Neah Evans dug deep and delivered the goods for Storey Racing after securing CiCLE Classic victory in the last 500m of a pulsating HSBC UK | Women’s Road Series race.
A double Commonwealth medallist on the track, Evans found her form on the road at just the right time, hauling in Sophie Wright in the closing stages after the Torelli-Brother rider had constructed what looked to be a decisive break.
Nikki Juniper finished in third place for her second successive podium as the three-strong breakaway held on in this, the second race of the 2018 series.
Evans’ victory followed in the tracks of teammate Rebecca Durrell, who prevailed in Lincoln last time out, with her Melton Mowbray performance helping her team top the overall standings.
Peloton stretches out as four make their move
A quick pace set by the peloton ensured the race was strung out from the start, the narrow roads spreading out the field before heading into the off-road stages.
Indeed, that continued into the first Queen of the Mountains stage more than 16km into the race for the 107-strong field – but it was there when the first breakthrough finally came.
Initially, Evans and Juniper, of NJC-Biemme-Echelon, made the early yards, quickly joined by Wright and Bethany Crumpton, also riding for Storey.
A leading quartet therefore formed with a 20-second advantage, making the most of a reduced peloton to seize the initiative.
As many as 18 riders were in the chasing pack but, as Crumpton fell off the back of the leaders, the front four became three, with the lead extending to close to a minute.
Leaders hold firm as charge fades away
As expected, the distance between the leaders and the chasers continued to to-and-fro, at one point reaching as large as two minutes and 45 seconds heading through the East Midlands.
But as Trek Drops led the charge, there was always the chance of the group being hunted down – all dependant on how efficiently those behind could execute their plan.
A terrific victory - but not without its damage for @neahevans— British Cycling (@BritishCycling) June 3, 2018
Here's what she had to say after storming to victory at the CiCLE Classic.#WomensRoadSeriespic.twitter.com/q32QhoyGb6
Olha Kulynych was the first to chance her arm, acting as the lone chaser as the gap dropped significantly to the trio up top.
But as Evans, Juniper and Queen of the Mountains winner Wright headed past the 25km-to-go mark, the advantage they accrued looked more and more like being a decisive one.
Evans times decisive move to perfection
From there, attacks from the chasing group came with increasing regularity, yet one key moment saw barely any commit with 10km to go – a missed opportunity that proved crucial in determining the race outcome.
The gap therefore increased, with Wright the first to make her move at the front of the race, with Evans and Juniper also stretched out as the trio were separated.
It looked as though Wright would do enough to hold on to the lead, enjoying an eight-second advantage with just 2km left of the race – though Evans was in hot pursuit.
And the Storey Racing rider proved to be the one with just a little bit more in the tank, cutting the gap to three seconds with the last 1000m to go, eventually closing out the win with just 500m left of racing.