The deluge that saw the UCI Road World Championships time trial course turned into a series of ‘swimming pools’ – as one rider put it – abated in time for the elite women’s race, which was run-off in conditions that were deemed safe by all involved. However, the event was not without controversy, as the decision to delay the start to clear surface water was made only after the early starters had begun their warm-ups.
Great Britain’s Hayley Simmonds, who was 10th off the start ramp, was already in the latter phases of her warm-up routine when she was informed by a UCI official that the start of the race had been pushed back by 40 minutes.
“At that point, I’d had my caffeine and done my efforts. I’ve never been in that situation before. I had no idea what to do, to be brutally honest,” Simmonds told reporters at the finish in Harrogate.
“I rang my husband, who’s also my coach, and he got some advice from Barney and Sarah Storey, who have been on the scene a long time, and I ended up having more caffeine, got off the turbo for a bit then back on for a few short efforts. But I ended up warming up for effectively 1.5x the amount of time I’d normally do.
“I’m a rider who gets anxious before big events. I aways work to a schedule, I’m one of those people who has a plan, has timings, it’s written down and I work to it. To have my schedule disrupted threw me off a bit. Once they delayed it, I almost wish they’d postponed it, because I wasn’t sure what to do or how I was going to perform after changing my routine."
Simmonds ended up finishing 26th, and revealed her power output had not suffered much at the hands of the botched warm-up. If anything, she went a little better than expected, and could only pin her disappointment at her result on an excess of caution on the wet corners.
Still, she felt aggrieved at the way circumstances had conspired against her, and expressed her disappointment in the course of action taken by the race officials.
“It’s a really hard call, and I feel for the organisers – a week earlier and the weather would have been beautiful. When it was run, I think the roads were safe; the problem was that the delay was called, in my opinion, too late,” Simmonds said.
“There was talk of whether they might cancel it right from the end of the U23 men’s event, which was a good couple of hours before we started, so in my opinion they should have made a decision at that time. [They could have said] ‘We’re going to delay it until this point, and then make a decision to either call it off or go ahead’. Making a call to delay it only half an hour before the event starts, that was maybe a bit late. But I understand they were in a tough position. I feel for them.”
Aside from the disruption to the early starters, the race was ridden in conditions that weren’t considered extreme.
“I think it was a good call to delay the start and make the course safe – and it was safe, I think,” said Germany’s Lisa Klein.
“It was nothing special. It wasn’t super slippery like, for example, Spain. The road surfaces here are really rough, so if you have good tyres and pressure, it’s safe.”
Two-time champion Annemiek van Vleuten, who could only manage third, added: “They managed to take away the swimming pools, and a shout out to the people who did that for us, because on the way to the start there were still a lot of pools on the road.
“In the end, it didn’t bother us, we’re used to riding in the rain. The circumstances with the rain were the same for everyone, so no excuses.”