The women’s omnium had an impressive startlist, with riders such as multiple World masters track champions, Janet Birkmyre (TORQ Performance), Madeleine Moore (VC St Raphael) and Niki Kovacs (Team Mulebar Girl-Sigma Sport) pitted against upcoming newer talent by the likes of riders such as Keira McVitty (Team Giordana-Triton) and Amber Joseph (Palmer Park Velo RT). Last year’s round winner, Ellie Coster, was absent from this year’s line-up.
The first event of the day in the women’s omnium was the 500m time trial and Birkymre, who took second place in the Reading omnium in 2014, was first to take to the track. Birkmyre set the bar at an impressive 38.26 seconds, and the signs that this time could potentially be enough to win the event were obvious when the second rider to start, Sophie Black (Elite Velo Kalas Sportswear CRT), finished nearly two seconds in Birkmyre’s wake (40.23). In the end, the time did prove to be unbeatable and just two other riders could muster a time below 40 seconds: Moore (39.93) and Joseph (39.95).
The first bunch race of the day, the points race, was next on the programme. A fairly aggressive pace was assumed from the gun. When the whistle sounded to signify the first points lap, Christine Robson (VC Londres) had managed to create some distance between herself and the rest of the bunch. However, with palpable determination within the bunch, Robson was swallowed up in the finishing straight with Black taking maximum points in a tight sprint, followed by McVitty, Joseph and Emma Clarke (RP Racing Team). The second set of points gave Kovacs the chance to grab maximum points, with Birkmyre crossing the line second followed by Laura Clode (VC St Raphael) and McVitty. The sprint gave the opportunity for a group of three to break away from the front of the bunch: Christine Robson (VC Londes) was joined by youth and junior riders, Amber Joseph and Amy Good (Cadence Cycling Performance). The trio worked well together, with Joseph leading the group across the line to mop up the next set of points. The bunch encroached fast after this point, although Joseph – clearly in the early days of establishing herself as a talented sprinter – managed to cross the line first in the penultimate sprint, with Robson hanging in for second place. Madeline Moore successfully bridged to the trio on the line, and managed to steal the third place points from Good. Clearly energised by her performance, Moore sat behind Robson in second place for the remainder of the race, speeding past in the closing stages to cross the line first. Birkmyre took third place in the final sprint, with McVitty fourth. Joseph was rewarded for her excellent performance in the middle of the race with the overall win, with Robson’s consistent strength and determination seeing her take second place. Moore collected third place by virtue of her dominance in the closing stages.
The women were divided into five different races for the sprints which followed, ordered by their current standings in the competition. Birkmyre’s short distance prowess which she demonstrated in the time trial earlier on in the competition, once again came to the fore and she took the win in the first race with Moore having to settle for second place. Clode, who had shown glimpses of her sprinting talent in the previous points race, took first place in the second sprint race, with Kovacs winning the third. Alice Matravers (Charlotteville CC) and Isobel Whiteley (Halesowen A&CC) won the fourth and fifth races respectively.
The penultimate event in the competition was the 2km individual pursuit – an event much maligned by many of the riders. In this instance, it was Jayne Paine (Willesden CC) who was the surprise victor in the competition. Paine powered around the track to cross the line in an impressive time of 2:30.87; over a second ahead of second-place Moore (2:31.98). Birkmyre took third spot a further 0.5 seconds adrift (2:32.50). Robson was the only other rider to dip below 2:35 (2:33.50) in an exciting competition.
The final race of the omnium was the 8k scratch race and, with the points so close at the top end of the competition, a disappointing result could prove the difference between first place and no podium position. Birkmyre and Moore were tied going into the final event (9 points), with Joseph in third place (15 points). Such was the determination amongst the women, and aggressive pace assumed from the start of the race and, such was the speed of the bunch, any attempted breaks were quickly chased down. With two laps remaining, it was quite clear the race would end in a sprint for the line and Joseph, timing her positioning perfectly, crossed the line first with Moore taking second place. With Black taking third place, Birkmyre, who found herself boxed in in the closing lap, could only manage seventh.
The scratch placing proved costly to Birkmyre: Moore’s second place was enough to see her win the event with 11 points, with Birkmyre now on the same number of points as previously third-placed Joseph. Rather amazingly, both Joseph and Birkmyre had identical positionings from the five events (two first places and one each of third, fourth and seventh) with Joseph stealing the second placed podium position by virtue of her positioning in the final scratch race. Moore’s victory, however, was comprehensive and very well deserved.
Birkmyre will have done enough to maintain her lead in the overall series, although Moore will now leapfrog Sophie Black for second, whose still creditable fourth place at Reading will see her descend into third spot. There will no doubt be more to come from Joseph in the years to come – her performance at the Reading event was outstanding, particularly as her second place overall was achieved on reduced gearing.