Day 1 – The King is back
Wiggle-Honda’s Dani King left no doubt she’s made a full recovery from the horrific crash back in November that left her with such severe injuries – a punctured lung, eight broken ribs and extensive bruising including to her organs – surgeons inserted a thoracic catheter when she beat Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International’s superstrong Katie Archibald in a sprint to take Stage 1 of Britain’s toughest women’s race, the Tour of the Reservoir.
Bad weather early in the day courteously moved on soon after the race got under way, but strong winds picking up pace as they blew in over the wide expanse of the Derwent Reservoir would continue to create issues for the riders throughout the race. Archibald, knowing that this was going to be a race for the hard women, launched an attack early and probably hoped to have things all her own way as she has done so many times in the past; however, King was on her case the moment she kicked and refused to let go. Nobody went with them, perhaps hoping that after going at such an early point, the duo would run out of steam. A chase group formed, but a combination of punctures, the wind and a strong presence of the leaders’ team mates within it made sure the pair out in front were never in real danger of getting caught and as the race drew towards a close they had an advantage of around a minute.
If either rider wants to win overall – and who wouldn’t want to do so in an event that has gained so much prestige as this? – they’ll need all their tactical nous in addition to strong legs, because there are several women in the peloton who are more than capable of giving them a run for their money and, if fortune (and the weather, and the goddess of punctures) is on their side, beating them by a large enough margin to steal the victory.
1 Dani King (Wiggle-Honda)
2 Katie Archibald (Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International)
3 Charline Joiner (WNT)
Day 2 – The Hell of the North
The riders must have been overjoyed to wake up to sunshine and warmer temperatures the morning of Stage 2, but they were in for a nasty shock: the weather rapidly deteriorated with heavy rain and even snow turning the race from tough to epic – only 40 riders would finish from 83 starters.
“It started off dry and bright today, but bloody hell it changed!” said Dave White, who was photographing for Neutral Service. “Rain, sleet, hail, snow, the works! Every rider finishing was suffering with hypothermia. Dani King described it as the hardest conditions she has ever raced in. I can believe her. My fingers still thawing out!”
Nikki Juniper (Giordana-Triton) won last year before going on to win the Women’s Road Series overall, and she made it clear that she was after another victory when she dug deep to bridge the gap between the peloton and Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International’s Jo Rowsell, better know for her success with Team GB in the Team and Individual Sprints on the Olympic and World Championships tracks. Her ability to do so was impressive but by her own admission she was completely outclassed by Rowsell on the flat sections and when her rival attacked following several laps riding together, she simply couldn’t respond – Rowsell was clear when she crossed the finish line.
With all the fireworks going off at the front, it was easy to forget that the lead duo’s real adversary was not one another but Wiggle-Honda’s Dani King, who beat Rowsell’s team mate Katie Archibald yesterday. With a gap of some two minutes between the chase group and the head of the race, another stage win was far beyond King’s grasp today, but she and her team rode wisely, keeping her in contention and making sure that the time difference was never so great that either leader took overall control.
Paris-Roubaix, so often called the hardest race in cycling, was also on today, and was televised – as it should be, because it’s one of the greatest races on the history of the sport. However, in terms sheer brutality and spectacle, and as the perfect example of how a combination of physical power and clever tactics earns victory, the Alexandra Tour of the Reservoir was surely by far superior – so how about sending some cameras along next year, TV channels?
1 Jo Rowsell (Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International)
2 Nikki Juniper (Giordana-Triton)
3 Ciara Horne (Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International)
4 Bex Rimmington (IKON-Mazda)
All photos © Dave White