Dani King (Wiggle Honda) drew first blood in the 2015 Alexandra Women’s Tour of the Reservoir in Northumberland on Saturday, sprinting across the line ahead of rival Katie Archibald (Pearl Izumi).
The 24-year-old from Cardiff will go into Sunday’s second stage in the leader’s jersey after winning the 60-kilometre opening stage, which took in 10 scenic laps around Blanchland.
The race marked the launch of the 2015 Women’s Road Series and featured a high quality field of 95 riders, tackling 10 laps of a short but technically challenging closed road circuit that followed a long, neutralized roll out from the village of Blanchland in Northumberland.
The popularity of last year’s event saw organizers add the extra stage to the ’traditional’ reservoir loop to create a new two-day format and the inaugural Kermesse proved highly popular with riders and was packed with incident from the start.
Warm sunshine over the previous days had given way to freezing temperatures as the riders arrived but thankfully the sleet and rain that greeted them at sign-on gave way to brighter, clearer conditions as the race headed out. The strong cross winds blowing in over the reservoir however would make for very difficult conditions and significantly affect the tactics of the race.
After a number of riders got dropped from the main peloton even before the race had reached the circuit proper it was clear that in the high winds, bridging any gaps was going to be extremely difficult and so it proved. As early as lap one a number of short, aggressive attacks thinned the lead group but got chased down by a number of riders until Archibald launched a characteristically stinging attack that only King was able to respond to and the two were away.
Behind the two leaders a number of small crashes had the effect of splitting the race into several groups on the road with individual riders strung out in pursuit between them. The main chase group of around 16 contained riders from the teams of both King and Archibald who duly helped disrupt any serious attempt to chase the pair down and the gap quickly opened to 35 seconds before the race was anywhere near half done. Further back the brutal headwinds were making it difficult to ride in smaller groups and riders were getting lapped early on.
Punctures were plentiful and quickly put paid to defending series champion and last year’s race winner Nicola Juniper (Giordana Triton). “I punctured on lap one even before the attacks went” she revealed. “I waited a long time for neutral service and spent the next seven laps chasing back to the group.” It was an impressive performance in the conditions but ultimately not enough to contest the win as by the final couple of laps, Archibald and King were eyeing up the sprint along the reservoir wall with over a minute advantage over the chasing pack of riders.
King took it on the line with a massive scream and punch of the air that clearly put an end to the hardships of the recent past. “It’s my first race back since the crash” explained the 24 year old Olympic gold medalist, referring to a training ride accident in November of last year that left her with several broken ribs and a punctured lung, “I wanted an aggressive race and had planned to attack myself, but Katie went so early, I knew I’d have to go with it. I’m so happy to have won after everything that’s happened, I feel really strong and can’t wait for tomorrow’s stage.” Archibald was happy that she found herself in a break with King, “As soon as I saw it was Dani that was with me I knew we had a chance of staying away. I just got outclassed at the end.”
Mopping up the remaining podium place, the second group came over the line in a bunch sprint won by Charline Joiner, a significant result for her new team WNT and another return to form for a rider who has suffered major injury rehabilitation in recent months.
King takes the leaders jersey into stage two on Sunday by a slender margin over Archibald. The 90km hilly road race over a punishing, four laps circuit will be a sterner test of her return to form.
Stage one (provisional):
1 Danielle King Wiggle Honda Elite 1h 01' 24
2 Katie Archibald Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Int'l Elite st
3 Charline Joiner Team WNT 1st at 1-20
4 Lorna Hall IKON - Mazda 1st
5 Amy Hill Team Rytgear 3rd
6 Natalie Grinczer Fusion RT Gearclub Bike Science 2nd
7 Anna Christian Wiggle Honda 2nd
8 Maryka Sennema Paceline RT 1st
9 Tamina Oliver Wv Zeeuws-Vlaanderen - J F L F 1st
10 Laura Greenhalgh Les Filles Racing Team 2nd
11 Elinor Barker Matrix Fitness Elite
12 Ciara Horne Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Int'l 2nd all st
13 Bethany Hayward Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Int'l 1st at 1-29
14 Henrietta Colborne Bonito Squadra Corse 2nd st
15 Gabrielle Duckworth Lune RCC 2nd at 1-36
16 Rosa Martin PH-MAS VCUK Women's Cycling Team 2nd at 2-01
17 Clover Murray Corley Cycles - Drops RT 2nd
18 Sophia Chastell M and D Cycles / Fusion RT / WORX 3rd
19 Rose Osborne Team WNT 2nd all st
20 Victoria Strila PMR@Toachim House 2nd at 2-16