Round four of the British Cycling's Women's Road Series, the Curlew Cup, was won by Laura Massey (IKON Mazda) in a small bunch sprint.
It was a victory for the seniors as Massey, a recent winner in some prestigious masters events, finished ahead of Ellie-May Dickinson and Lizzie Holden in second and third respectively, both of Giordana Triton and both juniors.
Series leader Nicola Juniper and Annasley Park also of Giordana Triton finished high up in the group securing the team prize.
The mood in the Giordana camp was somewhat despondent having not managed a win with so many riders in the finishing group of around a dozen or so.
But this was nonetheless a great show of strength and with Grace Garner, here sidelined early on due to the severe effects of the early cold and rain, winning the previous round, it also gave an exciting glimpse into the future of domestic women's road racing.
Despite fears on the part of the organisers that the concurrently running Aviva Women's Tour might mean a reduced field, an impressively large number took to the line in the small village of Stamfordham, just outside Newcastle, for this the fourth edition of the Curlew Cup.
Very low temperatures and freezing showers made for difficult conditions and tempered the action on the first of the opening three 22-kilometre laps, and with riders mindful of the race's signature punishing climb of Ryals.
That was to be the key feature of the much longer 34-kilometre final lap to come, and nothing too serious in the way of breaks and attacks took place as the peloton rolled along the undulating lanes of the picturesque Northumberland countryside.
Both Giordana-Triton and Team WNT attended the event en-masse to protect the interests of Juniper and Charline Joiner, separated by just one point in the series standings at the start of the day and both squads showed strongly at the front of the peloton in the opening laps. Their presence, along with Wiggle’s Anna Christian, meant they were always active at the head of affairs and combined with the extreme weather conditions to nullify any meaningful breaks.
Moving onto the final, long lap the pack was still almost intact. Juniper attempted to get away before the opening drag into a vicious headwind, and a small crash left a group of 11 riders distanced by some 20 seconds.
But by the time the race convoy entered the narrow, tricky descent to the foot of the climb, the peloton was still largely together, those delayed by the crash moving through the race convoy to re-join.
As anticipated, all the action took place on the climb and the remaining few flat or slightly downhill kilometres to the finish. Julie Erskine (Ikon Mazda) and Chloe Fraser (Rytger) were the first to gain a significant gap on the field before Erskine dropped back, leaving Fraser to climb the Ryals alone with a small advantage as, predictably, the peloton behind splintered dramatically.
A main chasing group of around 15 formed in pursuit of Fraser but behind that, nothing on the road resembled a group of any kind as the hill took its toll on the riders in varying degrees and many found themselves isolated.
Fraser was caught as the riders tore through the final few kilometres at high speed and the lead group itself split with Giordana launching an early attack. But there was enough intent and co-ordination in the chasing group to pull the head of the race back together as the finish loomed, Massey proving that she has more to her game than a trademark, uphill finish, winning a tightly contested sprint with a well timed move out of the last corner.
"That was a strange race,” explained Massey, echoing a sentiment expressed by many of the riders post race, "For the first three laps we didn't seem to be racing at all, just waiting for the hill. I'm just happy to have won a national and finish ahead of Nikki (Juniper) for once. It's been a late start season for me after a winter of illness,” she continued “and good timing for next week,” referring to the National Road Race Championships.
Juniper agreed that the race was slow to kick into gear. "To be honest it was a bit dull for the first three laps, I tried a couple of things but they weren’t going to let me get away and if I’m honest I was doing it to warm my legs up it was freezing.”
Disappointingly, Juniper’s closest rival in the series standings succumbed to bad luck. Charline Joiner suffered a puncture on the last lap before the climb and although her team dropped back to help tow her back into the race after a wheel change, she punctured in the other wheel and was forced to ride in alone. “I felt really strong too,” she explained “I was going really hard up the climb and feeling good but I could see the leaders going over the top and it was just too late.”
