When Hayley Simmonds lines up for the defence of her British time trial title in Stockton next Thursday she will do so without a professional contract after leaving the UnitedHealthcare team.
The Cambridge-based rider, who recently completed a PhD at the city’s University left the American team after being unable to find an efficient position on the Wilier Triestina time trial bikes used by the outfit.
Simmonds made her entry to the sport as a time triallist and the discipline remains both her strength and is very important to her. On Thursday she will take to the nationals’ start line in the colours of Aerocoach, a company the 27-year-old has been working with to enhance her aerodynamic efficiency.
“My position has been a little higher this year,” Simmonds told said of her team bike. “But it’s not about height, it’s about how narrow we could get the bars and a combination of elements at the front end. You could make something right but not the other things. It was difficult.
“The [team] mechanics have two entire teams to sort out, the men and the women, so they don’t have the time to sort out my TT bike, it can’t be their priority when they spend their time driving across America.”
“It was hard because I wasn’t unhappy,” she continued. “I really enjoyed the six months I had with UHC, I did some great races and they are a great bunch of girls. I really loved the American races, it was just the TT set up, and I had to weigh up in my mind if I was prepared to sacrifice my time trial results and I came to a decision that I was wasn’t prepared to do that.”
Simmonds is not the only rider to have had issues Wilier’s TT bike, another United Healthcare rider, Linda Villumsen who is currently riding the Aviva Women’s Tour for the team, found herself in hot water last year when she won the world time trial championship on a non-team bike.
After winning nearly every British time trial she entered, as well as a number of good road race showings last season, Simmonds joined United Healthcare in January. Her first race for the team was the Tour of Qatar, which she followed with some of the Spring Classics, though she failed to finish the majority of the those one day races.
As for nationals this week, Simmonds is not entirely certain the course suits her, “I went to Stockton to have a look at it,” she explained. “I think it’s a course that I could do well on, but there’s not as much climbing and what climbing there is broken as opposed to one main climb which is where I did quite a bit of damage last year.”
She is, however, looking forward to racing with Aerocoach for the rest of the year, “I’ve known Xavier [Disley owner of Aerocoach] for years and he shares many of the my philosophies that everything optimally set up and the aerodynamics are good. It’s a shame that he could not offer me the UCI road racing as that would have been perfect.”
As it is Simmonds has invitations to ride some UCI-level stage races as a guest later in the year, but she would like to return to a UCI team for next season.
Before then Simmonds will be bringing her own time trial bike out of retirement for Thursday’s title defence, and fitting a bottom bracket to the road bike she retrieved from her loft.
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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.
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