Local rider Rebecca Durrell opened her HSBC UK | National Women’s Road Series in perfect fashion with victory in the season-opening Lincoln Grand Prix.
The Storey Racing Team rider was part of the very first breakaway of the day and made the most of her early push to take a sprint finish after the eight-lap thriller.
As many as 14 riders were part of the final break with the peloton not catching them throughout the race, with no fewer than four breakaways ensuring a dramatic race into Lincoln ensued.
But it was Durrell – who lives just 15 minutes away – who had the best finish of them all to take the win with Anna Henderson having to settle for second while third place went to Nikki Juniper.
Early break sets tone of the race
Coincidentally it was those three who initiated the first break of the day, with not even one lap having passed before they cleared ahead of the peloton.
By the time they hit Burton village, the three had become six – Molly Patch, Manon Lloyd and Jennifer George also heading up the race.
It seemed as though they would be caught but with the peloton coping with the narrow lanes, the leaders pushed on as the infrequent efforts of the chasers were soon snuffed out.
As the front six pushed forward, Patch fell off the back to become the sole chaser with the peloton a further 30 seconds behind after heading up Michaelgate for the second time.
Breaks increase as peloton splits
Some thought the peloton would close in but the opposite proved true as the leading quintet extended their advantage close to a minute, with the main group breaking into two sections.
With five laps to go the gap was up to 60 seconds with Juniper attacking off the breakaway for NJC- Biemme-Echelon, forcing herself a gap of ten seconds.
But as the pack hauled her in, the race centred around five leaders – namely Juniper, Durrell, George, Henderson and Lloyd.
She lives only 15 minutes away and now she's a winner in Lincoln!— British Cycling (@BritishCycling) May 13, 2018
Hear the thoughts of @BecksDurrell after her superb performance at the HSBC UK | National Women's Road Series#WomensRoadSeries pic.twitter.com/Guh1p2LoTS
A 40-second lead was theirs with a few laps to go but, with no chase forthcoming from the peloton, they weren’t under too much pressure as they eyed up a place on the podium.
Once again chasers threatened but George dropped off the leaders to leave just four pushing for victory – or at least that was how it seemed.
Chasing group finally make their mark
After a day of trying, the chasing group finally had an opportunity to attack the clear road with Jess Roberts, Ellie Dickinson, Lauren Creamer, Emily Bridson and Pfeiffer Georgi working to break the deficit.
But that wasn’t all with Emily Nelson, Ellen McDermott, Emma Lewis and Abbie Dentus formed a chasing quartet of their own, joined shortly after by Hannah Payton.
Closing in within 22 seconds of the leaders, just one-and-a-half laps remained as a plethora of riders looked to follow in the footsteps of 2016 and 2017 Lincoln Grand Prix champion Alice Barnes.
With Sophie Wright also in the mix the chasing pack proved too much for the leaders to hold on, with 14 now pushing for the line heading into the closing stages.
Or at least that’s what we thought as Anna Christian came from nowhere for Trek Drops – unleashing a superb breakaway and somehow making the junction to throw in some extra spice to the finale.
Hometown hero Durrell takes the sprint
With 1km to go, Payton made the first big move of the lead bunch though it was Nelson who led heading into the cobbles – closely followed by Juniper
But then Henderson came back into the fold, Georgi not to be discounted too, as the near three-hour thriller was decided in the final seconds.
And it was Durrell left celebrating for Team Storey – who welcomed Dame Sarah Storey back to action in Lincoln – prevailing by just two seconds from Cycle Team OnForm’s Henderson.
Juniper took third place a further second back while Dickinson and Georgi rounded off the top five, narrowly ahead of the rest of the field.