Yesterday Hayley Simmonds became the British National Time Trial Champion for the second year running. It was a huge success and a triumphant win as she covered the 34.8km course around Stockton-on-Tees in 47 minutes and 33 seconds, with former champion Emma Pooley over a minute down in fourth place.
Today she told us she was brought back down to earth with a thud when British Cycling released their selection for Rio on Twitter.
Simmonds tells us she had been receiving communication since she raced alongside Lizzie Armitstead at the Worlds in Richmond, informing her that she was in the running for an Olympic place, and with no information to the contrary, hoped her defeat of Pooley might set her in a good position.
Normally full of spirit, Simmonds sounded dejected and a little lost as she told us: “I’ve been having emails since Worlds last year to say I was on the long list, then the short list. I’ve had emails saying ‘if you’re selected, when do you want to fly back?’. On Monday last week Mark [her fiancé] got a ‘Dear Family and Friends’ email with a form to fill out. So – as much as it’s been in the press [that Pooley was a likely choice] and there’s been rumours and everything, I thought that at least somebody would actually tell me in person rather than via media interviews and the announcement today, I think that’s quite disrespectful.”
She added: “Dani obviously got an email from selectors last week telling her she hadn’t been selected whereas I have literally heard nothing even up to today. Even up until yesterday I thought that maybe if I did a good enough performance then maybe it might be enough to have some influence.”
Leaving United Healthcare
Simmonds left her UCI trade team – United Healthcare Pro Cycling – before the time trial yesterday because she was not able to find the optimum position on her Willier team issue time trial bike. Though she says she still believes the decision was the right one for her, she tells us that it was one that was influenced by a belief a good performance could earn her a place in Rio.
Simmonds said: “It was always in the back in my mind, I knew if I went to the Nationals and didn’t win I had no leg to stand on. I’m a big enough person that if Emma beat me, I’d say she should be selected with no argument. But I wanted to give myself the best chance I could of doing the ride I knew I was capable of, so yes I made the decision to leave the team and give myself that opportunity.”
She added: “Now I find out I’ve not been selected, I have no right of appeal [because Simmonds is not on BC’s Program], I have no job, no income, no Olympic place and I don’t know where I go from here. I have my PhD but I don’t want at this stage to go and get a full time job, I want to be racing my bike full-time and to make some sort of living out of it. As a woman in cycling that’s hard anyway. But I would like to be able to try.”
Like King, Simmonds was clear about her feelings towards the three women who will be riding in Rio – Armitstead, her Boels Dolmans team mate Nikki Harris and 2008 Time trial silver medalist Pooley.
She said: “As Dani, I have nothing against Emma, she’s an incredible athlete and a really nice person. But they [British Cycling] published a selection document on their website at the end of last year – it specified that they would look at results from 1st January to 6th June they also specified they would look at UCI rankings. I’m 4th British Woman in UCI rankings, behind Lizzie and Dani and Lucy Garner. Emma has raced once during the selection which was in the Tour of Yorkshire where she was 15 minutes down on the winner. And I beat her yesterday by a minute. Ok that wasn’t in the selection window but even looking at events that were in the selection window then I should be selected for the time trial. I have nothing against Emma, I just don’t see that British Cycling should publish a list of selection criteria and then ignore it.”
She added: “It’s always been my dream to represent my country. Right now my faith in the system is completely gone. You would have thought if I work really hard, defend my National title, put a minute into Emma… who can argue with results? But it seems to make absolutely no difference – so what the hell am I supposed to do?”
Pooley came out of retirement this year to target the hilly course in Rio which will be very different to the UK test yesterday, and should suit her natural strengths. However, previously she’d been focusing on long distance triathlon, and her most recent result aside from fourth at the TT was a 45th place at the Aviva Women’s Tour.
She told Cycling Weekly after missing out on the National title: “I’m disappointed today but if you look at the course it didn’t suit my strengths. But you race the course they put to you. I did my best and didn’t win. I would have liked to have won. I went out and rode my hardest. I know I’m not properly time trial fit yet so it wasn’t that big of a surprise not to win.”
British Cycling have been asked for a comment but this did not arrive in time for the deadline given.