Annasley Park (Giordana Triton) raced to victory in the Pinsent Masons Women’s Otley Grand Prix, round five of the British Cycling Women’s Road Series, in West Yorkshire on Wednesday evening.
The 19-year-old from Hereford took the win in a two-up sprint with Dame Sarah Storey after the pair had been clear of the chasing bunch for much of the 11-lap race, run off on a challenging 2.25-kilometre circuit around the town.
Park’s form has been improving throughout the season. She was 13th at the British National Time Trial Championships the week before Otley, and was fourth in a tough Curlew Cup in Northumberland last month.
In stiflingly humid conditions, Park and Storey raced clear on lap three of the mercifully short, 40-minute race around the streets of the historic market town, lined once more by thousands of excitedly rowdy fans.
With Park's team mate Nikki Juniper in the Series lead, the Giordana tactics were evident as Abby-Mae Parkinson set a ferocious pace up the circuit's signature climb. Then when Storey's team-mate Gabriella Shaw went on the offensive, Giordana Triton countered with Keira Mcvitty holding her wheel, the net effect of all this high speed attacking riding stretched the field significantly and dropped riders as early as lap two.
When Storey launched her characteristic attack, Park was quickly onto her wheel and the pair rapidly increased their lead over the next few laps. Juniper sat in playing close attention to the action at the head of the chasing bunch of around 20 riders as Team WNT with Brit Tate and Charline Joiner, second overall in the series at the start of the race, riding strongly to try and close the gap.
But for the second Women's Road Series event in a row, Joiner's race was cruelly ended when the Scottish Commonwealth Games star punctured.
I know she's a really strong time triallist and I was afraid she could go at any time."
Otley Grand Prix winner Annasley Park
In such a short, frantic race she was never going to get back in the bunch. Meanwhile, up front Storey and Park were comfortably holding the gap and Park revealed afterwards she wasn't having to work too hard.
"We had to protect Nikki today, so she told me my job was to get on Sarah's wheel as soon as it went, I thought I'd missed it but was able to get across."
“I know she's a really strong time triallist and I was afraid she could go at any time, but my job was just it sit on her wheel and to be honest I could have done a lot more work."
Storey revealed she had her own agenda from the race: "I wanted to see what I had for the sprint finish. I think I could have attacked again and tried to win solo but I do that a lot, so I wanted to try something else.
“I've just been announced on the UCI Para-cycling World Championships road team, so I need to do some different stuff to make sure all my bases are covered in preparation for that.”
The race did indeed come down to a sprint with Park taking it very narrowly on the line after a classic exit of the high speed final corner that forced Storey to come the long way round to the inside, where she wasn't quite able to close the gap.
This was a big win for Park and the Giordana Triton team following on from their strong showing at the previous round, The Curlew Cup, where despite filling much of the top six, they failed to win the race.
“I talked to the girls before the race and reminded them about Curlew,” revealed Juniper who now extends her series lead quite significantly. “I told them we could do this and that we needed to attack and control it.
“They were amazing, this is a development team and we had the winner, plus a junior rider Abby-Mae Parkinson, leading me out in the sprint for third, on junior gears. It was a great team performance.”
Following more misfortune for Joiner, Junipers lead now suddenly looks unassailable as she attempts to retain her title with two rounds remaining, the Stafford Kermesse and the Ryedale Grand Prix.
1 Annasley Park (Giordana Triton)
2 Dame Sarah Storey (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International)
3 Nicola Juniper (Giordana Triton)
Sky Ride Sheffield - 5 July
Has the Otley Grand Prix inspired you to get out on your bike? Come and join us for Sky Ride Sheffield, a wonderful festival style celebration of all things cycling on Sunday. Sky Ride Sheffield gives you the opportunity to ride together with family and friends on a stunning, traffic-free route through the city. All for free.
For more information and to register your place for free, please click here.