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Hayley Simmonds – “I want to have a solid, injury-free season in 2019”

"Winning a medal at Commonwealths was a major goal for this season and I worked really hard over the winter to make sure I was in the best shape possible."

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When we interviewed the new CTT 30 mile record holder, Stuart Travis we were boasting that we’d now interviewed every British record holder from 10 miles to 12 hours.

We were quickly reminded that we’d only spoken to MALE record holders.

Point taken, so we spoke to 15 mile, 100 mile and 12 hour record holder, Alice Lethbridge.

And now to ‘complete the set’, here’s what 10 mile, 25 mile and 50 mile record holder, Hayley Simmonds (WNT-Rotor Pro Cycling) had to tell us.

Hayley Simmonds
Hayley Simmonds. Photo©Gary Main

We found you in Taiwan when we approached you for this interview, Hayley, what was on there?

“I was in Taiwan for the KOM Challenge (a mass start hill climb event, from 0 to 3275m elevation over 87km).

“I finished second in the event last year and really enjoyed it.

“Unfortunately my bad luck from 2018 continued and a local rider crashed into me very early on in the race.

“Although I only suffered minor road rash and some bruising, my rear mech. hanger was severely bent in the crash and my bike was rendered unrideable meaning I was unable to complete the event.

“Fortunately the trip was not a complete disaster, I was out there for 10 days and enjoyed some really good riding, as well as finishing second in the Yangmingshan Challenge (the warm-up race for the KOM), just being outsprinted on the line by the KOM winner Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-Scott).”

You were a rower, why the change to cycling?

“I started rowing when I was at school (The King’s School, Worcester) and continued when I began studying at Cambridge.

“In the third year of my undergraduate degree I trialled for the University squad which involved 12 training sessions per week as well as catching a train to Ely at 05.55 am three mornings each week.

“Needless to say this affected my degree a little that year!

“The following year I decided to focus on my finals and didn’t do any sport.

“In 2011 I decided I needed to get fit again and my boyfriend (now husband) suggested I try cycling as he had been riding since his teens.

“It turned out I was quite good at it, he started coaching me and it all took off from there – he still coaches me now.”

Hayley Simmonds
Photo©Gary Main

2018 Commonwealth TT bronze – content with that?

“Yes, 100%.

“Winning a medal at Commonwealths was a major goal for this season and I worked really hard over the winter to make sure I was in the best shape possible.

“I had a really good race and everything just went right on the day.

“It’s a huge relief that I managed to achieve this goal, particularly given the bad luck I’ve suffered during the remainder of the season; I can still look back on 2018 and know that I won my first international medal.”

Your championship wins:

  • 2014: CTT 10 & 50 champ
  • 2015: CTT 10, 25 & 100 champ and BC TT
  • 2016: CTT 10, 25 & 100 champ and BC TT
  • 2017: CTT 10 & 25 champ, also circuit champ in 2017
  • 2018: CTT 25 champ

and your British records:

  • 10: 18:36
  • 25: 49:28
  • 50: 1:42:20

Have we missed anything?

“Nope!”

Those are mightily impressive times; what sort of training did you do to achieve them?

“I didn’t do any specific training to target setting the records.

“They were all set in 2016 and I broke my own 10 record three times during that summer – the first time I broke it I also broke the 25 and 50 record within an eight day period.

“I had won the British National TT in late June that year and had been hoping to make selection for the Rio Olympics which was in early August so I was in really good shape.

“I continued with the same training as normal, which is basically training as a professional road rider but with some TT work thrown in, I was just going really well at that time.”

Hayley Simmonds
Photo©Gary Main

Coming late to the sport there must have been a lot to take in with aero positions and bicycles – how was the learning curve?

“To be honest the major learning factor was related to bunch skills and road riding.

“As somebody with a science PhD I’ve always enjoyed the technical and ‘geeky’ side of cycling so learning about aerodynamics and bikes was something I found really interesting, just as I’ve enjoyed finding out more about physiology, nutrition, training etc.”

Tell us about UHC in 2016 – one of the premier women’s teams…

“To be honest I don’t really want to talk too much about it – that year I was focussing on making selection for Rio and I thought that winning the British National TT would be a major factor in helping me achieve that.

“To give myself the best chance possible I decided to part company with UHC.