The Women’s Road Series now enters it’s ‘criterium’ phase with city-centre races at Otley and Stafford to follow the National Championships, before the open road races of the Essex Giro and Ryedale Grand Prix determine whether Juniper can retain the title she won last season.
Pos Name Team Time
1 MASSEY, Laura IKON - Mazda 02:50:12.337
2 DICKINSON, Eleanor Team Giordana-Triton
3 HOLDEN, Elizabeth Team Giordana-Triton
4 PARK, Annasley Team Giordana-Triton
5 JUNIPER, Nicola Team Giordana-Triton
6 NIXON, Rebecca Fusion RT Gearclub Bike Science
7 HOPKINS, Ella IKON - Mazda
8 PARKINSON, Abby-Mae Team Giordana-Triton
9 FRASER, Chloe Team Rytger
10 HAYWARD, Bethany Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International
11 ERSKINE, Julie IKON - Mazda
12 GRANT, Emma IKON - Mazda
13 BOYLAN, Lydia Team WNT
14 STEDMAN, Elizabeth University of Sheffield CC
15 SIMMONDS, Hayley Team Velosport
16 GEORGE, Jennifer Les Filles Racing Team
17 COLCLOUGH, Charlotte Team Jadan
18 RIMMINGTON, Rebecca Aprire Bicycles HSS Hire
19 CHRISTIAN, Anna Wiggle Honda all same time
20 COPIE, Clemence Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International 00:01:07
21 COBB, Alice Aprire Bicycles HSS Hire
22 POOLE, Karen Team WattCycle
23 HIBBS, Angela Team WattCycle
24 LEVERIDGE, Gaby Velosure Starley Primal
25 DAVENNE, Tamara Zappi's Racing Team
26 PAYTON, Hannah Corley Cycles Drops RT
27 COLEMAN, Sophie PMR@Toachim House
28 HUDSON, Jennifer Fusion RT Gearclub Bike Science
29 GILBERT, Jose Velosure Starley Primal
30 SUMMERFORD, Ruth PMR@Toachim House all st
31 TURVEY, Anna Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International 01:13
32 CAMPBELL, Eleanor Fusion RT Gearclub Bike Science 01:20
33 EWING, Anne WV Breda 02:01
34 TAYLOR, Bethany Bonito Squadra Corse all st
35 WOMERSLEY, Becky Corley Cycles Drops RT 02:03
36 MUNTON, Claire Malteni RT 02:27
37 DE QUINT, Pia Team WNT
38 BRAND, Melissa IKON - Mazda all st
39 NORDIN, Gabriella gbcycles.co.uk 02:30
40 JOINER, Charline Team WNT 02:50
41 COLBORNE, Henrietta Bonito Squadra Corse
42 BOTTELEY, Sian Velosure Starley Primal
43 BRICE, Amy Private Mumber
44 HUGHES, Anna Marie Bonito Squadra Corse
45 CASCIELLO, Gaia Welwyn Wheelers
46 SARGENT, Gemma Racing Chance Foundation
47 BEST, Tracy Zappi's Racing Team
48 GORNALL, Amy Aprire Bicycles HSS Hire 03:47
49 LANKFORD, Sophie Team WNT 07:54
50 OSBORNE, Rose Team WNT
51 TINDLEY, Jo Team WNT
52 MURRAY, Clover Corley Cycles Drops RT 00:12:42
53 WEAVER, Anna Team WattCycle 00:16:43
DNF O'BRIEN, Lauren Team Giordana-Triton
DNF GARNER, Grace Team Giordana-Triton
DNF CARTER, Rebecca Team WNT
DNF BODDY, Karla IKON - Mazda
DNF BATEY, Jennifer Team WattCycle
DNF METCALFE, Nikki Team WattCycle
DNF VAN-TWISK, Abi Corley Cycles Drops RT
DNF PACIOS, Merce Zappi's Racing Team
DNF HARRIS, Elizabeth-Jane Army Cycling Union
DNF SODEN, Nicola Carnac Planet X
DNF BURROWS, Elizabeth Featherstone Road Club