I wonder if getting cold, wet and muddy counts as being patriotic? They are all things inescapably linked with Britishness so I’m sure that all 70 riders on the start line for the Banbury Star Jubilee Road race did their bit to toast the Queen in a cycling kind of way. The weather couldn’t have been more bank holiday like – torrential rain and wind, plus throw in 3 times up a 14% climb and there were all the makings for a hard race. You could tell how bad the weather was by the number of girls sat in the HQ right up to the start, choosing to keep dry as an alternative warm up, although I was quite a fan of the burst of star jumps from Louise.
After her 3rd at the Hillingdon GP last weekend we MuleBar Girls, Lou, Sarah & I, were keen to continue the podium ways and the hard racing inevitably began the first time up Knowle Hill. Tamina Oliver (Abergavenny CC and eventual winner of Queen of the Knowle) was looking strong from the bottom and Sarah put in a fantastic challenge for the first QOK points as she sprinted across the top, tailing what remained of the bunch behind her.
The first selection of the race had been made and the group of about 15 of us who had stuck in it worked well together to maintain the gap throughout the next lap. It was great to find that every person was committed to staying ahead of any chasing bunches with Sarah and I still in the mix. The second time up the Knowle was a bit less of a surprise. Although given Lisa West from Twickenham CC could only make it up in first gear in her van it certainly didn’t get any easier. At the top the group had become a little smaller but the pace was still high as we rounded the back of the course.
Crossing the finish line for the penultimate time and hearing the bell I thought I might try something a little different. Legs were tired and it felt like the expectation of the race was that the hard part would be up the climb so I thought I might as well attack. I got a reasonable gap quite quickly but couldn’t seem to shake the bunch from my tail. On more than one occasion I wondered whether 24km from the finish I’d perhaps gone a little early. I felt like I was just hanging out there in the wind, within easy reeling distance but as the road began to snake about I was able to hide round corners and extend my lead a little to around 30 seconds.
On the climb they began to really bite at my ankles but the cheers from the spectators at the top helped spur me on to tackle the last few miles and looking back I could see Elinor Barker (Scott Contessa) bridging across. With about 5 team mates in the front group she was a good breakaway partner to have but I also knew she was a significantly better sprinter than me – a mixed blessing! There was a kick up to the finish and I knew my only option would be to go long. As we began the approach to the line I could hear a clunking noise and saw Elinor looking down at her gears. I grabbed the opportunity to attack but she was far too fast to react and as the road flattened Elinor came round me with ease to take the win. Lucy Garner (Node 4) completed the podium just about holding off Amy Roberts (Scott Contessa) in the front group sprint.
Sarah and Louise finished strong in the sprints from their groups, boding well for the next round of the Tour Series in Colchester on Thursday where we’ll be doing all we can to extend Louise’s top 10 position in the series overall. Thanks very much to Banbury Star for putting on the event and for having faith that women can tackle the same course as the men. It’s really refreshing to be able to do an identical race down to the last kilometre even though we might have all moaned about the climb at the time, but hey, that’s bike racing!