Monday’s fifth and final stage took place over 76km on a course starting at the top of Sunderland Hill on the B660 and following the team time trial course through Bolnhurst before turning toward Thurleigh and heading back towards Ravensden, then onto the B660 again for a finish back at the top of Sunderland Hill.
With the field now reduced due to the attrition associated with a stage race as well as injuries and some sickness, the remaining riders set off from the day’s HQ at Bedford Ruby Club for the neutralised ride to the course – and one of my favourite sight of a 3 Days of Bedford weekend, the view from the top of the finish hill looking back and down to Bedford Road and the peloton being escorted as a single mass to the course.
Passing through Bolnhurst for the first time, Lovelo Squadra Donne, Army Cycle Race Team and EDCO Continental were prominent on the front. Amy Hill (Cycle Team On Form) in yellow was, as always, tucked in behind the first few riders with team mate Sian Botteley just off her rear wheel. On the second half of the course with its downhill sections the main group became more strung out; at around a hundred and fifty meters from end to end, a few riders were lost off the back.
On the second lap Lovelo Squadra Donne were still at the head of the race, with OnForm and Ford EcoBoost keeping watch for any potential breaks. Heading down towards the sprint line, Jenny Corser (Team RGB Building Supplies), the sprints jersey holder after day one, and the current green jersey holder Joanna Smith (BowlPhish Racing) moved towards the front of the bunch, then a short while later Botteley moved into a more prominent position. With the sprint line approaching, the OnForm rider pulled ahead to take the points with Corser in second and Smith third.
The third lap progressed in much the same way as the second, except that as the riders headed towards the sprints line for the second time the skies darkened and a steady stream of drizzle started to fall. Preparing for the final sprint of the weekend the usual suspects readied themselves and, with the green jersey still up for grabs, Smith drove for the points to conform the win. Botteley took second and Corser third.
With the sprints over and the skies clearing, the road started to dry and the peloton bunched up with smaller groups of dropped riders forming behind. Natasha Reddy confirmed her Queen of the Hills red jersey by taking first and third the next two times the race crossed the finish line.
On the hill to Bolnhurst for the penultimate time, Louise Heywood-Mahe (Les Filles-QOM) attacked, managing to get a gap of around 30 metres. OnForm led the response with Amy Hill and three team mates pushing the pace on the front of the peloton, and soon reeled Heywood-Mahe in. As the race headed to the turn on to the B660 to climb Sunderland’s Hill for the fifth time, Corrine Clark (Ford EcoBoost) attacked, rapidly pulling out a fifty metre lead. As she continued to pull away the yellow jersey found herself isolated without any team mates, but was able to follow the wheel of Chloe Weller (Army Cycle Race Team), who had proved a strong climber of this hill, and as the final lap progressed the breakaway attempt was finally closed down.
As the bunch headed up Sunderland Hill for the last time, Ford EcoBoost made their move with Clark winding things up by leading out the previous day’s stage winner Charlotte Broughton. With the race in its last hundred metres, Broughton had a small lead over the yellow jersey with Ellen McDermott, still on a borrowed GB Cycles team bike, in third. As the line approached the three leaders had a clear advantage over the chasers, and as Broughton crossed the line with a bike-and-a-half length advantage she thrust an arm in the air in celebration of consecutive stage wins.
After the race, a delighted Broughton commented her second stage win: “I actually can’t believe it, I didn’t think I was going to do it. Sometimes I get a bit of a mental block, I’ve been away for a bit training and focusing on being OK, at the end of last year at the mountain bikes national championships I crashed really badly and was off the bike and not walking for four weeks, and I went to the Crit Champs to watch and it made me a lot hungrier than I had been for glory. Being around a team that has been so supportive and positive, it completely turned my mental attitude around. I’m enjoying my racing, it’s just been amazing and the team did so amazing.”
“I can’t fault the way they led me out, the train was epic,” she added. “Corrine went, that was planned, just to see if she could get away and she stayed away for ages… the plan was if that didn’t work she would be leading me out. The harder finishes suit me because of the off-road I do and I can put myself in the red, I am happy to sit in the red, and having the team around me gives me a lot more confidence to do that sort of move. Even half an hour ago I was thinking my legs had died, but it’s all about eating the right things, getting the recovery in, having Tony [Ireland] wash my bike so I don’t have too – it’s all the little things that make a massive difference!”
Stage 5 Result
1 Charlotte Broughton (Ford Ecoboost)
2 Amy Hill (Team OnForm)
3 Ellen McDermott
Following her second place in the final stage, Amy Hill was confirmed as the overall General Classification winner of the 3 days of Bedford. With two stage wins and two seconds final advantage, she was the dominant rider of the weekend, while her squad OnForm were the dominant team and filled positions one to six in the GC. Lauren Murphy (GB Cycles) was the leading junior, with a nine second margin over team mate Emily Meakin.
Natasha Reddy (Team Vision Innovative Leisure) took the Queen of the Mountains Red Jersey following a dominant performance that saw her hold it from the first day. Joanna Smith (BowlPhish Racing) won the sprints competition, the most keenly contested jersey of the weekend.
Final GC Standings
1 Amy Hill (Team OnForm)
2 Anna Henderson (Team OnForm)
3 Julie Erskine (Team OnForm)
Junior Lauren Murphy (GB Cycles)
QOM Natasha Reddy (Team Vision Innovative Leisure)
Joanna Smith (BowlPhish Racing)
(Text and photos © Simon F. Blackwell)