Sunday the 9th of July saw many of the country’s leading junior women road racers gather in the sumptuous surroundings of Witham Hall Preparatory School in the picturesque Lincolnshire village of Witham-on-the-Hill for the Bourne Wheelers CC Road Race sponsored by JJ Mac Ltd.
The rolling and rarely flat course would take them from the HQ to Ryhall via Careby, then on to Essendine, finally returning to Witham-on-the-Hill. The circuit would be ridden four times with an additional half lap to the finish on Barbers Hill on the B1176 for a total distance of fifty one miles.
With the original entry of sixty-nine depleted by some individual no-shows and the withdrawal of some riders by British Cycling, just under fifty riders lined up in the school grounds to compete for a £200 first prize and a total prize fund of over £900.
Prior to the commissaire’s briefing there was a quieter and more contemplative air than at a senior race, but as soon as the peloton left the neutralised zone the average speed was high, so that by the time it passed the finish for the first time, with Lauren Murphy (Liv CC Epic Coaching), Victoria Lovett (i-Team Cyclists Club) and Isla Rush (HSS-Aprire) among those to the fore and most of the bunch still together, there were already a couple of stragglers.
As the race progressed on the first full lap riders from Team 22 went to the front, waiting to see if the solo break by Rhiannon Gornall (NCC Group-Kuota-Torelli), who had managed to get a few bike-lengths away from the bunch, was going to last. With the race heading towards the longish drag up the finish hill and the first Queen of the Mountains points, Marie Lynne and Anna Kay of Edco Continental moved to the head of the race and a few minutes later Kay had the points in the bag.
Heading out on the second lap, the race continued as it had on the first with the odd rider being lost off the back and the peloton being stretched on the downhill sections, but always coming back together. As the riders passed through Witham-on-the-Hill once again, Elspeth Grace (Welwyn Wheelers) and Murphy led the way around the corners that twisted the course through the village. By the time the riders reached the humped-back bridge that marked start of the climb to the finish and the second set of mountains points, Felicity Gledhill (Sunsport Velo), Elizabeth Bennet (Liv CC Epic Coaching) and Gornall led a peloton now down to some thirty riders, while mountains leader Kay sat in tenth place. However, as the climb progressed, Kay moved up to the front and passed the line in the lead, thus taking an unassailable mountains points lead and pocketing £100 for her efforts.
The pattern for Lap 3 was very similar to the previous two, with an occasional attempt to stretch the elastic that never quite snapped. As the race returned to Witham-on-the-Hill, Grace was again in place at the front of the lead group which was now down to twenty with several riders not too far off the back. At the end of the lap, Murphy took the final set of Queen of the Mountains points and the £50 for second place, while Isabella Stone (Project 51) took third.
With over twenty riders still in contention, the race began the a final lap – and with average speed now increasing, it wasn’t long before news emerged of a crash that ended several riders’ chances of standing on the podium. With around three miles to go, as the race leaders passed through Witham-on-the-Hill for the last time, April Tacey (Team 22) made a break and soon had a gap of twelve seconds to defend as the race headed to the finish climb for the final time.
She kept the pressure on and the large crowd waited expectantly at the top of the hill were delighted to see her still on her own with the bunch, chasing furiously appeared just twenty metres behind. With about thirty metres to the line, Tacey buried her head in the bars of her bike, then at twenty metres she chanced a glance under her right shoulder to see that it was now too late for the chasers and they wouldn’t catch her – which gave her time for a two-handed celebration with control and poise of which many a veteran would have been proud. Emily Ashwood (Cycle Team OnForm) took second a length up on Georgia Bullard (Team Jadan-Weldite), with Felicity Gledhill (Sunsport Velo) a further length back.
After the race, Neutral Service asked Tacey for some comments. “It was tough, really tough,” she told us. “The bunch was really strong – after the first mountains I tried to go for an attack, but it just got closed down straight away. I tried to go with all the moves… I was planning to go just before the finish, so with three miles to go I attacked off the front and managed to hold it to the finish line. I was hoping they didn’t catch me, I just looked behind and thought I just had it!”
One topic being discussed after the race was why with such positive, disciplined racing and so much obvious talent among the Junior Women’s ranks, British Cycling feel there is no need to give the riders equity in competition and hold a Junior Women’s National Series – as they do for the Junior men.
Lots more photos below the results!
1 April Tacey (Team 22) 30pts
2 Felicity Gledhill (Sunsport Velo) 25pts
3 Emily Ashwood (Team OnForm) 21pts
4 Georgia Bullard (Jadan-Weldite) 17pts
5 Lizzy Bennett (Liv-Epic Coaching) 14pts
6 Rachael Jary (VC Londres) 12pts
7 Anna Kay (Edco Continental) 10pts
8 Lizzie Catlow (Team 22) 8pts
9 Gabriella Homer (Team 22) 7pts
10 Jessica Woodworth (Team OnForm) 6pts
11 Isabella Stone (Project 51) 5pts
12 Josie Shepherd (Project 51) 4pts
13 Ellie Russell (Backstedt/Hotchillee) 3pts
14 Kara Perryman (Hargroves/Ridley) 2pts
15 Melissa Baker (Unattached) 1pt
16 Victoria Lovett (i-Team CC), 17 Ellie Park (Team 22), 18 Marie Lynn (Edco Continental), 19 Alexandra Rimmer (Mountain Goat Coaching), 20 Charlotte Dalton (Jadan-Weldtite), 21 Madeline Howden (Vision Innovative Leisure), 22 Gwenno Hughes (NCC Group-Kuota-Torelli), 23 Hannah Gravenney (Liv-AWOL), 24 Corinne Side (Racing Chance), 25 Gabriella Butler (Vision Innovative Leisure), 26 Lauren Murphy (Liv-Epic Coaching), 27 Katie Helsby (Racing Chance), 28 Hannah Bayes (Scarborough Paragon), 29 Lily Greenhalgh (Team 22), 30 Miriam Jesset (Tyneside Vagabonds), 31 Elspeth Grace (Kinetic-Welwyn), 32 Rosie Wallace (Liv-AWOL), 33 Xan Crees (Team Empella), 34 Alice Matravers (VC Londres), 35 Connie Hayes (Liv-AWOL), 36 Charlotte Waddington (Racing Chance), 37 Olivia Fawcett (Edco Continental), 38 Alana Prior (Edco Continental), 39 Rhiannon Gornall (NCC Group-Kuota-Torelli), 40 Cadi Jones (Black Line), 41 Rebecca Gregson (Racing Chance), 42 Isabella Torrie (Liv-AWOL), 43 Helen Osguthorpe (Racing Chance), 44 Matilda Gurney (BowlPhish Racing)
Queen of the Mountains
Anna Kay, Alana Prior, April Tacey
Anna Kay, Isabella Stone, Ellie park
Lauren Murphy, Ellie Russell, Anna Kay
Final QOM Points
1 Anna Kay 7pts, 2 Lauren Murphy 3pts, 3 Isabella Stone 2pts, 4 Ellie Russell 2pts, 5 Alana Prior 2pts, 6 April Tacey 1pt, 7th Ellie Park 1pt