Sarah Storey (For Viored) drew first blood in the Women’s National Road Race Series when she took victory in the opening race, the 50-mile Cheshire Classic at Weaverham on Sunday.
Storey broke away with two laps remaining alongside Scott-Contessa rival Molly Weaver, and they quickly built up a good lead of around a minute over the lethargic bunch.
At the bell their lead had grown to 1:30, meaning the winner would come from one of the leading duo, barring incident.
In the sprint, Storey took the win by two bike lengths from Weaver, while Node 4-Giordana’s Corrinne Hall took third spot.
Earlier in the race Abergavenny Road Club’s Lauren Creamer had won the prime, and turned her effort into a mini-break with Annie Simpson (Matrix Fitness-Prendas) going with her and establishing a gap of around ten seconds.
But they were reeled back in with three laps to go, although Simpson went on to form part of a trio of escapees alongside team-mate Penny Rowson and Adela Carter (Hope Factory Racing).
But their lead never got into double figures, and shortly after they were pulled back in Storey and Weaver made the decisive move.
What they said
Sarah Storey: “The team plan went well. We wanted to get me and/or another in a break which we did. There were a lot of girls working hard to get a break at the top of the climb which is really the most obvious place to go.
“In previous times when I've rode this race I've always got away on the bypass, this time I saw Natalie (Creswick) get a few metres on the front so I thought I'd go and join her. I had riders sitting on my wheel looking round so I decided to have a go and Molly Weaver (Scott Contessa) came with me.
“We lost Nat at the top of the climb with three laps to go then we just powered to the finish. I always have girls sitting on my wheel, marking me, it’s only when the girls come back from Europe I tend to get a breather.
“I used my power metre today and when I was on the front I wasn't working that hard so everything today in respect of effort was fine. The race was only fifty miles so I'm quite capable of riding that distance on my own in two hours. The roads were a bit wet today and road racing does have that element of bike handling and confidence.
“I was attacking in the corners just to try and string it out a bit, these corners aren't that tight round this circuit and the elastic seemed to go a bit coming out of the corners which whittled the group down so it was safer for everyone.
“The front of the bunch today was amazing, we have a really strong core of riders now who can make the moves and go on attacks, a few years ago a break may have gone on the third or fourth lap and that would have been it but today it took till the seventh before we could get away.
“I had to work till the line today because I knew if the group could get organised they would have probably caught Mollie and myself so We knew We had to keep the power on till the line.”
Molly Weaver: “Last season was my first season in competitive cycling, I started just racing for a club and gradually improved through the season and put a solid winter in training. I joined Scott Epic for this season and really have just been working hard on the bike.
“I've been able to take a lot of motivation from today just to stay with someone like Sarah. I knew the attack would go at some point and I went with every attack that went. When Sarah went I knew that was the wheel to get on, I know she's really strong and with her time-trial background I knew We had a chance to stay away.
“We (Scott Contessa) only had three of us here today, We didn't bring the full team but from what I remember from last year’s race I knew the attacks would go on the top of the climb so I kept toward the front of the race.
“It was difficult to stay with Sarah today, she is really strong and she did take more turns that me, toward the end I couldn't take anymore turns so We agreed that I wouldn't contest the sprint.”
Terry Veal, who was organising his last Cheshire Classic, said: “This is the last year I will be organising the race, but I'll still be involved somewhere, they can't get rid of me that easily!
“I've been organising races for 40 years and I've been involved with this one since the first one which was called The County Glass Road Race which was in 1971 if I remember correctly.
“The first race I ever organised was The Golden Wonder GP which was in 1972. The highlights of the Classic was seeing Mandy Jones lining up on the line wearing her World Championship jersey in 1982, that was a special feeling for me.
“We've had years where we have struggled to get full fields, there’s been a few years where we've only had 30 riders on the line but its continued to grow over the years. This race was always a part of the Jo Bruton series and the trophy still has that name on it but this started a year before that series.
“The quality of ladies racing has improved enormously over the last few years, I think it was good move by British Cycling not to allow 4th cat riders in the field this year, I was a little bit worried it may affect the entries but we have a full field and we wouldn't have had room for any 4th cat riders.”
1 Sarah Storey (For Viored) 2:12:29
2 Molly Weaver (Scott Contessa) @ 3sec
3 Corrinne Hall (Node 4-Giordana) @ 2:14
4 Penny Rowson (Matrix Fitness-Prendas)
5 Lowri Bunn (Abergavenny RC)
6 Harriet Owen (Node 4-Giordana)
7 Laura Massey (Vivelo Bikes)
8 Jenny Stanning (Velocity)
9 Gabby Shaw (For Viored)
10 Jo Tindley (VC St Raphael)
11 Lauren Creamer (Abergavenny RC)
12 Lydia Boylan (Look Mum No Hands)
13 Annie Simpson (Matrix Fitness)
14 Sarah Brook (Mulebar)
15 Karen Poole (Squadra Donne)
16 Anna Christian (Scott Contessa)
17 Laura Murray (Velocity)
18 Kimberley Ashton (Abergavenny RC)
19 Nicola Juniper (Corvida Allpress)
20 Delia Beddis (Vivelo Bikes)
2nd Cat: Molly Weaver (Scott-Contessa).
3rd Cat: Laura Massey (Vivelo Bikes).
British Cycling would like to thank the organising team, officials and everyone else who helped promote this event. Our sport could not exist without the hundreds of people, many of them unpaid volunteers, who put in many hours of hard work running events, activities and clubs.