Little Whelnetham.
The peloton contained representatives from all of the stakeholders supporting the Stage One ride, including Suffolk County Council, East Suffolk Council, West Suffolk Council and Mid Suffolk Council, plus ambassadors from Breeze, British Cycling’s #OneInAMillion campaign to get one million more women cycling by 2020.
Jamie Whiteman, owner of Revel Outdoors cycle shop in Bury, provided the maintenance support and said: “It is just nice for people to do a route the pros are going to do and it feels like you are in a pro event as you have the police either side.”
The Bury shop’s team will be keeping an eye out for Norwich’s professional rider Sophie Wright of Biglia Pro Cycling on the day as they used to sponsor her team in her mountain biking days.