Giordana Triton dominated the Women’s Ryedale Grand Prix in North Yorkshire on Sunday, with Series winner Nikki Juniper winning the race from a two-rider breakaway with team-mate Abby-Mae Parkinson, who in turn was crowned the National Junior Road Race Champion in the ‘race within a race’.
The pair had broken clear over the top of the first and biggest of the three climbs on the second of two long laps of the 39-mile race based around the picturesque Abbey and college of Ampleforth.
By the time the pair rode through the finish line to begin their final short loop the gap to a chasing peloton of 15 or so riders was a healthy 2-20 which, barring any mechanical issues, always looked likely to be significant.
No mishaps befell the two escapees on the final nine-mile circuit and on the line it was 33-year-old Juniper, from Brentwood in Essex, who repeated her win of 12 months ago in the same race, sprinting away from the 17-year-old from Yorkshire who took the junior title as well as second place in the Ryedale Grand Prix.
It was a fitting end for Juniper who, having already sealed her second Series title in as many years, became the only rider to win two rounds of the Series following victory in the previous round at Stafford. Consistency has been key for her, with two third places, a fifth and 11th helping to bank enough points to defend the title.
Although short at just 39 miles, the popular circuit was made attritional by severe weather conditions that saw torrential rain fall at the start of the race, leaving large areas of standing water on some areas of the course and washing residual gravel onto many of its narrow bends.
Soon after the start the sun broke through, leaving many riders over-dressed and discarding excessive start-lap clothing on the top of the opening lap’s second climb as temperatures quickly rose.
The action on the road was no less hot with a flurry of activity on the opening lap. Around 20 riders instigated a small break on the opening climb and strung the field out, but the group came back together on the long descent into climb number two.
Almost immediately Jo Tindley (Team WNT) made an attempt to get away but was marshalled by Annasley Park (Giordana Triton) and Ejay Harris (Army Cycling Union). Coming into the hill race radio reported a gap of 16 seconds but by the time they crested the top it was back together.
Entering the grounds of the college at the end of the opening lap, the treacherous and varied nature of the road surface became all too evident as a number of riders came down, not so much as a crash as a sliding off, one victim later describing the corner as more like ice-skating than bike racing.
An attempt by Bonito Squadra Corse’s Emma Rata and Team Watt Cycles’ Karen Poole was nullified early on lap two and it was at the top of the first climb on this lap that Juniper instigated the winning move.
Attacking and gaining a gap of around 20 metres she looked back, made eye contact with Parkinson at the head of the diminished group, who seemed to get the message and jumped across the gap with no-one able to respond. The gap hung tantalisingly small initially, before the pair committed to it fully and started to pull away.
With Parkinson’s team-mate Lizzie Holden one of around nine juniors in the chasing peloton, the series title already in the hands of Juniper, and the gap increasing to around a minute by the end of lap two, no real significant chase was mounted and the two simply rode away.
“Nothing really happened following that attack,” confirmed Holden who managed to take the silver medal in the junior’s championship for the second year running, ahead of Henrietta Colborne, who has impressed all season against the seniors as a first year junior riding for Bonito Squadra Corse.
The third podium slot in the race overall behind Juniper and Parkinson was mopped by Fusion RT’s Rebecca Nixon, riding off the front of a fast moving bunch of a dozen or so riders led in by Laura Massey (Ikon Mazda).
“I’m well happy, this is my best result in a National,” explained Nixon, another improving rider who seems to excel in this kind of uphill sprint finish.
Having openly admitted to the fact that along with Annasley Park, at least two of the Giordana Triton seniors were committed to helping their juniors get the National Champions Jersey, Juniper was elated that the tactics and results had gone to plan.
“Riders were obviously looking at us to try and control the race, and early on it was just attack, attack, attack and we just tried to make sure that either Lizzy or Abby was up there,” explained Juniper. “I know Abby’s a super strong time triallist on the flat so I was just trying to temper it on the hills and give her a bit of rest on the front now and again.”
No less overjoyed was the new Junior Champion, her first title on the road following a prodigious career as a youth in cyclo-cross who, by her own admission, had a bad 12 months in the previous season.
“I’m so happy to win after a hard time last year and working so hard for this,” explained Parkinson. “Nikki was just amazing today, so strong on the hills that I was really struggling to stay on her wheel.”
At its conclusion, the 2015 Women’s Road Series has seen an eclectic mix of events, results and climactic conditions and has produced some compelling racing. So how does the retaining champion and now double Ryedale Grand Prix winner reflect on her season? “Not bad for a 33 year old is it?”
1 Nicola Juniper Team Giordana- Triton 01:53:54
2 Abby-Mae Parkinson Team Giordana- Triton 15
3 Rebecca Nixon Fusion RT Gearclub Bike Science 03:10
4 Laura Massey IKON - Mazda 03:13
5 Elizabeth Holden Team Giordana- Triton same time
6 Annasley Park Team Giordana- Triton same time
7 Alice Cobb Aprire Bicycles/HSS Hire same time
8 Henrietta Colborne Bonito Squadra Corse same time
9 Natalie Grinczer Fusion RT Gearclub Bike Science same time
10 Julie Erskine IKON - Mazda 03:16
11 Hannah Payton Corley Cycles - Drops RT same time
12 Elizabeth-Jane Harris Army Cycling Union same time
13 Rebecca Rimmington Aprire Bicycles/HSS Hire same time
14 Emma Rata Bonito Squadra Corse same time
15 Gabriella Leveridge Velosure Starley Primal 03:20
16 Ellie Campbell Fusion RT Gearclub Bike Science same time
17 Charlotte Colclough Team Jadan 03:24
18 Emma Cockcroft Bikeshed - Exeter Uni 03:27
19 Jennifer Hudson Fusion RT Gearclub Bike Science same time
20 Lydia Boylan Team WNT 03:32
21 Karen Poole Team WattCycle 03:35
22 Amy Gornall The Racing Chance Foundation 03:45
23 Rebecca Womersley Corley Cycles - Drops RT 04:13
24 Lauren Creamer Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Int'l 06:27
25 Rose Osborne Team WNT same time
26 Anna Marie Hughes Bonito Squadra Corse 12:03
27 Natasha Reddy RP Racing Team 12:07
28 Eve Dixon Team 22 12:10
29 Sophie Lankford Team WNT 12:15
30 Gaia Casciello Welwyn Wheelers CC 12:17
31 Anna Weaver Team WattCycle 12:23
32 Hetty Niblett Mid Shropshire Wheelers 14:23
33 Ashleigh Fraser Deeside Thistle CC 16:20
34 Bethan Stubbs Bikeshed - Exeter Uni 17:04
1 lap Rosa Martin PH-MAS VCUK Women's Cycling Tea
1 lap Sophie Black Elitevelo Kalas Sportswear CRT
1 lap Keira McVitty Team Giordana- Triton
1 lap Nikola Butler Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Int'l
1 lap Louise Scupham Team Jadan
1 lap Hayley Edwards Team Velosport
1 lap Lauren O'Brien Team Giordana- Triton
1 lap Clover Murray Corley Cycles - Drops RT
1 lap Virginia Cancellieri GC Cicli Fiorin CT
1 lap Rebecca Carter Team WNT
1 lap Megan Chard M and D Cycles / Fusion RT / WO