National Women's Road Champs

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2009 National Women's Road Race Champs

June 27, 2009; Abergavenny (Wales);Report and Pictures: Larry Hickmott

Winner of the British Cycling Women's British Road Race championship for 2009 was Nicole Cooke who triumphed in Abergavenny after 80 miles of top quality racing in the countryside around the Welsh town.

Report Overview

World and Olympic Champion, Nicole Cooke, celebrates her 10th British title after outsprinting Lizzie Armitstead and Emma Pooley.

In the Women’s road race, three riders with World titles and Olympic medals to their name dominated. After only 30 of the 80 miles, four riders led the race: Catherine Williamson who had been out front alone for most of that 30 miles; defending champion Nicole Cooke (Olympic and World road champion); Olympic Silver medallist Emma Pooley and World Track champion Lizzie Armitstead. This was to be the main selection of the day, with the rest of the field powerless to intervene as this high-quality quartet fought out the medal positions.

Attacks by Pooley and Cooke saw Williamson dropped in the closing stages and in the sprint finish, Nicole Cooke won her 10th title whilst Lizzie Armitstead defeated Emma Pooley for second in the race. Armitstead was also crowned Under 23 champion.

After the race, Lizzie Armitstead was told that she would not be given a Silver medal for her performance in the senior championships. British Cycling released the following statement on Monday 29 June:
Lizzie Armitstead To Be Awarded Two Medals Following Her Success At The National Road Championships

British Cycling has over-ruled the decision of the Chief Commissaire not to award Lizzie Armitstead two medals following her success in the Women's Elite and Under 23 National Road Championships on Saturday 28 June held in Abergavenny, Wales.

Lizzie Armitstead secured the Under 23 Championship and finished second in the Women's Elite category but was refused the silver on the instructions of the Chief Commissaire on the basis that a rider could not be eligible for both categories.

As all National Championships are under control of the British Cycling Board, it over-ruled the decision after consulting the Commissaires Commission and the Road Commission ahead of the Men's Elite race on Sunday 29 June.

It was agreed that the rule interpretation of the Chief Commissaire was not shared by the Board which confirmed that any rider in the Under 23 category capable of finishing in a medal position among elite riders is entitled to a medal in both categories.

The medals in the Men's Elite and Under 23 Championship were awarded on the correct basis. As a result, Peter Kennaugh was awarded both Bronze in the Elite category and Gold in the Under 23 category.

The only exceptions to this ruling were Ben Swift and Jonny Bellis, who, as members of UCI ProTour teams, are clearly excluded from the Under 23 category.

Brian Cookson, President of British Cycling, commented: "The decision of the Chief Commissaire caused considerable distress to the riders who competed in the race on Saturday and created confusion among spectators.

"We received a number of complaints on the day and acted swiftly to put the situation right and prevent the same mistake from happening in the Men's race on Sunday.

"We will be reviewing our technical regulations governing national championships at the next Board Meeting with the view to publishing clearer guidelines for future races.

"On behalf of British Cycling I would like to apologise to Lizzie Armitstead and the other riders competing on the day for the distress caused by this incident."

The four leaders, Armitstead, Pooley, Cooke and Williamson (at the back). Nikki Harris was chasing alone for a long time and was then caught and passed by two other riders includind Katie Colclough and Julie Shaw.


Nicole Cooke: “That win feels very special just like the first time. It was an incredible race today with the home crowd so definitely a very special one for number 10.”

About the controversy on Lizzie having her Silver medal taken from her (senior event), Nicole said “it is very sad. In black and white, Lizzie was second today and would have been a very worthy winner of that Silver medal and as soon as the girls heard the news,  everyone was disappointed and no-one wanted to take a medal that wasn’t theirs. We’re all competitors, we all want a fair result and that is what we had across the line”.

“It was a beautiful course today and a really good finish. Emma made a hard attack on the first lap and it was good to see what form she had in her legs at that point. I was really happy with the game plan I chose today.”

On the sprint, Nicole said “all of us had had a go at trying to attack in the finale and then it was coming down to a sprint, and I have had some quite good sprint finishes in the last few weeks so I was feeling confident going into it. I just knew, if I went at the right time and didn’t make any mistakes, it would be a really good finish.”  

“Vision 1 has had a really good few weeks. We have got a really good spirit in Vision 1 and things are building up and we have the momentum going now which is really incredible for such a small team in its first year.”

Lizzie Armitstead: “I am a bit disappointed, not only in that the medal was taken from me, but also that I messed up the last corner. I should have been first into that last corner in hindsight. I looked at the course before the start and thought you need to be second wheel because it looked like 300, 350 metres to the finish. But in hindsight, it was a downhill finish and it was quite technical so I should have lead it out.”

“I never really got to open up in the sprint. Into the last corner, Nicole overtook Emma so I was behind Emma. Don’t get me wrong, Nicole is a very very good sprinter and I have no idea whether it would have been different had I lead it out but I certainly think I would have had a better chance.”

“The ride does give me confidence though. The nationals is a strange race because there are only a few girls who can make the race. I felt good out there and never felt under pressure or in danger of being dropped. It was hard – and Emma is extremely strong and she did gap me and Nicole  at one stage and from that moment on, we never gave her the room to get a gap like that again as she was the strongest in that race!”
“The season so far for me has been a learning experience. It is hard working for other people and been so different to the track. My legs are always good and I’m not getting dropped but I am not winning so at times it can be hard to motivate myself. I have a break after the Giro which I think I am very much in need of.”

