Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) looked like she had the National Championship tucked safely into her jersey pocket in Monmouthshire last weekend, but clever tactics by the Wiggle-Honda team saw Laura Trott snatch the victory only a few metres from the line – so when they next meet, in Armitstead’s home town Otley on the 2nd of July for the latest round of the Women’s National Road Series, expect a true battle royale.
Lizzie, at 25 years of age, is entering her best years and this season has emerged as one of the finest riders in the world, able to challenge even the mighty Marianne Vos and Emma Johansson. 22-year-old Laura Trott was one of the stars of the 2012 Olympics; she’s already had a glittering career on the track but has also been very successful on the road with three Under-23 National Road Race Championships victories in addition to this year’s senior title in her palmares, and she’ll be wanting to show that her triumph over Armitstead was not just a one-off.
The almost indescribably strong Katie Archibald (Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International), who has dominated so many criterium races this year, will not be competing at Otley, but it’s far from a two-horse race – to stand a chance of winning, Armitstead and Trott will also need to take on Nicola Juniper (who leads the series by 139 points to Archibald’s 135. There is also number of other riders who need to make up points and are more than capable of doing so should any of the leaders make even the slightest mistake: Gabriella Shaw was the most successful of all the riders on the start list at this race in the Matrix GP, a series made up of town centre crits similar to this one, and powerful support from the Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International team makes her a favourite. Dani King (Wiggle-Honda) and Grace Garner (RST) all pose a serious threat, as do 2013 winner Elinor Barker (Wiggle-Honda), Lydia Boylan (Velosport-Pasta Montegrappa), Alexie Shaw (Epic-Scott) and Abigail Dentus (De Ver Cycles).
Taking place on a circuit which, at 2.29km, is much longer than most criteriums, the Otley GP is unusual in that it climbs for most of the first 1.46km before reaching a very short flat section, then descends (including a steep stretch after the 4th corner) for 0.58km to the 5th corner prior to a flat run-in to the finish line. The steepest section of the climb, on the bridge between the 2nd and 3rd corners, has a maximum gradient of 7%. Total elevation gain on each lap is approximately 27m; with numerous laps in the 45 minutes over which the race runs, this is likely to prove decisive.
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.