Regular Neutral Service contributor Dave White went to the Cheshire Classic last weekend and had a great time before and during the race. Here’s his report:
For those who don’t know, Cheshire Classic is the longest standing women’s road race on the British domestic calendar; dating back to 1980 and with some of the biggest names in British women’s racing having won it previously it has a prestige few other races can yet match. It has been on my list of races to go to for a while and this year I decided it had to be done – an offer of a meet in the pub with some good folks beforehand sealed the deal!
The weather forecast for the race wasn’t great when setting out but lots of sunshine on the way over boded well for the following day, but not as well as meeting the organiser Andy Wood, Huw Williams and Heather and Fred Bamforth. Great folks all and so nice to finally get to meet them at last, they are all putting a huge amount of work into improving the women’s race scene in the UKand deserve medals for that! An early start for everyone the following day meant not too late up, but still plenty time for a bit of discussion about bikes and racing.
Sunday 27th dawned bright and sunny, with the forecast telling us it should stay that way until well after the race had finished. Ideal bike racing conditions really and certainly all the teams were looking forward to the race as final preparations and plans were being made, oh and interviews with the media for many as well. Just before the race convoy started to assemble I headed out to the roadside to catch the riders on their first of 12 laps of the course. Being stood at one of the main junctions it was great to see the accredited marshals in action, these folks are the unsung heroes of the sport and very professional they were too. If fact the whole race organisation was first class and testament to a lot of hard work being done before the day.
So the riders were off and racing and right from the start it became clear that Pearl Izumi team had a point to make today and were going to make the race hard. Katie Archibald attacked pretty much from to go and the first laps saw a series of attempts to get away from teams. After a while Sarah Storey (Pearl Izumi), Hannah Walker (Epic Scott) and Katie Archibald (Pearl Izumi) got a small gap. Hard work by Emma and Laura Trott and the Matrix team pulled this break back steadily just before the intermediate sprint. Although she had been in that move Katie still managed to jump past the field to take the intermediate sprint prize.
Moving round to the feed zone and main climb showed just how many spectators had turned out to watch – lots! The climb was lined both sides where there was a space with many local club riders turning out on their own bikes to watch as well. Great support for those racing must make a difference and certainly the second half of the race was full of attacks. Finally with about 2 laps to go Hayley Jones (Pearl Izumi) made a break and Katie Archibald joined her to really put pressure on the field. Matrix and Epic Scott riders really gave all they had to close the gap down but the move had been just at the right time and it wasn’t to be.
With one lap to go Katie really hit the climb full gas, dropping her team mate and heading off into the distance in time trial mode. The fact she was grinning while accelerating up the climb at maximum effort just made all of us watching gawp, an amazing performance! She rode the last lap on her own and put more time into the chasing pack, Hayley managed to hang onto second place ahead of Laura Trott who burst free from the pack on the final climb to the finish.
All in all a superb race and really good entertainment for those watching with attacks all through the race. In fact it was so good Hannah Barnes came all the way back from the USA to watch! Well OK, she may have been supporting her sister before getting ready for the Women’s tour, but she was handing up bottles showing our GB women can do anything the Dutch can.
All photos in this article are © Dave White. Do not reuse without first gaining permission.