In a race worthy of UCI status, to sit alongside the UCI men’s Beaumont Trophy race held the same day, the 6th edition of the Curlew Cup did not disappoint with action throughout the race in which Storey Racing riders were ever present. Hosting the 5th round of the National Women’s Road Series, the race lined up with Chanel Mason in the leaders jersey and with new recruit Lizzy Banks also sitting inside the top 5, there were several options for the team.
Taking in 3 laps of the Ryals circuit, the riders faced 106km of undulating terrain which included 3 ascents of the Ryals climb followed by a very quick descent in to the finish in the village of Stamfordham.
Riding for Storey Racing alongside Chanel Mason and Lizzy Banks were Jen George, Neah Evans, Monica Dew, Beth Crumpton and Mercy Webb. It was always going to be a tough race for a first year junior and Mercy was given a very specific role for the team in the first lap which she executed to perfection before only being gapped on the descent after the junior gears made it difficult to chase back on to the fast moving peloton.
Everything was still together at the end of lap one including Jen George who suffered a mechanical at the base of the Ryals climb and needed a bike change. The chase back on was ably supported by Monica Dew who had waited for her team mate at the top of the climb and ensured she didn’t lose time in getting back to the peloton.
With a relative lull in the action during the early parts of lap two, it was Jen George who felt recovered enough from her chase to be able to stick in the first attack. As you would expect the peloton were really keen to make sure such a strong rider didn’t gain too much of an advantage and a response from Drops and OnForm was marshalled by Lizzy Banks to ensure if the break did stick her team mate had back up.
The counter attack to this move being brought back saw Beth Crumpton attack with Annasley Park of Drops and Mel Lowther of Breeze. The trio worked well together to maintain a small advantage and were joined up front by Katie Archibald and Laura Massey after the second ascent of the Ryals. Spotting the danger of having this combination of riders up the road, the Storey Racing team came back to the front to ensure the peloton was all back together for the start of the final lap.
The Queen of the Mountains competition had been sewn up by Katie Archibald, but Neah Evans and Katie had traded blows for the sprints competition on the finish line of laps 1 and 2, so the final lap would also be the decider in this competition.
With another lull in the action, the race progressed quite steadily through the first part of the last lap with the peloton looking for the series leader to make her mark. They didn’t have long to wait however and Chanel made her move inside the final 25km taking 3 other riders with her from Bianchi, Drops and OnForm. As the race approached the final ascent of the Ryals, Emily Nelson drifted off the front and was in hot pursuit of the four leaders, who by this point had over 2 minutes lead.
Working hard to ensure their advantage was retained, the four leaders were also keen to ensure the British track rider, Nelson, didn’t catch them. Inside the final 2km and it seemed clear that Nelson was not going to bridge but would comfortably take 5th place.
In the final it was OnForm’s Julie Erksine who took the victory with Chanel taking a credible 4th position to extend her lead at the top of the individual rankings.
Neah Evans was just pipped on the line for 7th place meaning she was 1 point short of the sprints competition but with Lizzy Banks slipping inside the top 20, she also added to her tally in the individual rankings giving the team 1st and 3rd overall going in to the 6th round in Otley.
The team had chosen to use a mix of the SLR Endurance and Aero road bikes from the Boardman range, all equipped with the Verve Infocrank to ensure the race data could be captured regardless of whether there was a bike change required. The improvement in the weather also meant that riders were facing the hottest temperatures at a UK race in 2017 and so the hydration drinks from the Secret Training Stealth range proved a vital part of the fuelling and fluid strategy for the team.
It was another fine demonstration of team work and gave the riders a perfect opportunity to further hone their form ahead of the trip to the Isle of Man for the National Road Championships which start on Thursday.