Harriet Harnden admits winning the penultimate round of the British Cycling Junior Women's Road Series in style was the perfect tune-up for the upcoming Junior Road National Championships.
The Dave Rayner Fund Junior Women's Road Race was held at the challenging Oliver’s Mount circuit as part of the Scarborough Festival of Cycling and T-Mo Racing rider Harnden dropped her rivals on a tough climb before racing away for a superb solo win.
With the National Championships only a week away, this was a chance for the junior women to test their form and lay down a marker.
Understandably, the race was hotly-contested with the gruelling nature of the circuit’s signature climb proving attritional, as many riders fell off the pace set by a lead group that contained most of the Series’ high flyers.
From mountains to roads
A mountain bike specialist, this was Harnden’s first foray into the Junior Women's Road Series and after next weekend’s Junior Road National Championships, she will turn her attention to the Junior National MTB Championships a week later.
“It’s a busy few weeks for me so I wanted to get this race in to learn the road skills,” she explained.
“I was surprised there was such big group the first few times up the climb but when the five of us got away it was working quite well.
“I found myself on the front quite a bit but we were sharing it around quite well.”
The first five laps of the short, flat-top circuit were almost neutralised as riders prepared themselves for over an hour of racing on the extended long course which included the climb, for a total of 90 minutes planned racing.
A lead group of 20 or so riders stayed together the first five times up the climb but the damage was already being done behind, as one rider after another got dropped on the climb.
The fifth time up, a significant split happened and only five riders crested the climb together, the remainder of the race splitting into fragments.
Harnden, Katie Scott (Hargroves-Ridley-Montezumas), Corinne Side (The Racing Chance Foundation), Amy Monkhouse (Backstedt/HotChillee) and Alana Prior (Liv Cycling Club-Halo Cycles) made up the lead group and immediately put a significant gap into the chasers.
The chase begins
Another two times up the climb saw the group, and the gap, remain the same but a strong, working group of five riders formed behind including Fiona Turnbull (YDRP), Marie Lynne (Boompods EDCO NRG), Ellie Smith (Team Jadan Weldtite-Vive le Velo) and two Team OnForm riders Kate Wootton and Elena Spanou.
Series leader April Tacey (Team 22) – only just back on the bike after some major crash damage sustained at the Tour of the Reservoir – was gamely hanging in there just outside the top ten but unable to quite make the juncture to the chasing group.
Impressively, the chasers halved the almost one-minute gap in the space of a single lap with three laps to go and it looked at one point like they had the leaders in their grasp.
Harnden makes her move
But Harnden was in sparkling form and, sensing the approaching chase group, launched her solo attack halfway up the penultimate climb, quickly opening a gap of around 30 seconds.
The remains of the lead group never saw her again and the T-Mo racing rider soloed to an imperious victory.
Monkhouse pipped Side for the second slot on the podium, with Prior and Scott managing to hold off the chase group to round out the top five.
Despite finishing slightly down the order, Tacey did enough to take a slender three-point lead into the Series’ final round at the North West Junior Women’s Tour in August.