Malliot Blanc Column by Toby Miles – Why Hertfordshire deserves more bike racing

PUBLISHED: 13:09 30 April 2018 | UPDATED: 13:09 30 April 2018

Malliot Blanc cycling columnist Toby Miles in competitive action on the continent. Credit: Martine Verfaillie.

Malliot Blanc cycling columnist Toby Miles in competitive action on the continent. Credit: Martine Verfaillie.

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Read Toby Miles’ Malliot Blanc Column as the 18-year-old aspiring professional cyclist explains why Hertfordshire deserves more road racing.

After a brutal race against elite riders on Saturday at the Hog Hill circuit in Redbridge, East London - in which I finished a respectable top-20 in one of the tougher races I’ll do this year - I rode home to North Herts via Essex in the constant drizzle and unacceptably low April temperature for some extra training.

As I rode up through Hertfordshire having escaped the M25’s confines, my tired legs reminded me how tough the roads are.

The short climbs, with fiercely steep gradients and surfaces that feel like they’re dragging you backwards, would make great races: tough enough to put weaker riders out of contention but tactical enough to ensure the stronger riders have to race smart to win.

Unfortunately, road races are rare in Hertfordshire. Last year there were only two - both on the same course - compared to more than 14 in Bedfordshire.

There were seven to ten events in Herts during the 90’s but many old circuits have been lost due to more housing, traffic and tighter restrictions on races.

It still feels a missed opportunity, as roads in the county are far more interesting to race than the circuits so frequently used in Beds, Bucks and Essex, and they’re no less safe nor accessible.

I did one of the Herts races last season, on the Great Chishill circuit. It was a good race, with the circuit hard enough to make the bunch hesitate when the winner rode off late on for the win after an attacking race.

The year before, I raced on the popular Codicote-Whitwell circuit. It’s a superb course, safe, tough and tactical.

However, it was barred following complaints, and the scheduled race on the course in 2017 was moved elsewhere.

The Tour of Hertfordshire series - which consists of races for all ages on tiny one-mile courses around the likes of Letchworth, Redbourne and Welwyn Garden City’s town centres, entirely closed off to traffic - and the arrival of the similar Tour Series to Stevenage, has provided exposure for the sport in the county and attracted top riders.

The road racing scene, though, has remained neglected. While the Codicote-Whitwell circuit is scheduled to return this year, it would be great see more old courses return and new ones created, with the challenging roads I know like the back of my hand from training, used to their full potential.

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