It’s virtually impossible to predict with any real degree of certainty who’s going to win a bike race because, in cycling, there are just to many things than could happen: Rider A might be a Elite with hundreds of wins on her palmares, but it only takes a tiny sharp flint in the road and all of a sudden 4th Cat. Rider B, in her first race, could be the victor. What you can do, on the other hand, is have a good look at the course, work out what’s likely to happen and then decide which riders it’s most likely to suit. Sometimes, though, just to keep things interesting, the race plays out in a totally unexpected way.
The Coalville Wheelers RR was in that last category. At 101km, it’s one of the longest women’s races in the UK, and while it doesn’t feature anything that could be described as alpine it’s got a nice (if you’re a photographer; nasty if you’re racing) selection of reasonably steep hills to make it tougher. What’s more, it was the final round of the 2017 Women’s Team Series. For those reasons, it seemed very likely indeed that the peloton would remain together for a few laps before a small group of hard riders looking to grab some points for the final overall result would get away, probably on the toughest climb leading into the tight left-hander to the finish and another lap, then probably gradually increase their advantage before a small sprint to the line. However, despite a fast start and a few attempts at breaks (including one by Lauren Murphy of Liv CC-Epic, which saw the recently-crowned National Junior Champ gain a lead that looked as though it might just have lasted), the peloton remained together, not splitting even as the pace grew so high that we were caught out several times by its sudden appearance far sooner than we expected.
Nevertheless, it was attritional – riders who had been at the front of the pack early on were gradually seen less and less as they became tired, and by the final two laps it was the same small number holding their position at the sharp end. Finally, after the last climb of that last hill and around the last corner, a few of them brought the hammer down and exploded up the last straight. It remained impossible to call until there was just a handful of metres left, at which point Jennifer Holden of Fusion-Fierlan literally threw her bike towards the line and gained an advantage of three bike lengths over Charlotte Broughton (Ford Ecoboost) and Georgina Pachaud (Bianci Dama UK) to take it.
Alicia Speake took fourth; as the best-placed rider from Team OnForm, she was given the job of congratulating all the other teams on a battle well-fought and thanking the Series organisers when, back at the Coalville Wheelers’ clubhouse, it was confirmed that her team had won overall. Not bad at all for a team in its first season!
1 Jennifer Holden (Fusion-Fierlan; Cat. 2) 30pts
2 Charlotte Broughton (Ford Ecoboost; Cat. 2) 25pts
3 Georgina Panchaud (Bianchi Dama UK; Cat. 2) 21pts
4 Alicia Speake (OnForm; Cat. 1) 17pts
5 Emily Meakin (Mammoth Lifestyle RT; Cat. 1) 14pts
6 Emma Lewis (BowlPhish; Cat. 2) 12pts
7 Jennifer Powell (Ford Ecoboost; Cat. 1) 10pts
8 April Tacey (Team 22; Cat. 2) 8pts
9 Helen Ralston (Sigma Sport; Cat. 2) 7pts
10 Lauren Murphy (Liv CC-Epic; Cat. 2) 6pts
11 Gabriella Homer (Team 22; Cat. 2) 5pts
12 Gemma Sargent (OnForm; Cat. 2) 4pts
13 Jessica Woodworth (OnForm; Cat. 2) 3pts
14 Rosie Walsh (SunSport Velo; Cat. 2) 2pts
15 Hannah Larbalestier (SunSport Velo; Cat. 2) 1pt