Feature Q & A: Hayley Simmonds (WNT)

Multiple champion and record breaking time trialist, Hayley Simmonds of WNT is today’s feature question and answer

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Feature Q & A: Hayley Simmonds (WNT)

Hayley had an outstanding 2016 breaking comp record over and over as well as winning multiple time trial championships. For 2017, Hayley joins a strengthened women’s team which will be racing UCI events, WNT

Hayley says of joining Team WNT, “I’m really happy to be back on a UCI team for 2017 as ultimately I want to be racing at an international level. I really enjoyed my experience with Team WNT at Thuringen Rundfahrt last year and so when was I told that the team would be applying for a UCI licence in 2017, it seemed like the right opportunity to make the step back up to UCI level racing.”

“The calendar and opportunities Team WNT Pro Cycling are offering for 2017 are well matched with my own ambitions and it is great to be part of a team that understands me as a rider and wants to help me achieve my long-term aims in cycling”.

1. What were the highlights for 2016 for you and why?
Hayley: 2016 was a mixed year for me with some big high points but also a number of lows. I think the biggest highlight was winning the British Time Trial Championship for the second year in a row, especially having just left UHC and received some criticism for having done so. I think some people thought that maybe winning in 2015 was a one-off and that I wouldn’t be able to defend the title in 2016, especially against increased competition, so it was very satisfying to be able to do so!

Other big highlights were winning three individual Cycling Time Trial titles (10, 25 & 100 miles), setting new individual competition records at 10, 25 and 50 miles, team gold at the National 10 and a team competition record at 10 miles. I think I broke various competition records six times in 2016 and also became the first woman to ride a sub 50-minute 25 mile TT and a sub 19-minute 10 mile TT which I am really proud of.

2. What was your favourite/most fun race of 2016?
Hayley: Probably Chrono des Nations TT in France at the end of October. I’ve done that race every year since 2013, but despite really liking the course it’s never gone smoothly; I’ve had everything from struggling to find the race HQ in 2013, to crashing in 2014 and then my bike failing the UCI check in 2015 and having to be altered last minute, despite having passed at UCI race all year! This year was the first year it rained for the race so I was a bit apprehensive (there are a number of technical sections) but I had no issues, produced a really good performance and finished 2nd – my best UCI result to date. It was the perfect way to finish my season.

3. What was the toughest race of 2016 for you and why?
Hayley: The Worlds. I was in great shape and had put a lot of effort into heat acclimatisation before heading out to Qatar. Both physically and mentally, I was in a really good place and truly believed I could (and would) finish in the top 10. Initially I didn’t understand what had happened and why I had gone so slowly as my power numbers had been good in the race, particularly given the heat.

When I discovered afterwards that my bike had failed the UCI check and my position had been altered (which had then resulted in a rubbing front brake after the first time I braked hard under load during the race, I was devastated. Getting such a bad result in such an important race, for reasons outside of my control, was really tough to take. That’s another reason why getting a good result in Chrono des Nations the following week was so rewarding, as I think that combined with my result from Chrono Champenois earlier in the season, provide a more accurate illustration of how competitive I am at international level compared to Worlds.

4. If there was one thing you learned most in 2016 to help you go faster/better, what was that?
Hayley: There are so many different things that I worked on and improved last year! However my improvements were down to the help and support from key people like Mark (Coach), Xav Disley (Aerodynamics – AeroCoach) & Alan Murchison (Nutrition – Performance Chef) among others, so I guess the big thing I learned is to get advice from, and trust in, a support network of people who are all knowledgeable and experienced at what they do.

5. What is the best piece of equipment (clothing/bike/gadget) to do with racing you are proud of most?
Hayley: Probably my TT bike (as a whole entity). It’s been built and improved on over several years and I’m sure some things will change again next year but everything on that bike is there for a reason and has been carefully considered.

