Dani King (Wiggle Honda) took overall victory in the first round of the Women’s National Series in her first outing since the serious injury she sustained in a crash last November.
In terrible conditions, she was also left suffering from hypothermia.
Stage two of the Alexandra Women's Tour of the reservoir was won by Joanna Rowsell (Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International).
Following an extended breakaway with last year's winner Nicola Juniper (Giordana Triton), Rowsell emulated the win by her brother Erick in the men's race the previous day. “I had such a bad day yesterday that I really wanted to do well today, so this is amazing. Erick’s result really helped motivate me for this.”
Juniper, who bridged solo to Rowsell’s early break, admitted that Rowsell was the stronger rider and that the writing was on the wall early in the last of four laps, almost three of which the pair had ridden as a two-up.
“Jo was just super strong on the flats,” explained Juniper.
“I was at maximum effort just to stay on her wheel so I knew I couldn’t get the win. I was fine on the climbs and through the corners but I couldn’t respond when she rode away.”
Rowsell’s winning margin was enough to allow her a solo ride over the line but although the two breakaway riders had stretched the lead over the chasing pack to almost three minutes going into the final of four laps, it wasn’t enough to give Rowsell the overall win in the two-stage race.
That honour went to Dani King (Wiggle Honda) who, riding in the race leader’s yellow jersey, had enough sufficient time in hand on the leaders following stage one, that she could allow them to get away, monitor the distance and finish third eventually, defending the overall lead.
Her only team mate in the race, former UK junior national champion Anna Christian, worked impressively to keep the gap manageable, pulling long turns on the front of the chase group which during the course of the race got smaller and smaller in number until as few as six riders were left in by the end.
As much as the pace of the race and the long hilly drags that define the parcours, the weather conditions played a significant part in determining the outcome.
After a dry start the promised heavy rain arrived before half distance, then the riders completed the final lap in blustery snow. Many were close to hypothermia, not able to talk, or change gears on the bike to ride the final short climb due to unfeeling fingers.
Team car drivers were reporting ‘warning of ice’ alarms appearing on their dash-boards as the temperature plummeted to one degree and the added wind-chill factor meant many riders having to be rescued from the course by rival teams and even the police cars patrolling the race. Only around 40 riders of the starting 86 finished the race.
The early action had seen a number of attacks by the strong Pearl Izumi team as they tried to put pressure on the yellow jersey, but King always looked in control. “I’ve got good fitness and I love climbing,” she said prior to the race.
Following Rowsell’s attack and Juniper’s bridge to it, the race fractured rapidly into many small groups before a crash at the foot of the Derwent Reservoir descent left many riders, including one of the pre-race favourites Katie Archibald (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International), on the ground. She rejoined briefly but climbed off shortly after.
Big gaps between the chasing groups appeared in the last two laps as the attritional nature of the course and the weather started to bite.
Two minutes split the leading pair from King, and the impressive duo of Ciara Horne (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International) and Bex Rimmington (IKON Mazda) in fourth and fifth. Then gaps of two minutes and more split the remaining field into so many groups that the race finished without any recognisable peloton.
Round two of the series, the popular Cheshire Classic is on the 26 April and sees another stellar field entered, where Archibald particularly will be determined to improve her position in the series overall by retaining the title she so impressively won in 2014.
1 Danielle King (Wiggle Honda) 3-34-11
2 Ciara Horne (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International) at 1-20
3 Nicola Juniper (Giordana Triton) at 2-06
4 Anna Christian (Wiggle Honda) at 2-20
5 Corrine Hall (Ikon Mazda) at 3-13
6 Charline Joiner (Team WNT) at 3-20
1 Joanna Rowsell (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International) 2-30-25
2 Nicola Juniper at 20sec
3 Danielle King at 2-22
4 Ciara Horne same time
5 Bex Rimmington (Ikon Mazda) at 2-25
6 Anna Christian at 3-22
1 Danielle King 1-01-24
2 Katie Archibald (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International) same time
3 Charline Joiner at 1-20
4 Corrine Hall
5 Amy Hill (Team Rytgear)
6 Natalie Grinczer (Fusion RT) all st