The Aviva Women’s Tour is now established as arguably the biggest UK event for women's cycling. After the last 6-deep crowds and excitement of 2014's inaugural event, the anticipation leading up to this year's event is palpable. VeloVixen’s own Rose Osborne (shown here doing the hard work!) has been racing alongside many of the peloton this year - to whet your appetite, here’s her insider’s view on life in the women’s peloton…
Rose is a rookie for the 2015 season. Taking the 'if not now, then when?' route, she's thrown herself headlong into racing this season, in a Team WNT packed with pedigree, and has found herself rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in cycling.
She divides her time between riding, training, spending time here at VeloVixen HQ and even tutoring chemistry students! We thought who better to sit down and quiz about how it's been so far...?
VV: So, you're halfway through your first season - what are the things that have surprised you since you took the plunge?
Rose: Just how good the guys at the top are. You go in feeling pretty competitive at club level, but inevitably you're soon reminded of the old adage: however fast you think you are, there are people so much faster and stronger. The girls winning regularly are in a different league - it's a great incentive to improve.
I've also quickly appreciated how cool it is to be part of an awesome team like Team WNT. Racing with your friends and team mates is a lot more fun than racing on your own.
And I've learnt how many times you can nearly crash without crashing! I've so far survived the season body intact and only two small crashes to my name. That's partly luck and partly the good bike handling throughout the peloton, but there's no question you need to be brave out there.
You've been riding in the Matrix Fitness Tour Series races this year - how are they to ride?
Really fast! The Tour series is a series of 5 races around short courses in city centres. They contain tight corners, ramps and even cobbles. Some of the courses have had stretches literally wide enough for single file only!
The racing is frantic and you can lose the race getting off the start line. It’s always a battle to be near the front for the start as tight corners cause bottle necks and within a lap the peloton can splintered. The entire race is ridden at max speed and your lungs and legs burn throughout.
Racing against Olympians is pretty inspiring but they don’t hang about. Last week in Bath Dani King lapped over half the field! She's be racing at the Women’s tour so it'll be interesting to see how she gets on.
What's the toughest race you've done so far?
Without doubt the Tour of the Reservoir back in the 'Spring'. The coldest experience of my life. Lining up on the startline in relatively moderate temperatures, nothing could prepare me for just how cold it would turn out to be. Temperatures plummetted and part way into the race actual snow started drifting across the road. I think about 30 of us finished out of 90+ starters. I rolled over the line on the brink of hypothermia. Tellingly, it was Dani King's first win since her horrific crash last year - it showed me just what the top riders are made of.
Rose putting the hammer down in June's Bath leg of the Tour Series
And what about the race you've enjoyed most?
Well, the Tour of the Res was fun in its way...! But the recent Bath leg of the Tour Series was awesome - I was back on 'home' territory where I'd been at Uni, riding a circuit made up of some of the most stunning roads in Bath, and keeping good pace with a quality pack and all bathed in early summer golden sunshine. I reminded me how amazing it is to be riding at this level.
Looking ahead to the Aviva Women's Tour - who are the riders to watch?
Hannah Barnes from UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling has been a phenomenon in the UK in recent seasons. She's now part of a US team, so it'll be interesting to see how she's evolved as a rider.
Sharon Laws is also riding for United Healthcare - she'll be looking to defend her Queen of the Mountains jersey from last year’s tour.
Dani King is Olympic Champion and three time women's team pursuit World Champion is riding for Wiggle Honda. Laura Trott's riding for Matrix Pro Cycling. Like Dani, she's riding really well at the moment. They'll both be huge favourites with the crowds.
Look out for Katie Archibald - she's only 21 and racing for Pearl Izumi, but she's been pretty much untouchable several times this year.
Rose taking on Bath's Royal Crescent cobbles
We hear a lot about the positive buzz in the women's peloton - how have you found it?
It's true that there's real camaraderie, maybe moreso than in the men's races because almost nobody's on big contracts. But don't mistake friendliness and positivity for weakness - most of the women racing are tough as nails and they'll push themselves to the limit to do well!
What does women’s cycling need to grow?
Events like the women’s tour are crucial - they attract big crowds and media coverage and that's what’s needed to attract sponsorship and help progress the sport. We all beat the same drum, but it's true that without proper investment, women can't make a living out of cycling alone. That holds the whole sport back. But you get the sense that change is in the air.
Team WNT aren't part of this year's Women's Tour - so where will you be watching from?
You're right - Pearl Izumi, Matrix Pro Cycling and Wiggle Honda are the only British teams taking part. Luckily for us at VeloVixen, the final day of the tour goes not far from our door. The 5th stage goes through the Chilterns so I'll probably be watching from the top of Cryers Hill which is a QOM point. And planning my race strategy for next year!
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