2015’s Banbury Star Road Race was an early season highlight, with plenty of climbing including the three ascents of Knowle Hill adding up to a total height gain of 1,279m (194m more than an ascent of Snowdon) proving to be a tough test. The winner was Nikki Juniper, who was then with Giordana-Triton but is now riding for the Ford Ecoboost team she created; the stand-out performance of the race, however, was (then Cat. 2) Annabel Fisher, who refused to give in and followed the incredibly strong Juniper all the way to the finish for second place.
That year, the course was bathed in glorious sunshine. This year, conditions were somewhat different with heavy rain prior to and during the race, causing plenty of problems for the riders, but it was still a fast and hotly-contested event. Gemma Lianne Sargent was there racing for the Aprire-HSS team, and she provided us with this report…
“I started the day fairly early as I got a lift to the race, they were racing the men’s event in the morning (thanks Icarus Velo :). My team mate Louise Laker was racing also, so I waited for her to arrive & we started getting ready together. Before a race you always feel like you have ages to get ready & then all of a sudden its time to start lining up.
71 ladies bustled for position behind the lead car, waiting for the race briefing. Then mens race was lovely & sunny, however the women’s peloton eyed the black clouds menacingly rolling in……too late now to put more layers on… Race briefing done & we’re off! During the neutralised section the peloton always feels a bit twitchy (well it does to me anyway), but you try to remain calm & keep your position. The neutralised flag goes down & the racing starts proper, I stayed towards the front of the race as best I can waiting for this formidable hill everyone has been talking about – I have never done this race, so had no idea what to expect…..AND BOOM there it was, I just gritted my teeth stared at the riders wheels in front of me & told myself I was going to stay there & ignore the pain. I kept alert to what was happening around me & kept moving up the bunch, finally I saw the summit & dug in deeper to bridge across to more riders. Pushing on over the top of the climb & suddenly found myself in the main break! This has never happened to me in a road race before, so I was quietly squealing inside 🙂
No sooner had we crested the climb, minutes after, those ominous grey clouds did their worst. It has to have been the hardest rain shower I have ever been caught in whilst racing, torrential in fact, the breakaway group of around 20 girls could all barely see ahead of us. We knew we had to keep pushing on or we would get caught by the peloton, so we organised a through & off & kept the pace high. We had to be careful as the wet roads were as slippery as ice round the corners, I nearly skidded out on my back wheel a couple of times. Half way round the race the weather eased & sun was out again, although the wet roads were still really greasy.
Two more times up THAT climb left, each time up we lost a few more riders & the breakaway group thinned. The last time up the climb you just had to grit your teeth & get on with it, I was not going to let myself get dropped now! We were down to about 12-15 riders now, up & over the climb. Annabel Fisher & my team mate Louise Laker had a small gap (GO LOUISE! 🙂 The remaining girls took up the chase though & soon we were back together again.
I just had to keep calm now & use my head, the pace started to pick up the closer we got to the finish…….As we were approaching the last bend before the short, sharp uphill finish, the pace picked up further (sort your position out Gemma, I screamed at myself) but I was a little too late…..Louise was ahead so I was happy for her 🙂 I kept pushing as hard as I could to keep those pedals turning. I saw a Fusion RT-Fierlan rider ahead of me & pushed past to the line…..8th. I found Louise & gave her a well done hug for her coming in 4th 🙂
Results below the photos…
Follow Gemma and the Aprire-HSS team
Banbury Star RR
1. Charlotte Alston (Team 22; Cat. 2) 30pts
2. Rose Osborne (Drops; Cat. 2) 25pts
3. Fiona Hunter Johnston (Fusion RT-Fierlan; Cat. 2) 21pts
4. Louise Laker (Aprire-HSS; Cat. 2) 17pts
5. Jennifer Powell (Elitevelo-Kalas; Cat. 2) 14pts
6. Jennifer Hudson (Fusion RT-Fierlan; Cat. 2) 12pts
7. Louise Mahe (Les Filles; Cat. 1) 10pts
8. Gemma Sargent (Aprire-HSS; Cat. 2) 8pts
9. Elizabeth Stedman (Fusion RT-Fierlan; Cat. 2) 7pts
10. Annabel Fisher (Neon-Velo; Cat. 1) 6pts
11. Chanel Mason (Army Cycling RT; Cat. 1) 5pts
12. Heidi Viles (Somerset RC-Bicycle Chain; Cat. 2) 4pts
13. Laura Greenhalgh (Les Filles; Cat. 2) 3pts
14. Amira Mellor (Matrix Fitness p/b Corley Cycles; Cat. 3) 2pts
15. Sarah King (Cat. 3) 1pt