While watching the Dwars door Vlaanderen online last week (fantastic race, by the way) I got chatting to a couple of guys who were new to women’s cycling but making the effort to start following it, having decided they wanted more cycling to watch, which is a very good reason. One thing they both wanted to know is why there’s less attacking in women’s cycling – a fair question and one that comes up quite regularly – and which was answered succinctly by Ellen van Dijk, who minutes later launched a blistering solo attack that won her the race. It’s a pity, though, that those two guys weren’t at the Dave Peck Memorial in Surrey on Sunday, because if they had been they’d have seen that in some women’s races there’s a lot of attacking.
The weather was typical early April: grey, misty and murky, unlike last year’s atypical early April weather when the race enjoyed warm sunshine, but the 68 riders on the start line were in good spirits and eager to get stuck in after the long winter off-season, leading to a fast pace as soon as the peloton left the neutralised zone and a few riders dropping off the back almost as soon as it did. While it’s common for early season races to start off fast as riders test one another before settling into an easier tempo, in this instance the peloton’s average speed did not drop perceptibly and fractures soon started to show. When the attacks began, the race sorted itself into a lead and chase group, with various riders either solo or in smaller groups of two or three stretched out further down the road. None of those attacks evolved into breaks until Molly Patch (Brother-Fusion) had a go and managed to take a lead – not huge, but sufficient to create a flurry of alarm in a peloton well aware of what she’s capable of doing. Soon enough, a small group of riders bridged across to her.
In that group were Alicia Speake of Team LDN), Leah Dixon of On Form and Jessica Finney. Finney rides for On Form’s elite Brother UK-Tifosi squad, but for this year’s series is riding in the Ellmore Composite A Team, and is already enjoying a spectacular season having won the first round of the Women’s Team Series at Milton Keynes and the Iris Race Team RR at Winchester, but with five laps to go she clearly had a tough job ahead if she was out to win this one too, because Molly, Alicia and Leah are all very fast riders and expert race tacticians too.
Meanwhile, back in the peloton, each of the leaders had a strong selection of team mates and so any attempt to bridge was immediately pounced upon and shut down, so that going into the final lap it was clear the winner would be selected from the quartet out in front. A small bunch sprint looked the most likely outcome, but then Jessica dug deep and summoned up enough energy from somewhere for a final surge – the other three tried to go with her but she simply had more left in the tank and got away on the Staple Hill climb, soloing over the finish with time for an arms aloft celebration.
During the prize celebration, race organiser Lisa West (who also manages the TW1 team) called this edition “probably the best one yet”. She was right.
More photos below!
Neutral Service’s Hero of the Race – Nicole Oh of Les Filles. Nicole’s rear derailleur cable snapped during the latter half of the race, leaving her with only two gears and no hope of keeping up with the second group which she had, at various points earlier in the race, led. Many riders would have simply stopped and called it a day in such a situation, knowing that any chance they had of a decent finish were dashed; Nicole, though, did not, and continued riding, laughing at joking with the spectators who cheered for her in every remaining lap – and somehow managed to hang on to end up in 39th place out of 59 finishers. “Ha ha! I’ve entered and finished every Dave Peck road race (that’s 8 of them) so couldn’t quit today!” she told us after a big slice of very well-deserved post-race chocolate cake.
More photos below the results!
1 Jessica Finney (Ellmore Composite A; Cat. 2)
2 Leah Dixon (OnForm; Cat. 2)
3 Alicia Speake (Team LDN; Cat. 1)
4 Molly Patch (Brother.uk-Fusion; Cat. 2)
5 Elizabeth Bennett (Ellmore Composite A; Cat. 2)
6 Georgia Hilleard (OnForm; Cat. 3)
7 Dannielle Khan (Ellmore Composite B; Cat. 3)
8 Charlotte Redden (Boompods; Cat. 2)
9 Abigail Dentus (Ellmore Composite A; Cat. 1)
10 Helen Ralston (Team LDN; Cat. 1)