Emma Pooley
: “I had to attack many times because the first attack doesn’t normally work. If you have a whole team, you have lots of riders to attack but I was on my own. It was a bit of a boring race really. There were a few people who attacked early and I thought that maybe those with teams would organise a chase but they didn’t. So I had to attack really.”

“It was certainly more rolling on the back part of the course towards Abergavenny. There were two drags that were longish but of course, that was where everyone expected you to attack. So I attacked on a downhill section as well but that didn’t work either!”

“I don’t think I have a good sprint and that one today was pretty good for me. I think Lizzie messed up the last corner and I would normally expect her to beat me. And she should have the silver medal and we’ll sort this out later this silly thing about the under 23. It is ridiculous because Nicole has had both medals when she was won so it was definitely a bronze medal for me."

Catherine Williamson: Full credit to Catherine, a rider getting top 10’s and top 20’s in UCI events on a regular basis, who after a long time out on her own in the race, was caught by three exceptional riders, Nicole Cooke, Emma Pooley and Lizzie Armitstead. Despite getting dropped when Pooley or Cooke would attack, Catherine would fight back on until she could fight no more - event then she had the grit to solo on to finish fourth.

“I think Lizzie deserved her medal” Catherine said of Lizzie having her Silver senior medal taken from her as she had won the Under 23 category. On her long break, Catherine explained “That lone break wasn’t the plan! It worked last year by getting away and getting a head start on the climb and when I saw Alex (Greenfield) go, I thought I’ll see if anyone follows. I got across to Alex and thought good, there are two of us but I dropped her quiet early on. So I carried on my own and it worked out. I knew the second climb (on the final lap) it would be a matter of hanging on for as long as possible which I did.”

The Photo Report -- reflections of a champion race: (our thanks to Neil Mckenzie (NEG pilot) for his help in bringing you these pictures)

Lizzie Armitstead is presented to the huge crowd, including some very proud grandparents, as the Under 23 Women's Road Race champion. With her on the podium, are Dani King and Katie Colclough. Lizze then had her Silver senior medal taken from her as she waited back stage and left the podium dissapointed and upset. See the comment above to see how this matter has now been resolved.

The field roll out of Abergavenny behind the lead car

All very relaxed at kilometre 0

Alex Greenfield was soon on the move and then joined by Catherine Williamson

Vision 1 send their new recruit to the head of the peloton to ride tempo.

As the road started to climb on the back half of the circuit, Emma Pooley split the race asunder with some hard attacks.

The field are all over the place following Emma's attack and Cooke's counter attacks.

But many riders came back and rejoined the leaders -- for now.

Nicole Cooke then goes on the attack and it was the beginning of the end for all but four of the riders: the race had only covered 30 miles of the 80 miles to be raced.

What Nicole started, Emma finished off and this was one of countless attacks the Cervelo pro made to destroy the hopes of all but three riders.

This was an especially brutal attack with still 50 miles to go by Pooley and she gapped Cooke and Armitstead and they vowed not to let her do that again because getting her back was hard -- very hard.

It was really hot out there and drinks were welcome. Here Pooley gets a bottle in the feedzone on lap 2

Williamson is dropped but she showed true grit and kept at it and got back on many times

Follow the leader ...

Pooley has another go and Williamson yet again has to fight to stay in touch

Finishing circuit, lap 1 and Nicole Cooke gets a bottle from father Tony

The crowds were amazing...

Dani King wins the bunch sprint

The senior medallists; Catherine Wiliiamson, Nicole Cooke and Emma Pooley

Lizzie is a great bike rider but she needs some help spraying the champagne....

As does Emma Pooley, who gets personal tuitition from Nicole Cooke.

Result (thanks to John Pearson)
1. Nicole Cooke, Vision 1
2. Lizzie Armitstead, Lotto
3. Emma Pooley, Cervelo
4. Catherine Williamson, Fenixs
5. Katie Colclough, 100% ME
6. Julia Shaw, Unattached
7. Nikki Harris, Flexpoint
8. Danni King, Vision 1
9. Lucy Martin, 100% ME
10. Charlotte Colclough, 100% ME
11. Claire Thomas, Edinburgh RC
12. Leanne Thompson, Hewitt Racing
13. Alli Northcott, Shred Racing
14. Katie Curtis, Vision 1
15. Anne Ewing, Edinburgh RC
16. Sarah Storey, VC St Raphael
17. Julie Cooke, Altura
18. Emma Trott, R&TC Groenewoud
19. Kara Chesworthm Dysnni CC

@ 1 lap
Angela Pike, Shred Racing
Kara Chesworth, Dysynni
Charlotte Blackman Cyclefit RT
Jacqueline Garder Maxgear
Iona Sewell Squadra Donne
Jeanette Caldicott Maxgear RT
Gail Aspden Penzance Wheelers
Carol Bridge Acme Wheelers (Rhondda) CC
Michele Lee, Maxgear RT

Under 23 Champion
1. Lizzie Armitstead
2. Katie Colclough
3. Dani King