Cyclists are a tough breed, everyone knows that. Cycling fans are pretty tough, too; for proof of that, look at the 60,000 (yes, 60,000!) that braved the chilly wind and heavy rain to turn out for the Milk Race, which took place on the 25th of May for a second time in Nottingham after disappearing off the calendar for twenty years. Their resolve to ignore the weather and support the riders was rewarded: by the time the women’s race got underway, the clouds had cleared and the packed streets were bathed in warm sunshine.
Laura Trott was easily the favourite for this race with the fast 1.2km city centre parcours deemed likely to suit her talents, and she won support from the crowd by completing a couple of laps during the family rides around the circuit surrounded by an excited group of young fans who, inspired by their chance to ride with her, may well turn out to be Britain’s future winners at the Olympics. Trott’s Wiggle-Honda team had sent an extremely strong squad (Charlotte Becker, Elinor Barker, Dani King, Amy Roberts and Anna Schnitzmeier) to the race and it’s fair to say the reason for that was Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International – and specifically, Katie Archibald.
Archibald has made this type of race her own this season, with unbeatable performances that saw her dominate the Crit on the Campus back in March and again at the Stoke-on-Trent round of the Matrix Fitness GP earlier this month: at just 20 years of age, the Scottish rider is among the strongest on the domestic circuit and a lot of people are wondering what she’s going to be like – and what she’ll be winning – in six or seven years’ time. Trott, Becker and King kept close to her as the race neared its end, but Archibald refused to give in, even ramping up the pace a little so that the four began to gain a slight lead on the peloton after 40 minutes of racing.
Disaster struck for Wiggle when a mechanical took King out of the equation, but with Trott and Becker still marking her every move Archibald still had a tough time ahead – yet even two-against-one, she was simply too strong and outsprinted Trott to the line. It was not, however, the same sort of crushing defeat she inflicted on her rivals at Stoke-on-Trent, and Trott was centimetres behind her – further proof that when a rider of her calibre emerges, the rest of the field raise their game and the sport becomes all the better for it.
A special mention should be given to Vanessa Whitfield (23rd; VC St Raphael), Clare Gillott (24th; Les Filles), Lauren O’Brian (28th; RST) , Tessa Langley (29th; Beeston RC) and Saskia Hook (30th; Squadra Donne), who all completed the race despite taking part without the benefit of team mates. Perhaps most heroic of all, though, was Lucy Chittenden who managed 20th place despite riding as a privateer without any support from a team or club.
Milk Race Top Ten E/1/2/3
1 Katie Archibald (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International) 30
2 Laura Trott (Wiggle-Honda) 25
3 Charlotte Becker 0
4 Elinor Barker (Wiggle-Honda) 17
5 Katie Curtis (Starley-Primal) 14
6 Dani King (Wiggle-Honda) 12
7 Amy Roberts (Wiggle-Honda) 10
8 Anna Schnitzmeier 0
9 Eileen Roe (Starley-Primal) 7
10 Charline Joiner (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International) 6