Sunday the 16th July saw a group of young women get the parity of competition they had been previously denied when the first standalone British National Junior Women’s Road Race Championship formed the centrepiece of the Wallingford Festival of Cycling. The course was made up of two laps of a short circuit that took in the villages of North Stoke, Woodcote and Ipsden, followed by two laps of a longer circuit that added the villages of South Stoke and Cray’s Pond. With the run-out and run in-Trom Wallingford, a total race distance of 87km would be ridden.
At 14:20 under overcast skies, the fifty-nine starters were escorted onto the town centre criterium course and, after a parade lap, were stopped on the official start line to take in the atmosphere created by the hundreds of festival spectators and ratchet up the tension. After a five minute hold the race was formally started and the riders headed out for two and a quarter hour’s competition that would culminate in the awarding of the legendary red white and blue striped jersey.
With the race de-neutralised and on the course proper, a steady pace was set as the convoy headed for North Stoke and then turned towards Woodcote via the first significant climb on South Stoke Road. With a couple of early attacks quickly surrendering, the peloton reached the village largely intact with only a handful of riders being dropped.
As the race headed from Woodcote Rachel Jary (VC Londres) and Victoria Lovett (I-Team Cyclists Club) led the group to the turn onto the A4047 and the long downhill sections past the feed station to the start of the second short lap. After the race passed the feed station Elspeth Grace (Welwyn Kenetic) had an unfortunate accident, running into the back of the race ambulance – thankfully nothing more than a few stiches was required. This second short lap followed the pattern of the first, with Madeline Howden (Team Vision Innovative Leisure) and Kim Baptista (NCC Group-Kuota-Torelli) gaining twenty seconds on the peloton before being closed, and as the race headed up the hill to Woodcote the Team Backstedt/Hotchillee pairing of Lorna Bowler and Isabel Ellis led the way with the remaining bunch all within around twenty metres.
Heading towards Goring, Sophie Thackray (NCC Group-Kuota-Torelli) and Lily Greenhalgh (Team 22) were the next duo to take their chance but, as before, they were soon closed down; and, as race headed for the first climb of Flint Hill, Savannah Morgan (Team 22) attacked and was followed by a small group. Shortly afterwards Lauren Murphy (Liv-Epic) passed that group and got across to Morgan. As Morgan faded, Murphy pushed on with what would become the decisive break and as the road flattened out the bunch were twenty seconds down, then as the race passed through Woodcote and on to the downhill run to the start of the final lap, Murphy kept pushing hard and with the peloton lacking any sense of urgency the gap was soon pushed out over a minute.
With an expectant crowd gathering at the finish, Murphy kept driving on and with the bunch failing to respond her lead at grew to around two minutes. As the lone leader headed towards Wallingford the gap fluctuated but was never in any real danger of being closed.
With only a commissaires car for company, Murphy came in to sight of the appreciative crowd at the finish and was able to start her celebration twenty or thirty metres before the line.
The race for second was a more frantic affair with local rider Madeleine Gammons (Team Vision Innovative Leisure) and Cycle Team OnForm’s Jessica Woodworth leading out a bunch sprint. With team metres to go Ellie Russell (Team Backstedt/Hotchillee) burst past Woodworth to take third by the depth of a tyre, while Gammons held onto second by half a wheel.
After the race Neutral Service spoke to an emotional but delighted Murphy. “I got an opportunity when Savannah [Morgan] went up the road and a few broke away and I pushed across to them,” she told us. “Then I went straight past them and went up to Savannah – she dropped back into the group. I could see we only had twenty seconds and was thinking it was not going to work, I thought there’s no point in sitting up, might as well let them catch me, but I managed to stay away and it just worked out perfectly.”
“It was with about two km to go I sort of thought I had got it,” she continued. “When I found out I had about a minute and a half I thought I could have a puncture and I still think I can have this, I just need to stay upright. It worked out better than I thought!”
