I have previewed the men’s event and it is only right to do the same for the women. Women’s cycling is at something of a crossroads I feel. On the one hand it is very much on the up in the UK, like cycling generally – the women’s track team have had as much success as the men and the medals are recognised and appreciated by the public. However, at the same time the women’s sport is some way short of equality, especially on the road, and this is also the case globally. There is lack of TV coverage and fewer top-level races, and subsequently the sponsors are not there in the same numbers. Garmin felt it had to disband its women’s squad and Team Sky has come under criticism for not fielding a female team – it’s not as if the money and British talent are not available – Emma Pooley quit top level racing due to a lack of support.
There is a strong movement and community on the women’s scene with people like Sarah Connolly going out of her way to promote things with her twitter feed and the blogs and podcasts she contributes to. (Her weekly slot on the Eurosport cycling podcast is a round-up of women’s racing.) UK teams like Matrix Fitnes Academy have been set up to specifcally develop the women’s sport and north of the border we have the Breast Cancer Care team that is linked to Scottish Cycling’s women’s programme.
To show due respect to a women’s race preview, I have enlisted the help of Leigh Marshall, who is able to provide much better informed comments than me. She is involved in publicity for Team Breast Cancer Care and writes her own Filles a Velo blog.
I asked Leigh for her predictions and she thought it is a difficult one to call, but gave me some info on about 10 riders who she thought were the ones to watch.
“Although the field isn’t massive, an important factor is that it is a pretty high-quality championship field. In some years half the field has been there just to make up the numbers and as a result have been punted out the back pretty quickly. In the case of last year, dropped riders got themselves together in another group further back and worked together – a race within a race which worked really well.”
There are 33 on the start sheet and this is a good reflection of the current standard of women’s road racing in Scotland. Leigh said “The bar is constantly rising and being pushed upwards. The women’s road race academy that was run this year has helped that, along with the other women’s races that have been on the calendar so far.”
In terms of young riders to watch, Leigh highlights Flora Gillies (Team ASL360, below), who is having a great start to her season. “She’s really holding her own in the women’s peloton.”
Louise Borthwick (Edinburgh RC, below) is another to watch. “She’s been racing in Holland already this season and raced the City of Perth Women’s GP. Again she’s holding her own very well in the peloton.”
“The race is being promoted by Granite City so this may favour their rider, Julie Erskine, who will be on home roads and should have some support. Julie is having a good start to her season (seen below in TT action). She won the Glasgow Wheelers Women’s road race, and was going fairly well in the Women’s Aberdeen APR until she had a mechanical. Both were hilly courses that suited her – so I would expect her to be one of the favourites and to show well in the champs.”
Gemma Neill (Pedal Power RT- seen below in Leslie Bike shop colours, image by Rachel Martin) is also local and having a good start to her season. She has raced in the first 2 rounds of the British Women’s Road Series and she won most combative rider on the 2nd round (Cheshire Classic).
“Laura Murray (Breast Cancer Care Cycling Team) again local, is having a solid start to her season. She’s raced in the British Women’s Road Series, the Scottish women’s races and some European races so far. All the Breast Cancer Care girls have followed the same racing schedule and are in a similar position.”
Kayleigh Brogan (Breast Cancer Care Cycling Team) is the reigning RR Champ and will be looking to defend her title. Leigh admits here that for selfish reasons she is hoping for a BCCCT team win, and I think that this is a strong possibility. Although Eileen Roe and Anne Ewing won’t be racing as they are both injured, with 2-time Scottish champion Jane Barr riding, BCCCT have a strong team with attacking options.
Fiona Duncan, also local, has had a good solid start to her season according to Leigh and represented Team GB in the paralympics road time trial (below) and on the track, as a guide for Lora Turnham.
Charline Joiner (below) is having a really good first season on the road. She’s raced the first 2 rounds of the Brit Women’s Road Series. ” I agree with Leigh that Charline is one to watch but I wonder whether she will be suited to the course, as she is primarily a track sprinter? Then again, she has won medals at Commonwealth and National level and is bound to be very strong regardless, but the little climbers may be looking to put her under pressure on the climbs.
Leigh highlights Jay Burgess, who just won the Scottish National 10 TT Champs and has always finished just off the podium at Scottish RR Champs. Based in Central Scotland, Jay is someone I have known for a while and would be happy to see doing well – she is a strong time triallist and is pictured below on the podium of the Tour de Trossachs TT in 2011.
Jennifer Taylor (Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers) is Leigh’s last pick, who she points out is “mainly a time triallist and hill climber, and who showed well in the Glasgow Wheelers Women’s RR on a hilly course so this may suit her well.” She also finished 2nd at last week’s 10 mile TT championships so is clearly in good form – pictured below in the 2012 Tour de Trossachs TT over the Dukes Pass.
To these I add a mention to Sarah Stephen (Stirling BC), another young rider who has gone from being a relative newcomer to road cycling to competing in women’s races around Scotland and elsewhere in the UK in the space of a year.
Thanks very much to Leigh Marshall for contributing to this piece and good luck to all women racers for the championships. It seems a very open race with several contenders which is a good situation. would love to hear your comments about the state of women’s cycling in Scotland, and if I have missed anyone out, please add your comments below!