Erskine sprints to Curlew Cup victory in thrilling Northumberland finale

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Julie Erskine delivered a near-perfect tactical race finish to take victory at the Curlew Cup in the HSBC UK | National Women's Road Series.

The Cycle Team OnForm launched herself into the final break, keeping up with a lead group of five right the way through a gripping final lap in Northumberland.

And continuing to stay in contention, Erskine delivered a late final break to secure the win in superb style.

Hannah Payton took second place for Drops Cycling, while Bianchi Dama UK were represented on the podium by Georgina Panchaud. HSBC UK | National Women's Road Series leader Chanel Mason finished fourth.

Ryal proves a test in Stamfordham

Before the race came some nerves about the feared Ryals, and the tension between the riders was very much evident in the opening stages as the entire field remained together.

It stayed that way right until the first climb, but from there the field opened up as no fewer than five groups were spread across 500m, though any clear breaks from the peloton were hard to come by.

Indeed 30 riders were looking to lead from the front, but with nobody able to break with purpose early on, bunching was once again the order of the day in the North.

That was the way it was to head even back through Stamfordham, heading across the line with nothing to separate the 82-strong field.

George leads the first charge

The first major attack was not to come until lap two as Jennifer George led the first assault for Storey Racing, heading towards the halfway stage of the race.

Reinforcements were to arrive but it wasn’t to last for George, hauled back into the peloton before really getting a chance to hit her stride.

That didn’t deter others from giving it a go themselves, as Annasley Park, Melissa Lowther and Beth Crumpton all chanced their arms in a three-strong lead group, taking their advantage to beyond 21 seconds.

And when Katie Archibald, CiCLE Classic winner, and Laura Massey joined in the fun, it seemed as though this quintet could have a major say over the victor in Northumberland.

But with their advantage always minimal, the lead was not to last into the third and final lap, as the last 35km assault with all the riders locked together to set up a thrilling finale.

Tactical Erskine wins a thriller

With one more climb up Ryal to come, it was understandable that nobody was keen to commit too early to a big push in the final lap, particularly with the sun beaming down onto the roads.

It seemed one break would be enough, with series leader Mason among those to take the plunge, while Payton, Panchaud and Erskine provided more than able assistance to the four-pronged attack.

Panchaud was the first to play her hand, breaking into a small but mighty lead - all while Emily Nelson was bidding to catch up the leaders.

From there the group all bunched together again in a five, with the race for the taking for whoever had anything left in the tank.

And it fell to Erskine to secure a brilliant victory, crossing the line to a wonderful reception in Stamfordham to signal a stunning victory in this, round five of the HSBC UK | National Women's Road Series.

Archibald was to finish in sixth behind Nelson, while the Olympic champion also took both Queen of the Mountain and sprints in the race.




2017 HSBC UK | National Women's Road Series: Curlew Cup