“The split from the team was amicable and I still get on with the staff and riders, I just fundamentally disagreed with the way the team did certain things.”

Are you full time with Team WNT?

“Yes, I’ve been riding full time since finishing my PhD in 2016.”

Hayley Simmonds
Hayley (L) with her Team WMT teammates. Photo©Gary Main

DNS for the 2018 British road race and time trial champs – what was wrong?

“I crashed and broke my elbow on Stage Three of the OVO energy women’s tour on 15th June which was only two weeks before the British Championships.

“Unfortunately this ruled me out for both the TT and the road race.”

Eighth in the 2018 European TT Champs, were you content with that ride?

“Yes I was really happy with this performance as it was only seven weeks after I broke my elbow.

“I worked really hard to hold onto as much fitness as possible and then get back into shape following the surgery on my elbow and to even have been on the start line in Glasgow was a major achievement.

“The fact that I also produced a really good power that day and managed to finish eighth was a bonus.

“I know I lost time on the technical sections as I was slightly nervous of crashing again in the bad weather but it was definitely a big confidence booster after a tough few months.”

The 2018 Worlds – 23rd in the TT – tell us about that ride please.

“It’s difficult for me to talk about this ride as I still can’t tell you exactly what happened.

“I had another crash on my recovering elbow at the end of August resulting in two nights in hospital, however I was back on the road bike the day after being discharged.

“I then picked up a cold around the time of Chrono Champenois, two weeks before Worlds, but took a few days off and felt as though I had recovered.

“With hindsight perhaps I should have just ended my season early and let my body recover.

“In the 10 days before the race training had been going really well – I had based myself just outside Innsbruck and knew every inch of the course and how I was going to ride it.

“I prepared exactly as normal but then for some reason when I started racing I just had nothing in my legs.

“I did probably the worst power I’ve ever done for a TT – I did the course twice through in training 10 days previously at a higher power than in the race.

“I still don’t entirely know what went wrong, though I had a blood test not long after getting back to the UK and it suggested that there might have been some underlying cause.

“It’s extremely frustrating to look back on as I know I did everything possible to prepare for that one race and then for some reason I just couldn’t perform on the day – I guess that’s professional sport though and sometimes things just don’t go to plan.”

Hayley Simmonds
Hayley has adjusted to the tactics and requirements of road racing. Photo©Gary Main

You always go well in the late season French chronos, two podiums each in the Nations and Champenois…

“Both Chrono Champenois and Chrono des Nations are races that suit me well and I enjoy riding.

“I was unlucky at Chrono des Nations last year in being sent the wrong way by my lead moto – I still finished third but would probably have been very close to the win without the mishap.

“I had a good ride at Chrono Champenois in September and was glad to see it back on the calendar after it was cancelled in 2017.

“Unfortunately I didn’t do the Chrono des Nations this year for various reasons but I’m hoping to be able to make it onto the top step in one of these races next year!”

Of all your performances which gives you most satisfaction?

“I think the bronze medal from Commonwealths is the result I’m most proud of.

“Mark (my husband and coach) and I worked exceptionally hard from the end of my off-season last November through to race day.

“We got pretty much everything right during those four-and-a-half months and the result was that things came together perfectly on the day of the TT; I had a really good race and it resulted in an international medal which nobody can ever take away from me.”

Hayley Simmonds
Hayley is looking forward to a trouble-free season 2019. Photo©Gary Main

What would you do differently regarding women’s cycling if you were with BC and/or the UCI?

“I think things are improving for women’s cycling – the announcement by the UCI that there will be a minimum salary requirement for the top five women’s teams in 2020 was a very welcome one.

“There are definitely some things that need to change though that will further help with the growth of the women’s side of the sport, the main one in my opinion being improved race coverage.

“It would also be great to see women’s equivalents to some of the big men’s races and also more equal parcours for events such as World Championships and the Olympics, as well as at National Championships.”

What’s on the Hayley ‘To Do’ list for 2019?

“So many things!

“After such a rocky 2018 I want to have a solid, injury-free season on the road next year.

“I’d love to win another National Championship and be selected for both the European Championships and the World Championships in Yorkshire, and be able to put in strong performances in both.

“I’d also love to win one of the UCI TTs – Ljubljana, Chrono Champenois or Chrono des Nations – as I feel a UCI TT win is overdue!”

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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