Grace Garner secured a thrilling overall win in the Essex Giro Two-Day as the British Cycling Women’s Road Series continued to provide top class racing.
Round five of the series, the Essex Giro provided three stages of racing over two days and was won by Grace Garner of Podium Ambition despite a thrilling second-day comeback by defending series champion Nikki Juniper of Ford EcoBoost.
Juniper won the final circuit criterium plus the two prime sprints, the resulting time bonuses taking her to within a tantalizingly close three seconds of Garner on GC.
The morning’s individual time trial was brilliantly won by Garner, proving that she is much more than the sprint specialist she is renowned for. That win added eight seconds to her advantage on GC from her stage one victory, and meant a total of 18 seconds advantage heading in to the final stage.
Turning over such a time deficit seemed unthinkable, but whereas the first day’s racing had been largely neutralised by the power of the two leading contending teams, the final stage exploded into action as Juniper, aided magnificently by her Ford EcoBoost team mates, went on the offensive.
Juniper, the defending national criterium champion, is a local to the Redbridge circuit and started the day off by picking her way expertly around the rain-affected circuit in the morning’s TT, her second place finish keeping her in the hunt for the overall race victory.
Day two gallery
As conditions worsened drastically in the afternoon the wet track claimed a number of riders to mechanicals and punctures with both Podium Ambition and Ford EcoBoost’s GC contenders losing trusted lieutenants throughout the course of the race.
Juniper, mindful of the task at hand, sprinted to the two primes and the cumulative bonus of 10 seconds. But Garner, fully aware of the time she needed, stayed in contention with a second and third place at the white flag.
Then, as the two played out a high speed game of chess, marking each other around the ‘alpine’ or reverse direction format of the infamous Hog Hill circuit, Matrix Fitness rider Alice Cobb threw a hand-grenade into the mix with a series of devastating accelerations each time the peloton zig-zagged up the climb to the finishing straight.
An impressive TT in the morning had seen Cobb finish fifth with the scent of a podium finish and her relentless climbing speed ripped the main bunch to shreds with several riders tailed off into a large chase group and others still, left solo to battle out the remaining laps.
At the bell for the final lap, Cobb had again cruised up the climb in first and looked set for a stage win until first Garner came over the top on the penultimate straight. Then Juniper, using every inch of the circuit and her local knowledge dive-bombed the race leader on the inside in an audacious move that saw her take an imperious win.
“I know that alpine layout really well and I knew that it was going to go one of two ways,” said Juniper. “I was either going to come down or I was going to get the win, and it went in my favor.
“I’m so pleased to get the win today for the girls who have been amazing the past two days. I never expect an armchair delivery to the line to win a race, I try to work as hard as they do, but it’s nice to have the confidence in the team that they will work that hard for me. I owed it to them to try and finish it off so I’m pleased that I could do that.”
For her part, Garner was mightily impressive in keeping calm under the orange onslaught on the final stage, never losing Juniper’s side during the race and keeping a mental account of the position she needed to finish to secure the GC.
“We were on the defensive as we were in the lead on GC,” explained Garner of her team’s approach.
“We were marking Nikki, trying to not let her get any significant lead and trying to stay on her wheel in the primes, and I knew I couldn’t risk finishing more than one place behind her. I went for the line before the last corner but she dive-bombed me so fair play, she pulled it off.”
In the last seven days Garner has won a stage of the Tour Series, the overall individual Tour Series and now another Women’s Road Series event. A formidable talent for such a young rider, she now heads off for a day of ice-baths, compression and sleep before taking part in the five-stage women’s tour of Britain while the Women’s Road Series moves on to the formidable Curlew Cup next weekend where three gruelling ascents of the Ryals climb awaits the riders.
Position Forename Surname Club / Team Name Total Time
1 Grace Garner Podium Ambition Pro Cycling p/b Club La Santa 4:17:47
2 Nicola Juniper Team Ford Ecoboost 4:17:50
3 Alice Cobb Matrix Fitness p/b Corley Cycles 4:18:43
4 Kelly Murphy Boot Out Breast Cancer C.C 4:18:53
5 Charline Joiner Team Ford Ecoboost 4:19:10
6 Alice Sharpe SunSport Velo 4:19:19
7 Charlotte Alston Team 22 4:19:21
8 Charlotte Broughton Team Ford Ecoboost 4:19:21
9 Clemence Copie Les Filles Racing Team 4:19:25
10 Chanel Mason Army Cycling Race Team (ACRT) 4:19:30
11 Julie Erskine Team Ford Ecoboost 4:19:36
12 Charmaine Porter Army Cycling Race Team (ACRT) 4:19:36
13 Helen Ralston 4:19:39
14 Aoife Doherty The 5th Floor Cycle Club 4:19:44
15 Alicia Speake CC London 4:19:45
16 Melissa Brand Team Ford Ecoboost 4:19:45
17 Lauren Murphy Liv Cycling Club - Epic Coaching 4:19:47
18 Jennifer Holden Fusion RT Fierlan 4:19:49
19 Kate Baker Performance Cycles 4:19:51
20 Nicole Oh Les Filles Racing Team 4:19:53
21 Gabriella Shaw Podium Ambition Pro Cycling p/b Club La Santa 4:20:06
22 Elizabeth-Jane Harris Podium Ambition Pro Cycling p/b Club La Santa 4:20:08
23 Bethany Haywood Podium Ambition Pro Cycling p/b Club La Santa 4:20:09
24 Madeleine Scott SunSport Velo 4:20:15
25 Gabriela Nordin Starley Racing 4:20:28
26 Sian Botteley Starley Racing 4:20:29
27 Elizabeth Stedman Fusion RT Fierlan 4:21:27
28 Fiona Hunter Johnston Fusion RT Fierlan 4:21:52
29 Michelle Lee 4:22:25
30 Jennifer Hudson Fusion RT Fierlan 4:22:30
31 Amy Gornal Podium Ambition Pro Cycling p/b Club La Santa 4:23:13
32 Megan Chard PMR@Toachim House 4:24:48
33 Rebecca Johnson Fast Test Racing Team 4:24:55
34 Louise Surridge Team Ford Ecoboost 4:24:59
35 Olivia Campbell Dulwich Paragon CC 4:25:04
36 Clover Murray Team Ford Ecoboost 4:25:06
37 Monica Dew Boot Out Breast Cancer C.C 4:25:40
38 Chloe Weller Army Cycle Race Team (ACRT) 4:27:46
39 Bethany Taylor Boot Out Breast Cancer C.C 4:39:39
40 Susan Freeburn PMR@Toachim House 4:40:37
41 Sarah Bradford Team Jadan-Weldtite 4:51:00
42 Victoria Strila PMR@Toachim House 4:55:43
43 Isla Rush Matrix Fitness p/b Corley Cycles 4:56:01
44 Petra Dolejsova The 5th Floor Cycle Club #VALUE!
45 Stephanie Mottram #VALUE!
46 Hilde Oudman Starley Racing #VALUE!