6. When training for a discipline like time trialling which is a more constant managed effort, do you find having to also mix up the training for road racing?
Hayley: To be honest, I predominantly train with road racing in mind but then add in certain interval sessions and work on the TT bike. I think if I was just training for time trialling, I could get away with doing fewer hours in total and more specificity, however this is only something I’ve adopted once or twice for short periods when I’ve known I’m only racing TTs.

7. What is your warm up routine for races – and does it vary for time trials and road races?
Hayley: I always use a turbo to warm up on if that is possible (which it is most of the time). I’ve changed my routine quite a bit over the past few years but for TTs it is currently around 25 minutes long and a mixture of steady riding, sweetspot and a few short sharp efforts. I always try to warm up for road races too, but exactly what I do depends on how hard I think the race is likely to be from the gun! If I think it will be hard straight away, then I do my TT warm-up but if there is a really long neutralised section or I think it’s likely to be more subdued for the first 20-30 minutes, then my warm-up will be shorter and probably also steadier.

8. A difficult one perhaps but the elation at winning a British championship or breaking comp record – is one better than the other?
Hayley: Winning a British championship is definitely better as it carries greater significance within the context of international racing and the opportunity to do so only comes around once every year.

It also means I get to race TTs in National Champs colours for the next 12 months which is something I never take for granted. Setting new competition records was definitely a lot of fun in 2016, but technically, I have the opportunity to target them most weekends if I wanted to. I have never trained specifically to break the records, it’s just something that has happened as a result of training for events such as the British Championships – however it’s definitely a good reward for training hard to see myself going faster!

9. To break comp record once is enough for most riders in their career but to do it multiple times is quite unique. Which one has given you the biggest buzz?
Hayley: That question is actually pretty difficult to answer! I suppose the one that really gave me the biggest buzz was my 18.36 10-mile record in mid-September. I had missed the SSLL event on the V718 the previous week as I was instead racing a UCI 1.1 TT in France (Chrono Champenois).

Although I definitely did not regret my decision to go to France I felt slightly gutted that I had missed such a near-perfect day in Hull, on which a huge number of people set PBs and Marcin Bialoblocki rode 16.35 to beat Dowsett’s record by 45 seconds. In addition, Anna Turvey had ridden and had beaten my previous 10 record by 10 seconds. When I raced on the course the following week, I knew that the conditions weren’t as good but I also had a point to prove and I produced what was probably my best ever 10. To be the first woman to ride an 18 was pretty special. Similarly, I’m really proud to be the first woman to ride a 49 minute 25-mile TT.

10. How have you spent the winter training wise? Long miles or a mix of miles and efforts?
Hayley: It’s been a mix of miles and efforts but so far the majority of my training has been based around long rides with only 2-3 hours per week of intensity.
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11. Have you been based in Britain during the winter or escaped to warmer climates?
Hayley: I had a fairly lengthy break after my final race last season (Chrono des Nations on October 23rd) during which time I got married. I started training again in late November and have so far stayed in the UK. I am hoping to head out to Spain for a few weeks for some mountains and winter sun but failing that, I’ll be in Cambridgeshire until our team launch and camp in late February.

12. What comes first – long steady miles or a mix of miles and efforts for the early season training?
Hayley: My first training phase each year after my break is always a base block and so there are a lot of long rides. I still do a few interval sessions per week but initially they tend to be longer intervals. As I get closer to the race season and move into different training blocks I do more interval sessions.

13. What are the goals for 2017?
Hayley: The team has a really good calendar for this year and I’m hoping to be able to get some good results in UCI road races in addition to the TTs. There are a number of stage races with time trials in particular where I am hoping to do well. In addition, I am obviously aiming to retain my British title and build on some of my results from 2016 in the UCI TTs.

14. Finally, what will your first race of 2017 be?
Hayley: The team are racing Semana Ciclista Valenciana in early March which is a new stage race on the UCI calendar for 2017. I’m hoping to be selected for that and should be in pretty good form by then!

Good luck to Hayley in 2017 and thank you for the Q&A!



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