(Gallery below the results)
Top 20 Result
1 Lauren Murphy (Liv CC-Epic Coaching; Cat. 2) 60pts
2 Madeleine Gammons (Vision Innovative Leisure; Cat. 2) 52pts
3 Ellie Russell (Sportcity Velo; Cat. 2) 45pts
4 Jessica Woodworth (Team OnForm; Cat. 2) 40pts
5 Rhona Callander (Jadan-Weldtite; Cat. 2) 35pts
6 Anna Kay (EDCO Continental; Cat. 2) 31pts
7 Kara Perryman (Hargroves-Ridley-Montezuma’s; Cat. 2) 27pts
8 Victoria Lovett (I-Team Cyclists’ Club; Cat. 2) 23pts
9 Isabel Ellis (Backstedt/Hotchillee; Cat. 2) 20pts
10 Lorna Bowler (Backstedt/Hotchillee; Cat. 2) 17pts
11 Elizabeth Catlow (Team 22; Cat. 2) 15pts
12 Elizabeth Bennett (Liv CC-Epic Coaching; Cat. 2) 13pts
13 Fiona Turnbull (Speedflex RT; Cat. 2) 11pts
14 Kim Baptista (NCC Group-Kuota-Torelli; Cat. 2) 9pts
15 Lucy Horrocks (Hope Factory Racing; Cat. 3) 7pts
16 Gwenno Hughes (NCC Group-Kuota-Torelli; Cat. 2) 6pts
17 April Tacey (Team 22; Cat. 2) 5pts
18 Emily Wadsworth (Beeline Bicycles RT; Cat. 2) 3pts
19 Josie Shepherd (Project 51; Cat. 2) 2pts
20 Hannah Bayes (Liv-AWOL; Cat. 3) 1pt
While the Junior Championship was in progress, back in Wallingford a series of crit races were taking place. Maddie Wadsworth (Beeline) took first place in the Youth A with Freya Richardson (Portsmouth North End CC) and Emma Keiller (Charlotteville CC) second and third, while Millie Couens (PH-Mas/Paul Milnes/Oldfield), Abigail Old (Hillingdon Slipstreamers) and Kinga Ingram (Wyre Forest CRC) took first, second and third in the Youth B.
We have to be honest – following a long, hard day of pointing cameras at much fitter people doing far more strenuous things we were tired and wanted to go and drink beer, so we didn’t plan to hang around Wallingford (lovely place that it is) for the Elite crit races taking place after the Junior Championships. In addition, we didn’t think a 35-minute crit was going to draw a very impressive start list. But then we got a tip-off, informing us that it had in fact attracted some very big names on the domestic cycling scene. So, even though the earlier men’s crit was (and I’m sorry about this, guys – not your fault guys, it’s just the way races are sometimes) really rather dull, we stayed to see what was going to happen.
We weren’t disappointed. Right from the start, this was a hard-fought, fast and aggressive race, with numerous strong riders unable to hold their positions at the front – indeed, a couple of fast favourites were hanging off the back, and as the race progressed would be lapped. Look at the DNFs – those names usually appear high up in the results. Meanwhile, at the front, a real battle was developing, with various riders trading places at the head of the race and driving the average pace ever upwards, with more and more riders running out of reserves. As the race turned the last left-hand corner onto the wonky straight leading up to the line, Jo Tindley (Ford Ecoboost) and Christine Robson (VC Londres) were the riders with the most left over, but neither could pull away from the other and they crossed the line together. In photos, it looked like Christine had just taken the win, but by no more than the thickness of a spoke; Jo said that in her opinion she had been second, and this was confirmed by the official photo finish. Tamara Davenne (Vision Innovative Leisure) was only just behind them for third place.
(Gallery below the results)
1 Christine Robson (VC Londres; Cat. 1) 15pts
2 Jo Tindley (Ford Ecoboost; Cat. 2) 12pts
3 Tamara Davenne (Vision Innovative Leisure; Cat. 2) 10pts
4 Maxine Filby (Cannondale Girls; Cat. 2) 8pts
5 Emma Jane Hornsby (VC Londres; Cat. 2) 6pts
6 Louise Hart (Vision Innovative Leisure; Cat. 2) 5pts
7 Lydia Brookes (Les Filles-Queen of the Mountains; Cat. 2) 4pts
8 Phoebe Davis (VeloVitesse; Cat. 2) 3pts
9 Phoebe Martin (Team 22; Cat. 2) 2pts
10 Aimee Jones (Cowley Road Condors; Cat. 2) 1pts
11 Olivia Bentley (Didcot Phoenix CC; Cat. 2), 12 Tricia Freeland (BowlPhish Racing; Cat. 4), 13 Hermione Harrison (Cowley Road Condors; Cat. 4), 14 Kerry Middleton (Twickenham CC; Cat. 3), 15 Zoë Bartlett (BowlPhish Racing; Cat. 3), 16 Joanne Edwards (Outdoor Traders RT; Cat. 4), 17 Elinor Spencer (Outdoor Traders RT; Cat. 4), 18 Eleanor Law (Cowley Road Condors; Cat. 4), 19 Matilda Gurney (BowlPhish Racing; Cat. 3), 20 Daisy Brown (Outdoor Traders RT; Cat. 4), 21 Ines Barroca Rahtz (Glasgow University CC; Cat. 4), 22 Alicia Clifford (BowlPhish Racing; Cat. 3), 23 Emma Clarke (VC St Raphael; Cat. 3), 24 Sorrel Williams (Outdoor Traders RT; Cat. 4),
DNF Cyndi Goh (Cowley Road Condors; Cat. 4), Niki Kovacs (Brixton CC; Cat. 1), Gabriella Nordin (SunSport Velo; Cat. 2), Charlotte Redden (OnForm; Cat. 1)