Unusually for the early May bank holiday, the weather turned out to be very fine on the morning of this year’s Ixworth Crits, ensuring a large and happy crowd made up of residents of the Suffolk village and cycling fans from further afield – great news for women’s cycling because, due to high popularity with riders in years past, the event included a women-only E/1/2/3/4 race for the very first time.
The tight circuit with its four sharp left-hand bends and narrow section along the sourthern part of Commister Lane favours those who can put a little space between themselves and the main, so Ellie Cadzow (PMR@Toachim House) rocketed off the start line and led through the first two corners. Unfortunately, her advantage was short-lived and, unable to hold her position as the peloton made its way along the straight and slightly descending upper section of Commister Lane, she was soon overtaken.
Velosure-Starley Primal’s Tanya Griffiths has an especial love for Ixworth due to the edition, in which she came third behind Alexandra McKibben (Iceni Velo) and Anna Grundy (Look Mum No Hands), having been the first race in which she ever took part. In 2013 she was third again, with Grundy winning and Bryony Board (Glendene CC) taking second. Last year she was second after losing out to Emma Trott of Boels-Dolmans.
“I feel loyal to this race, which is why I come back every year instead of doing Bedford,” Tanya told Neutral Service, referring to the much better-known Bedford 3-Day that takes place across the same weekend. That she intended to win it this time around was clear from the way she attacked the circuit, using the cornering skills she’s worked hard to acquire over the last couple of seasons to full effect and getting around with her elbows mere centimetres from the tarmac where other riders picked their way. Unfortunately, once again victory escaped her grasp – and the reason for that was Sophie Wright.
It’s fair to say that Sophie is not one of the better known riders on the British women’s road cycling scene, but anyone who follows off-road racing will know exactly who she is: the Strada Sports rider has been prominent since 2013 when, in only her second season as a competitive mountain biker, she amassed 480 points and was ranked tenth for her age group nationally. Last year she took 915 points and was ranked third, and this year she has 480 points and is number one. It’s an accepted fact that mountain biking instills a rider with excellent road bike-handling skills (Marianne Vos being one example), and Sophie used this ability to slowly gain a lead where it most counts on a circuit such as this. A seriously good power-to-weight ratio then enabled her to extend that advantage on the straights.
In fact, so impressive was Sophie’s performance (the best I’ve seen this year so far, in fact), that during the final few laps she almost made it look easy. However, beating Tanya is not easy, even if she’s not anywhere near her peak at this time of year – Tanya also is a very strong and clever rider, and it was clear as the race drew to a close that she was going full guns in an effort to catch up. Perhaps, had there have been two or three more laps the outcome would have been different: Tanya, after all, had team mates in the race and with an ally could have shared the work, but as things were Sophie was simply too strong and had built up an advantage too great.
So, it’s a good thing Tanya likes Ixworth as much as she does. Next year, when the organiser will hopefully once again provide the women with a chance to shine, could be her year.
Ixworth Crits Women’s E/1/2/3/4 Result
1 Sophie Wright (Strada Sports)
2 Tanya Griffiths (Velosure-Starley Primal)
3 Sian Botteley (Velosure-Starley Primal)
4 Sophie Lankford (WNT)
5 Lucy Harper (Aprire-HSS)
6 Gaia Caciello (Welwyn Wheelers)
7 Jennifer McAndrew (Jadan)
8 Gemma Melton
9 Lindsay Clarke (Fenland Clarion)
10 Anna Muir (Colchester Rovers)
11 Becky Ridge (Manningtree Wheelers)
12 Ellie Cadzow (PMR@Toachim House)
(Please note: results are provisional and subject to revision)