After a hiatus of more than two years, the British national championships returned last weekend. The 2020 race was cancelled due to the pandemic, and this year’s event was postponed from June to October, also due to Coronavirus. This meant that by the time the 2021 race came around, defending champion, Alice Barnes, had enjoyed more than her money’s worth in the red, white, and blue jersey, which she first pulled on in June 2019.
Since that time, women’s cycling has undergone significant progress and increased depth with no shortage of talented riders coming from the UK. Some of the names on the results sheet from 2019 remain familiar, others have moved on from the sport whilst bright young talents have emerged in their wake.
Henderson Dominates the Time Trial
Image credit: Alex Whitehead/SWpix
Second in the road race in 2019 was a 20-year-old Anna Henderson, who also won the U23 ITT title that year before signing as a stagiaire for Tibco-SVB. Since, Henderson has become a staple in WorldTour races, riding for her Jumbo Visma teammates and with impressive individual results. Henderson backed up her U23 time trial triumph from 2019 by winning the elite title last Thursday — almost a minute ahead of world hour record holder Joss Lowden of Drops-Le Col. Leah Dixon of Team Tibco-SVB put in an impressive ride to take third while defending champion Barnes took fourth, 1:20 down on Henderson.
The Road Race
The late-October date took its toll on the road race startlist with 38 withdrawals making for a peloton of just 81 riders. Notably absent was Paris Roubaix Femmes winner Lizzie Deignan — who hasn’t raced nationals since she won the title in 2017. Elsewhere, another of the UK's brightest talents, Lizzy Banks of Ceratizit WNT, was unable to race. She's been out of action since March after sustaining a concussion at Strade Bianche.
Image credit: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix
Barnes had her work cut out if she was to defend her road race title on one of the UK domestic circuit’s most iconic courses, Lincoln GP, which features the fearsomely steep and cobbled Michaelgate climb. As was to be expected from a British nationals taking place in October, it was a wet day out for the peloton.
ITT champion Henderson, alongside Anna Christian of Drops-Le Col s/b Tempur were the instigators of an early break which would become the main move of the day. UK-registered Continental team Drops took the reins with four of their riders featured in the move in the form of hour record holder Joss Lowden, Dani Christmas, April Tacey, and Christian. Barnes also made it into the move, as did newly-crowned U23 time trial champion Anna Shackley of Team SD Worx, circuit race champion Jo Tindley, Sophie Wright of Ale BTC Ljubljana, and Danielle Shrosbee.
All eyes were on Drops-Le Col who had a favourite in the form of Lowden as well as multiple other cards to play. Isolated, WorldTour riders Henderson, Pfeiffer Georgi, Barnes, and Shackley were forced to take the race into their own hands and attack. On the fifth ascent of the climb, Georgi showed her cards by attacking from the bottom, with only Henderson and Lowden able to follow. The group came back together but despite multiple attacks from Drops-Le Col, including impressive sustained solo efforts from both Christian and then Tacey, the team were unable to make anything stick. The latter made it to the foot of the final ascent before being passed by a charging Georgi, who crossed the line first at the top of Michaelgate taking both the elite and U23 title. 19-year-old Nelson took second with Lowden bucking the U23 trend in third.
Georgi Dazzles on Michaelgate
Image credit: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix
21-year-old Georgi has had a breakthrough season in 2021 but has really come into her own in the latter half of the year. She won the youth classification at the WWT Simac Ladies Tour by placing 6th overall, which she backed up by winning the 1.2 La Choralis Fourmies Féminine and claiming 8th overall at The Women’s Tour. With two more years on her contract with Team DSM, the future is looking bright for the young British Champion, although unlike Barnes, she will likely be defending her jersey in less than 12 months time.
Cover image: Alex Whitehead/SWpix