The huge crowd gathered in Otley town centre made it clear they were backing their local hero Lizzie Armitstead all the way, and the Boels-Dolmans star gave them something to cheer about when she launched a blistering attack in the fourth lap that would ultimately take her to a 16″ advantage at the finish line.
Armitstead had to settle for third place at the National Road Race Championships last weekend, having fallen prey to the clever team tactics of Wiggle-Honda’s Laura Trott and Dani King, but she made them work hard for it with a savage late attack and the outcome could easily have been different: proof that, halfway through the season, she retains the excellent form that has given her a 160-point lead over Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS; currently ranked number one rider in the world) in the UCI World Cup – British women’s cycling is, after all, no longer the backwater it was once thought to be and Trott, King, Storey and all the rest are world-class opponents.
After remaining near the front – and helping to set a pace sufficiently high to cause fractures in the peloton – throughout the first laps, she used the same tactic at Otley, suddenly cranking up her effort in the fourth lap so high that for a few moments her rivals seemed stunned. Sarah Storey (Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International) and Rebecca Rimmington (Merlin) were first to respond, giving chase; Rimmington, however, was not able to match Storey’s power-punch and ended up trailing on her own between Storey and a 14-strong group that had budded off the front of the main bunch. By the fifth lap Storey was with Armitstead, but with so much racing still to be done the duo worked together rather than against one another for a time, gradually increasing their advantage (with a little help from a crash in the peloton) to a minute by the start of the eighth lap while Jessie Walker (Matrix-Vulpine), Nicola Juniper (Echelon-Rotor) and Storey’s team mate Gabriella Shaw took charge of the chasers and hoovered up Rimmington.
They say that riding in front of a home crowd gives a rider a bigger boost than any of the nefarious chemicals that were once so common in professional cycling, without any of the undesirable side-effects. It certainly worked for Lizzie – on the final lap, she attacked once more and this time Storey could not respond, soon finding herself trailing by an ever-increasing number of seconds as the leader simply kept on accelerating. At the line, she had 16″ – much to the delight of the thousands of local fans that had turned out hoping to see a race as exhilarating as this one.
Storey took second place, while Juniper had managed to stay at the front of the second group that arrived 2’14” after Armitstead.
More photos below
Otley GP Top Ten
1 Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) 37’41”
2 Sarah Storey (Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International) +16″
3 Nicola Juniper (Echelon-Rotor) +2’14”
4 Gabriella Shaw (Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International) ST
5 Abby-Mae Parkinson (RST) ST
6 Hannah Walker (Epic-Scott) ST
7 Melissa Lowther (Matrix-Vulpine) ST
8 Elizabeth Holden (RST) ST
9 Jessie Walker (Matrix-Vulpine) ST
10 Delia Beddis (Les Filles) ST
Neutral Service always welcomes submissions: race reports, previews, photos, news, opinion pieces and just about anything on the subject of women’s cycling (especially British women’s cycling) will be considered. Click here for more details.