Stage 1: Colchester to Bury St Edmunds
I was really excited to have been invited to the first stage of the Women’s Tour on June 6th with Škoda. It was a 142.1 Km route starting in Colchester at the Colchester Sports Park and finishing in Bury St Edmunds. The day started off with the start line hospitality breakfast and a walk around the team buses, meeting some of the racers and team members, as well as watching the pre-race team presentations. I spent the day in one of the Škoda convoy cars with our driver Danielle and saw the riders race for the first QOM segment up Brantham Hill as well as the second sprint in Hadleigh. It was great to be sitting in a following car, watching all the behind-the-scenes action of riders trying to get back on after punctures and mechanicals. A few times there were riders drafting behind cars to help them get back on the bunch. It gave me a real insight into what goes on in the Peloton.
Over halfway through the race, it ground to a halt for 1 hour due to an accident ahead involving a Police outrider and a car. Riders rode back to their team cars to layer up and stay warm, do bottle swaps, refuel, and fill up their jersey pockets with snacks. While we waited, I got to talk to the CAMS BASSO mechanic and team director. The race resumed after a 5 minute warning for racers to get back in place and we jumped back in the car and resumed our place behind the peloton in the convoy. The day finished with the prize presentations of each Jersey Winner at Bury St Edmunds. Danielle kindly drove us back to the start where we could pick up our car and drive over to the hotel where the Škoda DSI Academy were staying for the night before Stage 2.
– Katie-Ann Elliston
Stage 2: Harlow
On June 7th, the Škoda DSI Academy had the opportunity to go to Stage Two of the Women’s Tour in Harlow, Essex. I had a fantastic time exploring the Harlow country lanes during a ride out with the other women. We stopped at a café before heading back to watch the finish for Stage Two. We rode through the finish line, did some interviews for ITV4 and enjoyed some time in hospitality. It was a big surprise when we found out that we were presenting the Škoda QOM jersey on the stage! That was definitely an overwhelming and nerve-wracking experience that I will never forget. I had such an amazing time seeing all of the teams preparing for the stage and chatting to some of the CAMS riders about getting into cycling and how to get into racing. I loved watching the fast sprints at the finish and hearing all of the cheers for the riders. It was also really lovely to see local people from Harlow come down to support and watch the racing. Overall, I had a wonderful time watching some racing in person for the first time and riding with the academy!
– Maia Forde
Stage 3: Tewkesbury to Gloucester
This was my second year going to the women’s tour and once again, it didn’t disappoint! It was great to catch up with some of my friends who were racing their first world tour race and as well as with ex British-Champ Dean Downing who oversees my coaching and happened to be driving the lead car. We also met Georgia Mahoney of the Cycling Talk Podcast who was in the other Škoda car as a VIP for the day. We were lucky to be driven by Danielle Riley who I know from home; she was really helpful when I was first getting into riding, especially with confidence riding in groups and off-road.
We were driven to watch key points of the race, including a few of the QOMs and it was great to see racing from another angle and learn about how the world tour peloton operates. Hopefully this experience will be useful if I get to race at that level!
A huge thanks to Škoda for the opportunity and I look forward to the Tour of Britain in September to see more UK racing at its best.
– Olivia French
Stage 5: Pembrey Country Park to Mountain
I was fortunate to be invited to a hospitality day with Škoda at the penultimate stage of the Women’s Tour taking place in Carmarthenshire, Wales. The 106.6km route going from the coast at Pembrey Country Park up to the finish at the top of the Black Mountain. I watched the riders come into the start area in their team coaches and cars getting prepared for the stage. My day was spent in a car with our experienced driver Danielle Riley as part of the race convoy where I was able to observe the race unravel. We saw the riders race up the first two Škoda QOM segments early on in the day and then traveled to Black Mountain to see the riders battle against the strong wind up to the finish. It was such a fantastic location to watch the race and learn a lot from Danielle about racing at this level. A highlight of my day was being on the podium stage at the finish and meeting the Stage winner (and eventual Tour winner) Elisa Longo Borghini alongside other professional riders. It was a very inspiring and motivating day as I aspire to race at this level. I took the opportunity to ride most of the route the following day which I enjoyed a lot, particularly appreciating the very lumpy terrain and long climb up the Black Mountain the riders faced the previous day!
– Alex Morrice