Women’s cycling might not yet have the profile of some other sports, but on Saturday 10 June Chesterfield and Derbyshire hosted the top women’s cyclists in the world as they competed in day four of the OVO Energy Women’s Tour, the penultimate day, preceding the final day in London.
It was a grey start to the day, but that didn’t stop Chesterfield coming out in support of the event.
Alastair Meikle of Wheely Fun Wheels and founder of the Chesterfield Cycle Campaign, had arranged activities for local schools and clubs, in particularly aimed at, but not exclusively for, girls. Groups of school children from the area were encouraged to cycle into town, cheer the cyclist at the start outside the town hall and to head to Queen’s Park for activities whilst awaiting the return of the cyclists for the finish.
I was leading a small group of cyclists from the Brampton Bicycle Club into town for the day’s events. I met Mr Lawrence and a group from Old Hall School in Somersall Park, and we rode along the Hipper Trail into town, a short, but extremely muddy ride through the park, sodden after all the rain.
Approaching Boythorpe Road we met a large group from Cutthorpe and numbers swelled to about 80 as we headed to the start line at the Town Hall.
The rain may have put off some spectators but the crowds were thick right along the start.
At 10am the riders slowly rolled out to a mass of noise and cheering, and within seconds they’d gone. In stages like this they don’t start racing at the drop of the flag they ride out to kilometre zero to get warmed up, on this occasion kilometre zero was just before the Peak Edge hotel off Matlock Road. The riders would then head to Holestone Moor, Dethick, Lea Bridge, Whatstandwell, Wirksworth, Carsington Water, Belper, Nether Edge, Crich, Higham, Tibshelf, Hardwick, Glapwell, Bolsover, Staveley, Arkwright, Grassmoor and dropping back down Matlock Road into town finishing on Low Pavements.
The Chesterfield/Derbyshire stage is classed as a relatively short stage of just 123km, offering the opportunity to bag the title of Skoda Queen of the Mountain on climbs at Middleton Top and Crich, and a couple of opportunities to battle for Eisberg sprint points at Belper and Staveley.
Ian Kinniburgh got himself positioned at Tupton and Crich as the cyclists whizzed past and sent a few photo’s of the race (this page and overleaf), commenting that “The Womens Tour of Britain was a fantastic event and it just shows what Chesterfield can do, especially as the next stage was in London.”
“What about the fabulous overhead views from the ITV 4 Helicopter!” Ian added.
Once the riders had headed off and the train of team cars and ambulances were out of the way, we had about 3.5 hours to kill until the riders returned for the finishing stretch along Low Pavement and we made our way back to Queen’s Park.
Back in the park Brian Reynolds of 2nd Brampton Scouts was leading his scouts to complete 75 laps of the old cycle track around the cricket pitch to celebrate the groups 75th Anniversary. Various school groups were also joining in and had been given a time slot to do some laps around the track.
Alongside was a slow race, on bikes of course, to compete in. The slow race winner is the person who can get from start to finish of a measured section as slowly as possible, on their bike, not as easy as it sounds… Mr Lawrence was victorious amongst the adults, whilst Joe Chapman won the children’s ‘race’, both later received an engraved bike bell from Mark Tournier from the Chesterfield School Sport Partnership.
The Charity Shop DJ provided entertainment using a bike powered generator, manned by willing volunteers, to keep the tunes playing.
Queen’s Park was a cycling venue in the past, as pictured in this photo from the 1930s (opposite), and it was great to see it used again. During the proceedings Alastair assembled the riders to recreate the old shot, two versions, one with the ladies from the Breeze rides and the second with a group of immaculately turned out riders who would be taking part in the Eroica Vintage Cycling Festival the following weekend.
All was good, we just needed a few more hundred spectators!
The activities concluded with a ride back through town and along the race’s finish straight along the cobbles of Low Pavement, with spectators cheering us on, a lovely and hopefully memorable experience for some of the young cyclists! The biggest cheer, reserved for the final cyclists, a group of young children racing on balance bikes, complete with drop bars, towards the finish line, all smiles and enthusiasm.
Alistair had secured an area for the schools group next to the finish straight, where we eagerly awaited the return of the racers. After the 123km race (77 miles) the cyclists returned to town after 3h27’48″of racing, an average speed of 35.544 km/h (22.215mph) and with three riders in the lead group Sarah Roy, Christine Majerus and Leah Kirchmann sprinted for the line, the effort clearly visible on their faces.
The stage win went to Orica Scott’s Sarah Roy where she was cheered across the finish line on the cobbles of Low Pavement.
Amazingly, within a few hours town was returned to normal, the visitors gone, barriers removed, roads open and the whole entourage on the way to London for the stage 5 finish of the 5-day race.
Thanks again to Alastair Meikle from Wheely Fun Wheels and Mark Tournier from the Chesterfield School Sport Partnership for putting the day’s activities together and Chesterfield Borough Council and Derbyshire County Council for bringing the event to Chesterfield.