The last two weekends have certainly been busy ones for the Oxford Cycling Club, competing in opposite corners of the country in different BUCS competitions. On Sunday 19th April the team travelled to Somerset for the team trial championships, where three riders must work together to achieve the fastest time as a pack.
The women’s team, entering the competition as significant underdogs to Cambridge, overturned all odds to take a thrilling victory. The team of Liv Withers, Imogen Kempton and captain Tamara Davenne completed the undulating course in 59:50, a full minute ahead of their rivals. The favourites Cambridge came in second with a time of 1:00:43, and Sheffield took bronze in 1:02:16. In a packed men’s field, Oxford finished a strong 17th, illustrating their depth with further teams at 20th and 24th.
Following on from this success, the next weekend saw the peak of the cycling season, with a combined BUCS and varsity event. This was held in Cambridge, and riders competing individually over a 25 mile time trial course. Leading home the Oxford women’s team once again was Tamara Davenne who added another national medal to her collection by placing second in the race. She did this whilst also leading the BUCS team to a second place finish. Despite the home-field advantage, Oxford was also able to defeat Cambridge in the varsity match and completed a very successful fortnight for the squad.
The strength and depth of women’s cycling that Oxford now possesses is laudable. Oxford are now able to take on and beat the very best at a national level, competing far and wide. With a large amount of funding in recent years, most notably from Sky, cycling as an amateur sport has very much taken off in this country, with participation levels at an all-time high and Britain enjoying a large degree of success internationally on the road and track.
The Oxford road captain Alasdair Morrison explained the transformation in female cycling at the university to Cherwell, commenting, “The women’s cycling in Oxford has increased in strength greatly this year withthe move to a racing squad who have shown their strength across the board.” On both her individual and team success, women’s captain Tamara Davenne of Merton was quick to point out the difficulties of the team trial discipline, requiring a great deal of communication between the trio. Davenne told Cherwell, “I’m very pleased with our performance. The girls gave everything in the race [BUCS] allowing us to reach our main objective: riding the 23 miles of this hilly course in less than an hour.
“Riding a team time trial with people who have different strengths is not easy. Finding the highest pace everyone will be able to maintain for an hour and sticking together was our biggest challenge, and we managed it beautifully. This victory is the result of great team work and we can all be very proud of it.”
With a young team, the club hope only to improve in the forthcoming year. The stage is set for further improvement and with a number of highly talented female riders coming through and breaking into the ranks of Oxford’s cycling team, for now women’s cycling looks to be very much on track for future success.