Well it’s done. We all survived. As a team we achieved and it's pretty safe to say it was another great Women's Tour. It’s always amazing to finish a UCI pro race just 25km from my parent-in-laws' house, meaning the shortest transfer of the entire race.
My prediction for stage 5 did not come true despite the efforts of the climbers over the first hill sprint where a select group of around 20 riders went clear of the peloton including Laura. With the same thing happening over the second hill sprint, this time including Laura and me, it still wasn’t to be and the race finished in another bunch sprint. Sorry, I’ll stick to the cyclo-cross predictions!
During the week I have shared with you some insight as to what goes on within a team but only really touched on what the actual race means to everyone involved. Sometimes in women’s racing the organisers put on great races but they put them on to a minimum standard. SweetSpot, the organisers of this event, started this race last year and immediately put the event on to their race standards, not those written by the UCI. Suddenly, we had the full race structure, organisation and facilities tried and tested on their men's Tour of Britain for the previous 10 years.
Not only do they bring infrastructure and equal prize money they also bring activation of sponsorship from the companies and councils involved in making the event happen. This may seem like a small thing but when you go out on the roads and there are literally thousands of people lining the streets all stage, with every school on route cheering and waving, with events running during the entire day at the start and finish towns, it actually makes for the fantastic carnival that road racing can be. The people come to watch a spectacle, to create their own party atmosphere and to see, basically what all the fuss is about.
Some people don’t realise that this actually takes time and effort to get this done, plus the commitment from teams and riders in advance of the race. For example Matrix Fitness riders including Lucy, Harriet, Laura and me have all done PR days in advance of the tour. I’ve done coffee mornings, evening talks, rides with sponsors and even went into a school lesson for a question and answers session with 10-year-old kids, they do ask the best questions. All of this helps the councils to access the budgets to help fund the event and gives the sponsors the opportunity to publicise their commitments to women’s sport.
Women’s cycling is a very different sport to men’s in both good and bad ways but in this example, when we as riders give a little time to a race like the Aviva Women’s Tour we get a huge amount in return in every single way.
So today’s blog really is to just say thank you to the organisers for creating the opportunity for us to showcase what an incredible bunch of athletes we have at the top of our sport. To say thank you for equal prize money to the men’s Tour of Britain and to say thank you for our hours of TV coverage every night on itv4. To say thank you to every single spectator that came out in rain or shine to cheers us on, we hear you all and it feels fantastic. To say thank you to all the staff, volunteers and media who make the event a success and finally and probably most importantly to say thank you to every sponsor and council who believe in a vision of what the future of women’s road cycling can be.
Here’s to next year, as Arnie says... I’ll be back!!!