Great Britain’s Lucy Garner thinks that the inaugural Women’s Tour will showcase the strength of the women’s peloton when it hits the roads of Britain on 7-11 May.
The 19-year-old from Leicestershire will head a young team of six Great Britain riders and with the route passing by her home in Cosby, Garner hopes to deliver a home victory in more ways than one.
"The British public know the success we've had on the track and obviously with the men's road. I just think it's such a great opportunity, not only for British women but the whole women's peloton to show the public how we race and how we ride,” explained Garner.
"I think they're going to be so impressed with the standard of racing. There are so many world-class riders going to be there. It's going to be a good race to watch for sure."
Garner began competitive cycling as a young girl but sprang to prominence when she won the junior world road championships in Copenhagen in 2011, a feat she repeated in 2012 before turning professional in 2013 and entering the senior ranks.
She now rides for Team Giant Shimano and is foregoing the UCI Women’s Road World Cup and focussing on national level races from her base in the Netherlands. Garner’s aim for 2014 is to build confidence and strength as well as honing her trademark sprint.
The approach has borne fruit already in 2014, with a second place ahead of Lizzie Armitstead at the Drentse 8 and a third place in the Grand Prix des Dottignies.
"My form has come on a lot better than I expected and also the team expected I think,” said Garner. “I had a really good winter, a lot of miles. Everything is going really well at the moment.
“I'm hoping I can just hold it for as long as possible especially through the Tour. It would be great to have good form for then. To try to get a podium or a stage win would be great."
A stage victory would be made all the more sweet at the Women’s Tour due to its proximity to the Garner family home in Leicestershire.
"On the second stage we actually pass my house so that's going to be so good to have my friends and family there,” said the rider, who hails from Cosby.
“Now I'm based in Holland they don't really see me racing so for them to just walk out the front door and see a huge world-class women's peloton just going past on the road. It's going to be really good.
"I know a lot of local schools around my area are also going to out cheering the GB lot on so it's going to be really nice."
Garner will be supported in her bid for British glory by a talented, home-grown crop of young riders. Emily Kay, Hayley Jones and Amy Hill – three-quarters of the 2013 junior world championships team pursuit squad – will be joined by Ciara Horne and senior world champion team pursuiter Katie Archibald.
"I'm pretty confident actually because I've ridden with all the girls before and they're world champions on the track - obviously they do a lot of training and racing on the road as well,” said the rider, who has worked with a number of the team before.
"Being with Emily, she did help me with the second world title, so I'm really confident. Even though it is a young team it's going to be a strong team. I'm looking forward to meeting them all again and hearing what the plans are for each stage."
Garner’s junior world titles both came off the back of her formidable sprint and with the Women’s Tour parcours favouring sprint finishes, she is confident that her and the team can deliver.
"I am hopeful,” said Garner. “My form has come on pretty good this season and I've had chances to try my sprint out so I'm really hoping that it comes down to a bunch sprint.”
The emerging British talent isn’t fazed it seems by the presence of Marianne Vos; the Dutch world champion among the most prolific all-time winners in cycle racing history, male or female.
"I haven't raced against her this season so I'm just curious how it will go with a new team,” Garner said. “Whether we'll have a lead-out or how it will go like that.
“I'm really excited to be a part of it and see how we all come together and perform."