Charlotte Broughton and Jake Scott earned hard-fought wins in the prestigious Otley Cycle Races to kick off the National Circuit Series.
The Otley Cycle Races have an envious winners list: Tom Pidcock, Lizzy Deignan, Mark Cavendish, Adam Blythe, and Jonny Clay. It’s the race that every crit rider wants to win, and the tension was palpable as the riders lined up under dark grey clouds in the centre of the historic town.
The flag dropped and the riders rolled away with a cagey start - rain earlier in the day had made the course greasy and riders were wary of pushing too hard in the opening laps on the still-slick corners.
In spite of this, the pace ramped up quickly and the attacks began to fly. Sophie Lankford (Alba Road Development Team) was a constant presence on the front, and Lucy Lee (Team LDN-Brother UK) pushed on as the pace lulled.
Just past the halfway mark, Amira Mellor (Spectra-Wiggle p/b Vitus) flew into the finishing straight and opened up gaps in the front of the peloton. She led into the foot of the climb, but the bunch were hot on her heels, with Team LDN-Brother UK heading the chase again.
The high pace was making a successful breakaway unlikely. Instead, there was a steady stream of riders being dropped as the field thinned out.
Emma Jeffers (JRC-INTERFLON RT) and the former national circuit champion, Jo Tindley (Pro-Noctis – Rotor – Redchilli Bikes by Heidi Kjeldsen) led into the final lap with the remains of the bunch on their wheels.
The sharp descent before the final straight kept the bunch together as they hurtled towards the finish. The riders fanned out across the road, and Charlotte Broughton (AWOL-O’Shea) accelerated hard to win with a bike length between her and a blanket finish. Behind, Jenny Holl (TEKKERZ CC) just pipped Jeffers to the line.
Broughton said: “To be honest, when I came across the line I was like ‘have I just won the race?’. Especially after the last two years with long covid and then working 40 plus hours a week while everyone else was out training, I just didn’t know if I had it in me to come back. I was happy to sprint from a big bunch – being a sprinter I get a real thrill from that! I’m really happy with how it panned out.”
The rain that had threatened to fall in the women’s race finally arrived for the men and the riders had to contend with light showers from early on, making cornering at high speeds more treacherous on the fast course.
Attacks strung out the bunch from the off, with Sam Watson (Groupama-FDJ Conti) active in pushing the pace and displaying the same courage and form that netted him two silver medals at the recent National Road Championships.
The pace remained high, neutralising many of the attacks, and it looked like we could have a repeat of the women’s race with a bunch sprint finish.
However, Rob Scott (WiV SunGod) accelerated hard into the climb with 10 laps to go. The bunch was unable to match his blistering pace and his gap steadily grew.
WiV SunGod swamped the front, with Toby Barnes and Damien Clayton controlling the pace and helping their teammate to build up a lead.
However, his advantage was dwindling, and with five laps to go, the bunch was in sight of hime. Ollie Rees (Trinity Racing) attacked over the top of a flagging Scott, but a counter by William Truelove (Wales Racing ACademy), Jake Scott (WiV SunGod), and Finaly Pickering (Groupama-FDJ Continental) finally found some breathing room with four laps to go.
The small breakaway worked well together as WiV SunGod marshalled the front once again. On the final lap, it looked like the break would be caught, but Scott tested his legs on the long climb with 1.5km to go, dropping Truelove and finding a little more time over the charging peloton.
Pickering and Scott came into the finishing straight together, but it was Scott who had more left in the tank, putting in a massive surge of speed to take the win by two bike lengths. The bunch followed three seconds later with Pickering’s teammate Watson taking the bunch sprint win and completing the podium in third.
Scott said: “Pretty much nailed the last corner into the sprint so I can’t complain to be honest! It’s lovely to finally get the hands up in the air. I think I’ve had a bit of a dry spell after the last year and I was starting to worry a little bit so it’s a really nice one to win.”
The results mean that Scott and Broughton lead the National Circuit Series heading into Round 2 in Ilkley on Friday.