Huw Williams reports on the action at the second women’s road cycling event of international importance to have taken place in Britain this year.
The second Ride London Grand Prix was won by Wiggle Honda’s Giorgia Bronzini, by barely a tyre width in a classic sprinters’ bike-throw, from World Champion Marianne Vos following a high-octane, 45minute thrash round the St James’ Park circuit that attracted the best ever field of international and domestic women racers seen in the UK for a criterium race. Held as part of the Prudential Ride London festival of cycling the event was televised live, yet still drew the customary huge crowds, vociferously supporting the riders each time they hammered through the grandstand-lined finishing straight and through the chicanes in front of the Queen’s house down the far end of The Mall.
The whole event had something of a party atmosphere about it. Supporting events saw literally tens of thousands of riders taking the opportunity to ride a few miles of closed roads around the capital at a rather more sedentary pace than the Women’s GP on the Saturday. Many also took part in a sportive into the Surrey Hills to follow in advance of a men’s road race on the Sunday.
Prior to the race, many of the UKs most talented youth riders gathered for their own team event following the GP had the chance to mix with the likes of Vos, Laura Trott, Lizzie Armistead and Hannah Barnes in the warm-up area, a hugely inspiring moment for many. Vos’ who was reportedly flown in on a private jet (since confirmed to Neutral Service by SweetSpot’s Guy Elliott) because the organisers really wanted her to be there, was more than obliging and seemed to be enjoying every minute of the build-up despite being technical issues with her turbo trainer, her helpers frantically trying to borrow a set of rollers for her to warm up on as the minutes ticked away to the start.
Defending champion Trott had some serious fire-power lined up as Wiggle-Honda looked determined to retain their title but Bronzini’s presence and reputation as one of the world’s most fearsome sprinters actually relieved her of a little pressure and she was relaxed enough to seem more concerned about the weather forecast for the following day’s 100 mile sportive. With a supporting cast of Amy Roberts, NZ criterium champ Emily Collins, Sweden’s Emilia Fahlin and team boss Rochelle Gilmore all on hand, Wiggle-Honda were clearly the team to beat and were taking the event very seriously.
As expected the pace from the gun was furious, with only 45 minutes plus a lap of action to contest, nobody was in the mood to waste any time and the race got straight down to business with some of the big guns doing a lot of riding from the off. UK favorite Hannah Barnes was riding as a sole UHC rider as was Armitstead for Boels-Dolmans, while Vos had trusted Rabo-Liv domestique Roxanne Knetemann in front of her for the early laps. Specialized-Lululemon had a strong, small squad led by Tiffany Cromwell; with some of the best domestic UK riders from Matrix-Vulpine, Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International, Velosport-Pasta Montegrappa, and Starley-Primals’ recently crowned National Criterium Champion Eileen Roe, the frantic high pace ensured itwas always unlikely that any breakaway was going to stick. It was simply too fast and there was too much quality in the field more than willing to bring any escapes back.
The orange and black Wiggle express started to flex its muscles about midpoint of the race, perfectly executing the classic tactic when having the luxury of superior numbers by driving the pace hard on the front in turns, forcing the riders not so well supported to repeatedly chase hard. Lauren Creamer, no doubt inspired by a recent National Series win made a very impressive attempt at a break only to see Fahlin counter the move.
As the race entered the latter stages Collins, a very aggressive criterium rider, put in a typical, monumentally hard turn of about two complete laps on the front which made it impossible for anyone else to consider a late attack. Her job done, Roberts was next up firing up the road, forcing everyone else into chasing and setting up Trott who took Bronzini into the finishing funnel. She still had to work incredibly hard to come around Vos, however, who despite Wiggle’s domination was still in the lead with only centimeters to go to the line. Both riders celebrated but the photos clearly showed that Bronzini had edged it with Armitstead, Trott, Roe and Barnes all in close attention.
Behind the international hitters, special mention should be made of Roe who finished 4th and National Series winner Nikola Juniper who came in 9th . Huge respect too goes to a large number of UK juniors who had massive results, the best being Grace Garner of RST in 8th and Abbie Dentus of De Ver Cycles in 10th .
Words © Huw Williams
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