British national time trial champion Hayley Simmonds added to her glittering time trial palmarès on Saturday setting a new women’s 50-mile competition record. Simmonds, who recently finished a PhD at Cambridge University, set a time of 1-42-20 during the Shaftesbury CC Open 50 on the E2/50C near Newmarket in Suffolk, at an average speed in excess of 29mph.
The previous record of 1-46-46 was set in 2010 by Julia Shaw.
“Relief,” Simmonds, who now rides for Aerocoach, said when Cycling Weekly asked her feelings. “Now I don’t have to do another 50 for at least a while. Hopefully that will be safe for a little while.
“The 50 is the distance I find the most difficult, I don’t really like them very much, though I’ve only done two before, the nationals in 2014 and 15.
“I do so many four hour training rides that doing a 100 is a bit like that, but in a 50 it feels like you’re doing a 25, but twice as long!”
Simmonds’ ride is even more remarkable as she had been ill when racing Thüringen Rundfhart for Team WNT in Germany last week, withdrawing last Tuesday after suffering what she believed was heatstroke.
“I got back to Cambridge on Friday and did a ride with a low tempo effort and my legs felt pretty good and I decided to start yesterday especially with it being do close to home. Julia’s old record was hard, it was the one record that I had been worried about being able to take and 50 is a distance that I struggle with.
“I was aiming for a 1-46, so with that I had a 45 second gap. I was basing my mental arithmetic on doing a 53 minute 25, and before I started I thought I might be in with a shot. When was riding I realised it was a good day and I was going well.
The course, which uses the busy A14 and A11 dual carriageways, is susceptible to the wind, the flat landscape meaning it can be a fast or slow course depending on the weather. When the wind doesn’t blow it is very fast and known for its records, with Alex Dowsett (Movistar) setting both the 10 and 25 records on the corresponding courses.
Simmonds has been hugely successful since taking up the sport in 2011. As well as the 50, she also holds the competition record for 10 miles and has been national time trial champion two years in succession.
She began this year riding for the American UnitedHealthcare team, but left in early June after being unable to obtain a fast position on her team issue time trial bike. With testing her main sporting focus she returned the national scene and has done well ever since, though it has not been plain sailing.
“It’s been a tough old few months,” she explained. “It was tough leaving UHC but then I won the nationals, that proved I made the right decision, whatever people were saying because I retained my title quite emphatically.
“The day after though, I found I hadn’t made the Rio team, and that was difficult in itself because I was never told, I just found out in the press.
“I’m focussing towards goals later in the season, and would like to go to the worlds again. It will be an interesting course in Qatar and I think I could do pretty well in Qatar.”