Reigning national champion Ben Swift retained his national road race title in Lincoln on the final day of the 2021 HSBC UK | National Road Championships, following Pfeiffer Georgi’s victory in the women’s race earlier in the day.
The Team Ineos Grenadiers rider fought hard all day in numerous breakaway groups to secure another year in the famous red, white and blue jersey, having first won the crown in Norwich in 2019.
Speaking post-race, Swift said:
“I was really looking forward to the race, I’ve enjoyed my time for sure in this jersey. It gives you that extra motivation for sure, it was something that I really wanted to keep and luckily, I’ve got for another eight months in it.”
Pfeiffer Georgi stormed to victory in the elite women’s race earlier in the day, coming from a strong 12-rider group that went clear on the first ascent of the Michaelgate climb.
The young rider also won the under-23 championship at the same time as she defeated a crop of experienced riders to take home the jersey. After the race a shocked Georgi said:
“I honestly can’t believe it. I was just crossing the line shaking my head. Just realising that I get to wear the [national champions] jersey for a year, that was pretty special.”
Elite and under-23 women’s race
There was a delayed start to the women’s race to ensure everything was in order on the 12.6km circuit of Lincoln; a morning of persistent rain meant the riders were taking corners very tentatively in the opening kilometres.
After one lap, the peloton would arrive together as one into the first ascent of the Michaelgate climb. On the front, recent hour record breaker, Joss Lowden (Drops-Le Col s/b Tempur), side-by-side with Anna Henderson (Team Jumbo-Visma).
Lowden, alongside three teammates (Dani Christmas, April Tacey and Anna Christian), decided that first time around was the right moment to set a tough pace up the climb with the aim of creating a select group, and they succeeded.
At the top of the cobbled climb with one lap complete a total of 12 riders would go clear never to be caught again, eight riders alongside the four riders from Drops-Le Col; Alice Barnes (CANYON – SRAM RACING), Pfeiffer Georgi (Team DSM), Anna Henderson (Team Jumbo-Visma), Josie Nelson (Team Coop-Hitec Products), Anna Shackley (Team SD Worx), Danielle Shrosbree (Team LDN - Brother UK), Jo Tindley (Pro-Noctis - Redchilli Bikes - Heidi Kjeldse) and Sophie Wright (Alè BTC Ljubljana).
The time gap would grow each time around and up the cobbled climb, and by the time the lead group reached the halfway point in the race (four laps remaining), the group of 12 had over a minute on the peloton behind.
Various attacks would come and go, a notable one for four riders, however a solo effort by Leah Dixon (Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank) looked to do the most damage to the time split, but nothing would come of it.
At the head of the race and with two laps to go, Pfeiffer Georgi produced the first attack out of the leading group on the climb through Lincoln, with only Henderson and Lowden being able to follow.
Behind, it would be Anna Shackley chasing hard to pull back the leading three riders a few kilometres later, Barnes, Nelson, and Wright alongside her making it a group of seven. A brief counter-attack over the top immediately by reigning national champion Alice Barnes was then pulled back.
The group would become 12 once again towards the end of the penultimate lap, with the remaining five riders re-joining the leaders, and with one lap to go they would cross the line and hear the final lap bell altogether.
The final lap saw attack after attack, firstly by Anna Christian at 10 kilometres to go, swiftly chased down by Jo Tindley and Pfieffer Georgi, the pair riding straight past her to launch their own attack.
Another Drops-Le Col attack saw a last-minute dig by April Tacey at three kilometres to go, and she would ride all the way to the lower slopes of the final ascent of the Michaelgate climb on her own.
However, Georgi flew past Tacey, attacking on the right-hand side of the climb – Josie Nelson fighting hard on the left aiming to match her speed.
Only two bike lengths separated them as they turned left onto Wordsworth Street, the final rise with just 100 metres to go to the finish line, and Anna Henderson was just three bike lengths behind Nelson with Joss Lowden chasing down the Team Jumbo-Visma rider.
Pfeiffer Georgi would ride out of sight to take the win in front of a rapturous Lincolnshire crowd, with Josie Nelson finishing second just three seconds behind. Lowden fought hard, pipping Henderson in the final 100 metres to taking bronze, seven seconds behind Georgi.
Georgi and Nelson both being under-23 also took the top two steps of that podium, Anna Shackley took home bronze, with the Team SD Worx rider fifth overall ahead of the valiant April Tacey in sixth.
“I honestly can’t believe it. I was just crossing the line shaking my head. Just realising that I get to wear the [national champions] jersey for year, that was pretty special.
“I’ve been feeling tired the past couple of weeks, so to feel good today and take the win, it was actually really surprising.
