With two rounds to go the team was sitting in 4th, 8 points behind VC St Raphael in the overall team standings, and keen to make up that gap. With four girls on the start line, each had a rider to mark, and a clear objective – get points off VC St Raphael! The course has a bit of a climb and a few challenging corners, the group split fast, as usual, Lou was placed strongly in the front group, while Natalie, Sarah and V were battling for places as riders started to drop off the back. Both Natalie and Sarah ended up sat a little off the back of the group, Natalie put her race face on and got back up into the race, while Sarah and V both settled into smaller bunches to try to make up some ground. It was a fast race with lots of attacks, and a few crashes (wishing a speedy recovery to Lydia who came down pretty hard), and Natalie and Lou both managed to stay upright and finish in 12th and 10th respectively, edging out both VC St Raphael riders in the lead group. Sarah finished 2nd in the sprint in the chasing group, getting 18th overall, her first top 20 result of the series, but unfortunately one point behind Adel Tyson-Bloor of VC St Raphael, who managed to get a bit of a gap in the last corner and put in a fantastic sprint to hold onto her lead. V finished just out of the points but ahead of her marked riders, so a successful race for everyone, and 5 points gained back from VC St Raphael’s advantage.
Standings after round 4:
Team 4th overall
Lou 6th Overall
(we found out you have to do every round to get into the individual standings so unfortunately, despite all her points, Natalie is no longer in the standings)
Stoke on TrentStoke was the last stage of this years Johnsons Health Tech Grand Prix and also the first city to host a stage of the womens race. With the men doing their TTT in the afternoon, and the girls travelling down by train instead of in the car, there was a bit of a party atmosphere as the morning was spent sat in a lovely coffee shop at the train station and then another in the city centre watching the racing, rather than at the HQ warming up and signing on as usual. It stayed dry for the race but with a very strong wind it looked like it would be a tough race to end on, and lots of tired legs with only a day to recover after Woking. With Natalie tied up at work we had only 3 girls in the race to VC St Raphael’s 5, and knew it would be a big ask to get the team into 3rd overall. Lou as usual kept herself out of trouble by lining up right at the front for the sighting lap, a good tactic in this case as a crash in the second last corner more or less took half the field out of the race before it had even started. Unfortunately V and Sarah were behind it, Sarah got past quickly and chased hard but couldn’t get back across to the race, V was stuck for much longer and also ended up in no mans land – not a good place to be when the wind is threatening to blow you into the barriers! Helen Wyman attacked and made a huge gap on the bunch, staying away for the rest of the race. Lou also had good legs and was keeping things interesting for the lead group, attacking and staying away for several laps before getting reeled back in, and then attacking some more. Wyman took the win, with Laura Massey in 2nd and Jessie Walker 3rd, and Lou 14th in the bunch sprint. Meanwhile in the chasing group, Sarah did a bit of attacking too, getting a good gap on the rest of the chase, but reeled in with 5 to go after Wyman passed the group and inadvertently giving them a little tow back up. With lapped riders asked to retire with 3 to go, this left 2 laps to recover, and she managed to cross the line first out of her group, just enough to scrape into 19th. V spent most of the race battling the wind but kept going right to the end, and then a bit, as nobody told her to stop!
This was enough to keep the team in 4th overall, with Lou doing a fantastic job to finish 9th overall individual.