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Women’s races to start behind sportive riders at Tour of Cambridgeshire

Race director says that decision has been made for safety reasons after reviewing last year's event...

Questions have been asked after the organisers of this weekend’s Tour of Cambridgeshire elected to start the men’s over-60 race and all of the women's races 15 minutes after the fastest sportive riders.

The Tour of Cambridgeshire comprises a number of different races and events. On Sunday, there is a Gran Fondo Sportive and also a Gran Fondo Race.

The top 25 per cent in each age classification of the combined starters in the Gran Fondo Race and the Gran Fondo Sportive will be invited to compete in the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships.

Both events take place on the same course and the main difference is that you cannot enter the race event without a licence.

The race gates will open at 11.30am for men aged 19-59 and at midday for 60+ men and for all women’s age categories.

In between – at 11.45am – the 21+mph start gate will open for sportive riders.

A number of participants have expressed dissatisfaction with the start times.

Rowland Sommerlin, the Tour of Cambridgeshire race director told that the start times had been set after reviewing last year’s event.

“As a result of last year and all the input from all the women that gave me feedback and all the men that gave me feedback, we decided that this year the safest, fairest way to do it was to put all the Sport A – which are a self-selected 21mph group – in front of the 60-plus men and the women.”

Sommerlin said that he himself set off behind the third and final group of women last year, “and as I looked in my mirror, I could see 400 riders from the front of the Sport group going at 26-27mph, bearing down on the women.”

This year, there are 900 entrants in the Sport A category. While Sommerlin recognises that some will have lied about their ability to hold speeds above 21mph, he has attempted to counter this by adding six commissaires and lead motorbikes.

When riders are dropped, they will be warned not to join groups from other races that are passing them and anyone who does will be disqualified.

Sommerlin said: “I believe that it is safer for riders of experience to catch and pass sportive riders rather than – as happened last year – the other way around.

“The other part about it is the fairness, because last year what happened was the Sport A riders were catching groups of women riders who’d been dropped and they were then dragging these people back up to the front of the women’s race and that is totally unfair and unacceptable.”

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