Jessica Finney unleashed a stunning sprint to claim victory in the opening round of the National Road Series at the brutal ANEXO/CAMS Women’s CiCLE Classic.
Finney (AWOL O’Shea) sprinted ahead of a small breakaway after a day of mud, crashes, and mechanical mishaps on the gravel of Rutland.
The 27-year-old was part of a six-rider breakaway that formed after the Somerberg and steadily built a lead of almost three minutes before the race came down to a sprint in Melton Mowbray, won by Finney ahead of Monica Greenwood (DAS-Handsling) and Flora Perkins (Fenix-Deceuninck Development Team).
The race left Melton Mowbray with a flurry of attacks, and DAS-Handsling sent riders up the road early to force a move, but nothing would stick.
The morning rain had cleared; however, the roads and gravel sectors were still wet, making chasing difficult. Loughborough Lightning were visible at the front keeping the race together for Francesca Hall, who had ridden strongly at the Peaks 2-Day the week before.
Jo Tindley (Pro-Noctis - Heidi Kjeldsen - 200 Degrees Coffee) led the bunch through Owston for the first time, closely followed by Perkins, Finney, and Maddie Heywood (FTP – Fulfil The Potential – Racing). The twisting lanes were taking their toll on the bunch and a large split saw a group of riders go clear with all the major teams represented. However, the group was too big to work together effectively, and it was soon brought back by the main peloton.
Pro-Noctis, DAS-Handsling and Hutchinson-Brother UK shared the workload at the front of the bunch, pulling on the smooth roads between gravel sectors, but shortly before the first ascent of the Somerberg, the Pro-Noctis team moved to the front.
Jo Tindley drove the pace hard over the gravel climb, pulling five riders clear alongside her. Finney, Greenwood, and Perkins were there, along with Sian Botteley and Tamsin Miller of Hutchinson-Brother UK.
The six riders worked well together and quickly set about building their lead, keeping pace on the rolling roads. Tindley mopped up the remaining points in the Queen of the Bergs competition, while the others looked ahead to the finish.
With 1km to go, the lead was almost three minutes, and the front group began to fan out across the road. The earlier cooperation disintegrated, and Finney chose her moment to attack.
The sharp acceleration caught the others by surprise and only Greenwood and Perkins could hold her wheel, but they could do nothing to come around her, leaving Finney to cross the line a bike length clear.
After the race, she said:
“I didn’t think I could beat the sprinters! I just thought, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose, so I’m just going to go so early’, and I went from the corner and just held it. That was the plan - get first to the corner and go. I didn’t want a big group because it was quite dangerous and quite technical so it worked well for a small group.”
Jo Tindley secured the Queen of the Bergs on eight points, taking home the famous pork pie, while DAS-Handsling currently leads the team classification.
The second round will see the women compete at the Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix on 14 May, where the men’s season will also begin as the first round of the men’s National Road Series.