Women’s Tour of Britain – Stage One
La Fuga’s John Deering is embedded with the crack US / Canadian squad Optum-Kelly for the duration of the Women’s Tour to provide the team support.
Yesterday’s first stage was a brisk 94kms from Oundle to Northampton. Shooting along closed roads between leafy hedgerows and yellow fields of rapeseed, there are cycling fans scattered willy-nilly across the Northamptonshire countryside. Every gateway features a parked car with accompanying picnic chairs and expectant smiley people. Every school has abandoned the national curriculum to turf out a million happy yelling pupils on to the roadside. And despite it being still definitely morning, the many pubs that populate the little villages along the pretty route are doing a roaring trade.
There’s no escaping it. The inaugural Women’s Tour is unequivocally A Big Race.
There were thousands in Oundle for the start. It’s the biggest thing to hit Oundle since… since… well. It was a big deal for the good burghers there. Oundlers, as I think we can call them, turned out en masse to see the best riders in the sport, among them La Fuga’s friends in the Optum-Kelly line up.
Optum-Kelly’s Jade Wilcoxson was resplendent in her US National Road Champion’s stars’n’stripes jersey on the signing-on stage. She was in the real action early on too, but not at the end of the bunch she’d hoped for, as the gravel driveways of Boughton Hall brought a degree of chaos to the bunch. She may have hit the deck, but the former ‘cross star managed to do it with a degree of grace, so there was neither damage nor panic. The pace was high, but she chased back on, setting up a positive day for the team.
In the hotel tonight, bikes washed, pasta downed, legs polished, the girls gathered for a debrief. There was some disappointment that they had been unable to mix it with Marianne Vos, who was brilliantly pipped to the line by Orica’s Emma Johansson in front of an immense Northampton town centre crowd, but 11th for Lauren and Leah respectively wasn’t a bad return for their work. In fact, all five Optum-Kelly teammates were in the front group, so they’re confident they have nothing to fear and are in the right company.
We leave the lovely people at the Corby Holiday Inn today and head into deepest darkest Essex for three days in Colchester. I’ll tell you all about transfers and what goes on away from the route. The race heads from Hinckley to Bedford – a great day out. Bunk off work and get out there.