The Women’s National Road Race Series began on Sunday 9th April, with the first of 9 rounds of races which will see teams head all over the UK. A series that was won by Dame Sarah Storey in 2012, this year there is added support for the women’s racing courtesy of British Cycling’s new sponsorship from HSBC and also the addition of rounds like Tour of the Wolds where roads are closed on a rolling basis just as the men enjoy at this level.
The route for Tour of the Wolds was not to be underestimated and 95 riders tackled 100km of challenging terrain with short, sharp climbs, draggy sections and some fast descents. The first hour out of Louth passed at over 41kph with the peloton maximising the tailwind out to the Caistor circuit which finished with the climb up to Nettleton Top, the feed zone and a decisive point of the race for riders who were more than 5 minutes adrift of the leaders as they got black flagged and pulled out.
The remainder of the race was a tough headwind back in to the finishing circuit of 4 laps. Lining up for Storey Racing were six riders who have only been riding together for 3 weeks, but the various team rides, press events and recce rides of race routes has meant the team have quickly gelled and were ready to tackle this race as a unit. Without previous editions of the race to draw on for tactical advice, Sports Director Barney Storey based the team plan on the terrain of the race and the various strengths of the riders in the team.
Early in the race Laura Cameron and Monica Dew kept an eye on any attempts from other teams to make a breakaway and with the whole team maintaining position at the front of the race, everyone was ready for the inevitable gaps that started to open up on the climb out of Tealby. As the race approached approached Nettleton for the start of the climb to the feed, the pace eased and the chasing group, which for us contained the early workers of Laura and Monica, looked like they would regain contact, but the length of the Nettleton climb soon established gaps and the front group also split in to two.
With Chanel and Jen safely at the front of the race as the group passed the feed, the second half of the group looked like they might regain contact but the headwind home and the nasty climb after Tealby ensured the race split again and six riders including Chanel, made an escape for the finish.
The finishing circuits were almost a figure of eight lap of the Louth town centre, with a few turns and a drag just before the 500m to the finish sign. The chasing group of around 20 riders made it on to the circuit inside the 90 second cut off, but the rest of the race were held outside of the circuit and placed from a sprint to a second finish line just outside of the town. The brutal pace of the race was clearly seen with so many riders unable to make it to the finishing circuit.
Chanel’s breakaway group was holding off a strong chase from the Drops Team in the chasing group who seemed keen for the race to end in a bunch sprint, but Jen George was sat in the group and ready to launch her sprint should the race have come back together. In the end there was a 40s gap still to go as the leaders crossed the finish line with Chanel sprinting to an exceptional 3rd place, her highest ever finish in a National Series race.
The whole team had pulled together at every stage of the race to ensure we had numbers at the front and the support shown was acknowledged by Chanel at the end who said, “The team was brilliant today, always communicating and ensuring we had numbers at the front of the race. This result wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of everyone and I am very proud to stand on the podium for them.”
Having spent the last few years racing as part of the Army Ladies team, Chanel also paid tribute to the Army for their support, “I raced with the Army Ladies at this level and it was a good build up, at this level, coming in to now and the step up in support. I hope the reminder of the Army Ladies and any other Army Cyclist sees this as a bit of inspiration, I have worked hard, train really hard and so just get on your bikes and train for it!”
As the team returned to the team Motorhome and a debrief, Sports Director Barney Storey spoke of his delight at how well the team had performed, “I have never been happier for a 3rd place finish! It was an exceptional performance by a team that have never raced as a unit before. Throughout the race the whole team were at the front of the race and playing the role we had planned. The communication between the riders was also superb and will only be enhanced when we get to races where race radio will be used, such a Tour de Yorkshire.”
With such a positive start the team turn their attention back to road racing for the Good Friday event in Buxton