“I knew positioning would be key every lap, but I didn’t expect it to be only 12 [riders] by the first lap. I thought it would maybe be halved, but I didn’t think our breakaway would go all the way to finish.
“But that’s the nature of this race, with it being so narrow, cobbled – and yeah it’s always a fight for positions, so you have to be there every lap, and yeah – stay sharp.”
Elite women’s Results
1. Pfeiffer Georgi (Team DSM) in 2:3843
2. Josie Nelson (Team Coop-Hitec Products) +3
3. Joscelin Lowden (Drops-Le Col s/b Tempur) +7
Under-23 women’s Results
1. Pfeiffer Georgi (Team DSM) in 2:38:43
2. Josie Nelson (Team Coop-Hitec Products) +3
3. Anna Shackley (Team SD Worx) +12
Elite and under-23 men’s race
A total of 129 riders started the men’s race in Lincoln, amongst them three previous winners in Mark Cavendish MBE, Connor Swift and Ben Swift.
The earliest attack came on the first ascent of the Michaelgate climb, a solo effort from Lewis Askey (GROUPAMA – FDJ), who was only 12 when Cavendish won the race in 2013.
The attack would come to nothing, however the counterattack past Askey by Dan Bigham (Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling), and Sam Watson (Team Inspired) would spark the first big move of the day.
A lap later a further four riders would join them: Harry Tanfield (Team Qhubeka Nexthash), Jake Stewart (GROUPAMA – FDJ), Dan McClay (Team Arkea-Samsic) and Ben Swift (Team Ineos Grenadiers), creating a 15-second gap as they started their sixth lap out of 13.
On the seventh lap Ethan Hayter (Team Ineos Grenadiers) rode up the climb with ease and away from everyone else in the peloton, crossing the gap and up to the lead group in no time at all, making it a group of seven.
Behind him Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious), Lewis Askey (GROUPAMA – FDJ) and Connor Swift (Team Arkea-Samsic) also fought hard, joining on the back of the leaders where the numbers would swell to ten. And then ten became 12 as James Shaw (Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling) and Sean Flynn (SEG Racing Academy) closed a 35-second gap to join them and one minute five seconds to the peloton.
At the same time up front, Harry Tanfield attacked out the front of the leading group, however he we would be swiftly brought back by Ethan Hayter who was looking mightily strong after taking home two national championship titles this week already in the time-trial and the circuit race.
It would be at the start of lap nine that an attack came from Dan McClay, hurriedly followed by Fred Wright, Ben Swift and Harry Tanfield, and the four riders sparked trouble behind as the remaining riders were left looking at each other, wondering who was going to chase.
A couple of laps of back and forth in the war of attrition that is the national championships, with two laps to go only Ethan Hayter, Lewis Askey, Connor Swift and Sam Watson remained with one new member to the chasing group, Alex Richardson (Alpecin-Fenix), who jumped across to the chasing group on lap 10.
The penultimate time up the Michaelgate climb saw fireworks when Fred Wright decided to show his hand, powering over the cobbles as his competitors fought for the smooth gutter section at the side of the road.
Only Swift and Tanfield could follow, Dan McClay suffering for his earlier effort. In the group behind Ethan Hayter barely looked out of breath as he took Lewis Askey over the top of the climb with him, the duo in pursuit of the three riders ahead.
Ben Swift went first, Fred Wright chasing his wheel as Tanfield dropped away behind them hugging the gutter for smooth road. The duo pressed on ahead in a thrilling final sprint up the climb, shoulder to shoulder into the penultimate corner and left-hand turn to the 100 metres to go sign.
Wright was holding his wheel all the way around the final corner and onto the tarmac before his head slumped, absolutely spent, allowing Swift to ride away to victory.
Behind Hayter had flown past Tanfield on the climb in the final metres to steal third, seven seconds behind his teammate.
“I was really looking forward to the race, I’ve enjoyed my time for sure in this jersey. It gives you that extra motivation for sure, it was something that I really wanted to keep and luckily, I’ve got for another eight months in it or something.
“It’s been a bit of a difficult year. I knew coming into this race my form was good, but I’ve had to do it the hard way – I spent most of the day off the front just going from group to group, but yeah I’m made up really!
“It was incredible – it’s been so long since we’ve had really big crowds in British racing, so it was so good to see. Michaelgate’s hard, but those crowds it made it a little bit easier.”
Elite men’s result:
1. Ben Swift (Team Ineos Grenadiers) 3:45:19
2. Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious) +2
3. Ethan Hayter (Team Ineos Grenadiers) +7
Under-23 men’s result:
1. Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious) +2
2. Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ) +24
3. Leo Hayter (Development Team DSM) +1.30