Banbury Star CC Road Race

Connie Hayes is really more of a sprinter than a climber, but she hung on and achieved a good result. She’s a rider who loves her sport and gets stronger every season. With many more ahead of her at 18 years of age, she’s definitely a rider to watch – which is why she’s Neutral Service’s Hero of the Race.

Banbury, Oxfordshire 26.05.19

One of the highlights of the Women’s Team Series and of the British Cycling calendar, the Banbury Star CC Road Race never fails to disappoint, with this year’s edition attracting 45 riders and a decent crowd of fans. It’s commonly said that this race is all about the hill, and there’s some truth in that: three ascents of the infamous Edge Hill, which rises gradually for 2km before suddenly turning steeper to gain a hundred metres in less than a kilometre with a maximum gradient of 17%, certainly favours the climbers – but the rest of the circuit features descents, long flats and sprints, so that it’s never guaranteed a pure climber will win. In this race, a rider’s ability to suffer through the sections that don’t suit her counts every bit as much as her ability to excel on those that do.

Connie Hayes of Liv-AWOL-Spok’d led the peloton from the end of the neutral zone and into the first, fast, descent, but as ever found the time to poke her tongue out at the waiting photographers (afterwards, she told us the race was “horrible” – but did so with a smile!). The leadership never stays the same for long on such a varied course, however, and a small group of climbers had filtered through to the front with Georgina Panchaud (Bianchi Dama) especially notable – Panchaud was second here in 2017 and 2018, and thus was definitely a rider to watch. So too was Kate Wooton (On Form) and Hannah Larbalestier (Boompods) – both strong riders who can climb, but can also hold their own if a race finishes in a sprint.

The rest of the race followed its typical format as small groups got away on whichever section suited their abilities, then got reeled back in and replaced as the terrain changed. Finally, as they reached the top of the hill for the last time, a lone rider made her move – Leah Dixon of the new Brother UK-Tifosi team. We caught up with her after the race to hear what happened…

Leah Dixon looks exhausted, but she crossed the line solo after an attack at the top of Edge Hill and had plenty of time for celebration

Neutral Service: Congratulations on the win today Leah, how was the race ?
Leah Dixon: Thanks, it was a really good race today, it was tough. I went in with a game plan to see what was going to happen on the first and second climbs of Edge Hill, then if I felt strong enough to go over the top. We got away… but the groups came back together again, it was a good field, strong.
NS: You managed to get a good lead at the finish, good celebration over the line, when did you finally attack ?
Leah: Off the top of the climb, some of the other girls were probably the strongest climbers in the field; they were going for the Queen of the Mountain points, so I let them go, then attacked over the top and got that gap and concentrated on TT’ing in to the finish.
NS: It’s a new team for this year with Tifosi, a higher level of performance from On Form, how has that been ?
Leah: Absolutely brilliant for all of us. I don’t think any of us realised how the year would go, especially for me to get the win today after watching the girls do so well in the Tour Series for the last few weeks, it’s been a real inspiration to watch how they have done and to then try and emulate that in the race today.
NS: So what’s next for you ?
Leah: The Welsh road champs next weekend and then the CiCLE Classic.
NS: Looking forward to that ?
Leah: Yes, should be a good race, I’ve not ever done that before but I’m looking forward to it.
NS: Congratulations on the win today!
Leah: Thanks!

Leah leads Boompods’ Hannah Larbalestier up Edge Hill – with a maximum gradient of 17%, it’s one of the toughest climbs in any race in the south of England

1 Leah Dixon (On Form)
2 Kate Wootton (On Form Juniors)
3 Hannah Larbalestier (Team Boompods)
4 Georgina Panchaud (Bianchi Dama)
5 Illi Gardner (On Form)
6 Florence Cox (Ellmore Digital Composite Team)
7 Lauren Johnston (Avid Sport)
8 Emily Wadsworth (On Form)
9 Lucy Lee (Ellmore Digital Composite Team)
10 Leah Ball (TW1 Racing)
11 Gemma Melton (Brother-Fusion), 12 Maddie Wadsworth (On Form Juniors), 13 Olivia Bentley (Vision Innovative Leisure), 14 Alex Clay (TW1 Racing), 15 Charlotte Colclough (Bianchi Dama), 16 Hannah Lancaster (Ellmore Digital Composite Team), 17 Elizabeth Marvelly (Liv-AWOL-Spok’d), 18 Rebecca Steens (Ellmore Digital Composite Team), 19 Gabriella Nordin (TW1 Racing), 20 Danielle Khan (Ellmore Digital Composite Team), 21 Ellen Barker (Ellmore Digital Composite Team), 22 Kate Baker (Avid Sport), 23 Caitlin Peters (Ellmore Digital Composite Team), 24 Gabriella Homer (On Form), 25 Nicole Oh (Les Filles), 26 Frances Bromley (Avid Sport), 27 Connie Hayes (Liv-AWOL-Spok’d), 28 Allison Lilley (Ellmore Clothes Composite Team), 29 Louise Woolrich (Ellmore Clothes Composite Team), 30 Katie Scott (On Form Juniors), 31 Louise Moriarty (Les Filles), 32 Lucy Shaw (Ellmore Clothes Composite Team), 33 Charlotte Mitchell (Ellmore Clothes Composite Team), 34 Laura Pittard (Vision Innovative Leisure), 35 Melissa Greaves (TW1 Racing), 36 Rebecca Kearney (Vision Innovative Leisure), 37 Harriet Hermando (Ellmore Clothes Composite Team), 38 Jessica Woodworth (On Form), 39 Molly Hodges (Avid Sports), 40 Katrina Murphy (Dulwich Paragon), 41 Hanna Graveney (Liv-AWOL-Spok’d), 42 Hermione Harrison (Vision Innovative Leisure), 43 Clare Hammond (TW1 Racing), 44 Kess Claxton (On Form Juniors)



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