Banbury Star Ladies Road Race 2019
26th May 2019
On Sunday 26 May Flo, Louise and Becky took part in the Banbury Star Road Race (a 70km road race), as part of the National Women's Team Series. The circuit just outside Banbury town centre takes in the rolling countryside, with a few long descents and twisty sections, and three ascents of Edge Hill. Flo, having raced this event twice previously, knew all about “Edge Hill”. Louise and Becky saw it during their course recce in the car, but seeing it and riding it were something else entirely. With that hill and a stacked field of 52 women, including top Elite and Cat 1 and 2 riders, the girls were pushed to their limits.
After a neutralised roll out onto the course with ladies all scrapping for position, the flag was pulled in and the race was on.
The start was fairly steady, no major moves went. It seems everyone was waiting for the first time up Edge Hill to test the pack out. Flo, Becky and Louise worked on keeping towards the front of the pack, with Flo generally sitting two or three wheels back in a good position. Early on, several women took some risky moves up the pack, venturing out onto the other side of the road.
The peloton was still together at the start of the climb and Flo and Becky moved up, leading the group up the first two thirds of Edge Hill. This was tough as there was quite a strong headwind. The pack had begun to string out and then towards the top third of the climb some surges went (where the gradient had nicely ramped up to 17%). A small lead group formed , with Flo comfortably following the move. Benefiting from good positioning on the climb, Becky was in a smaller chase pack, just behind, which Louise managed to catch up to over the top of the climb, having not been positioned well at the start of the climb. It was then full gas and head down for them to try bridge the gap, which was small but was hard work in the headwind. The chase group had nearly caught on when the race was neutralised (due to the earlier moves taken by certain women crossing the white line). After a telling-off the race resumed after a neutralised roll-out.
The pack was jumpy at this point and a few riders were annoyed that all their hard work on the climb had come to nothing. It might have been a different race entirely had it not been neutralised. The pack worked through the windy section of the course which included a sharp hairpin bend, through some small villages and a small descent which led into a short sharp climb to the end of the first lap and what would be the finish line...but not until another two ascents of Edge Hill were completed.
Flo, Becky and Louise maintained their positions well throughout the second lap and again approaching the climb was the business part of the lap. Not as well positioned on this occasion, Becky and Louise got boxed in by a few girls and had to battle to get around them, losing some ground, a gap opened between them and the front group of 10 or so. Flo again was brilliantly positioned on the climb and battled up in the front group along with some Bianchi and Brother Tifosi OnForm riders.
Over the top of the climb Becky and Louise kept pushing get back to the front group. A working group of five formed and the girls encouraged each other to push on. A few more girls caught on and despite the five of them working at the front, the chase pack had over doubled in size with a few girls just sitting in on the back. This proved to be a tough part of the race as Becky and Louise had to work hard, but eventually they caught the front group not long before the third and final ascent of Edge Hill (with about 10 km to go) . Positioning would be key for the last brutal time up the climb. This time up the climb the pack was absolutely shattered. Again, Flo demonstrated her strength, reaching the top of the climb with the front group of 8. Becky was in the next group behind in a pack of 15 or so, which included women from top teams including Brother Tifosi On Form, Brother UK Fusion, and Bianchi dama. Louise was in a third pack and included riders from Storey Racing, Brother Fusion and Liv teams. It was a tough last ascent and there further groups strung out behind them.
For the final 10km, Louise’s group pushed hard and started to sweep up others that had dropped from the group in front. Louise rolled over the line in 30th place. Becky’s group worked hard and the pace was high, they were keen to try and catch on to the font pack and could see them just in the distance for most of the race. Approaching the descent before the sharp climb to the finish Becky surged to the front and the pack lined out. Becky led until the crest of the climb and with 200m to the finish she was clawed back by the group, finishing in 18th place. Flo headed into the final 400m climb to the finish in the front pack of 7 riders. Once the sprint started, the pack strung out, and she managed to sprint past one rider before the line to secure a brilliant 6th place, and her top result in a National Women’s Team Series race.