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A huge week in cycling as Lucy Garner wins the Best British Rider jersey and proves Britain’s first ever level stage cycling race for women, the Women’s Tour, is a huge success.  Adele Norris reports

At the start line among the competitors ready to relish Britain’s first-ever UCI level stage-race for women was five-times a world champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell, World Cup leader Lizzie Armitstead, world No.1 Marianne Vos of the Netherlands and double Olympic champion Laura Trott.

Lucy Garner, Twitter: @Lucygarner94

Rowsell said: ‘Everyone wants a piece of us. Now is the most exciting time to be a female cyclist, everyone’s talking about it.’

But the 25-year-old was devastated to have to pull out of the Women’s Tour through illness.

With equal prize money, daily television coverage and athletes put up in good hotels instead of campsites, the race began:

In the opening stage of the inaugrural tour GB’s Hannah Barnes took third-place finish.

Hannah Barnes, Twitter: @bannahharnes

Sweden’s Emma Johansson won a sprint finish to take the first 93.8 kilometre stage from Oundle to Northampton with Marianne Vos second and the 21-year-old third.

Barnes is riding for UnitedHealthcare  and is one of a host of Brits in action with double junior world champion Lucy Garner sixth in the opening stage.

Emily Kay, Ciara Horne, Hayley Jones and Katie Archibald all finished with Amy Hill ending the stage eight minutes and 44 seconds back.

Barnes said: ‘I’ve been nervous since I knew we were coming to the race, so to get stage one out of the way is great.

‘I didn’t expect to be in third place, so to do that and win two jerseys is great – it was one of my best-ever results.

‘The roads in Northamptonshire were great and everyone was out there cheering – the crowds were absolutely amazing.

Katie Archibald, Twitter: @babbyarchie

The second stage, 118.8km from Hinckley to Bedford, saw two-time world junior champion on the road, Lucy Garner, finish fifth for the Great Britain Cycling Team.

Rossella Ratto took the stage after a long break, latterly in the company of fellow Italian Susanna Zorzi, before Marianne Vos won a bunch sprint, involving Garner, for third place.

Garner is the Great Britain Cycling Team’s highest-placed rider in the general classification in tenth with Lizzie Armitstead, riding for Boels Dolmans, the best Brit overall in fifth at this stage. Hannah Barnes is sixth overall for UnitedHealthcare.

Garner said: ‘The whole way around everyone was just screaming my name it was so nice. I was smiling constantly. All the little kids at school were saying ‘Go GB, Go Lucy’ it was really nice to hear that.’

A bunched sprint on stage three saw Garner finish eighth to hold her overall position, the day’s victory going to world and Olympic champion Marianne Vos.

Completing the podium on day three was Emma Johannson and Giorgio Bronzini, who were second and third, while Lizzie Armistead was the best-placed Brit in fourth.

PICTURE BY VAUGHN RIDLEY/SWPIX.COM - Cycling - 2013 British Cycling National Road Race Championships - Glasgow, Scotland - 23/06/13 - Lizzie Armitstead of Boels Dolmans CT wins the Women's Race.
PICTURE BY VAUGHN RIDLEY/SWPIX.COM – Cycling – 2013 British Cycling National Road Race Championships – Glasgow, Scotland – 23/06/13 – Lizzie Armitstead of Boels Dolmans CT wins the Women’s Race.

But it was a gutting day for double London 2012 gold medallist Laura Trott who was taken to hospital for x-rays on a suspected broken elbow following a crash.

The rider finished stage three and it was later reported that she will start stage four when the x-rays revealed she only suffered some bad bruising.

Stage four shone for Great Britain’s Lucy Garner yet again. She finishing third in a sprint finish and moved up to seventh in the general classification.

While Laura Trott recovered in time from her crash in stage three to take her place at the start, Great Britain’s squad was one lighter with Emily Kay forced to withdraw from the race following a heavy clash on stage two.

Laura Trott, centre, gets her medal. Picture
Laura Trott, centre, gets her medal. Picture

With one stage left Garner is 37 seconds behind world champion and leader Marianne Vos, who claimed her second consecutive stage victory.

‘I’m really happy with that, I felt like I had quite a strong sprint at the end,’ said 19-year-old Garner.

‘There was a bit of carnage at the last corner. Marianne and [Georgina] Bronzini managed to get through then there was a group of us who were thinking ‘it’s tighter than we thought’.’

Great Britain’s Lucy Garner’s dreams came true on the final stage of the tour when she won the Best British Rider jersey.

Olympic road race silver medallist and leader of the Best British Rider classification Lizzie Armitstead was forced to withdraw due to illness.

But the 19-year-old double junior world champion made sure shed picked up the baton on the final stage, finishing 12th to end up seventh overall.

Dutch world champion Marianne Vos won the final stage – her third successive victory – and with that came the general classification win.

Marianne Vos, Twitter: @marianne_vos

‘I really wanted to be wearing this so once I knew (Liz) wasn’t doing it that was an aim and to just try and stay where I was in the GC,’ Garner said.

‘My aim was to get a top three in a stage so it was nice to get that yesterday. It was just nice to get that opportunity.

‘It’s been amazing, every day has been incredible. Going on the podium and everyone is cheering you, it’s such a nice feeling that they are backing you and supporting us.’

Hannah Barnes finished in eighth overall, one place behind Garner with double Olympic champion Dani King in 28th while Sharon Laws won the Queen of the Mountain jersey – awarded for attaining points during designated ‘climb’ sections during each stage of the event.

Laura Trott, who had a heavy crash on stage three, ended 55th overall and crossed the finish line alongside her sister Emma, who is retiring.

credit: Friends Life Women's Tour
credit: Friends Life Women’s Tour

The Women’s Tour has been new for everyone. Ahead of the race at the start of the week Joanna Rowsell summed up what the Britain’s first ___ means for women in cycling: ‘I think it is going to be massive. Already the foreign riders within my team have said they’re really excited about it.

‘In the UK I think we’re really leading the way and the next logical step is an international race, which they’ve managed to get together.’

King and Trott, Rowsell’s Wiggle-Honda teammates, aimed to inspire younger riders while tempting novices to the sport between Wednesday’s start in Oundle and Sunday’s finish in Bury St Edmunds.

‘I think women’s cycling is going to be huge,’ Rowsell said in March, fresh from her latest World Championship heroics and at a Q&A in Manchester Central at the Bike & Tri show.

‘Younger girls that are in the sport have something to look up to. When I started, Victoria Pendleton was the only one really racing at that level whereas at the moment there a lot of top girls.’

credit: Friends Life Women's Tour
credit: Friends Life Women’s Tour

Great Britain team coach Darren Tudor praised Lucy through out the Tour: ‘Lucy is clearly going well. Every day she’s getting up there in the bunch sprints, which we always expected.

‘Being based out in the Netherlands she’s getting this kind of racing all the time, which clearly shows.

‘She’s gaining stacks of experience so for a 19-year-old she’s consistently performing which is great.’

During the Tour world champion Katie Archibald, who was testing the road from the track, said: ‘I love being on the track but there is a huge motivation to go there and do well and to help get a result for Lucy Garner.

‘All the girls on the tour are probably in similar positions, so we will definitely have a good understanding and hopefully we will do well.’


Tributes have been paid to former British tennis number one Elena Baltacha, who died this week after a short battle with liver cancer.


Baltacha, who was 30, was the British number one from December 2009 to June 2012.

She won 11 International Tennis Federation titles, breaking into the world’s top 50 in 2010.

Elena was also part of Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics. Part of the build up to the games she was a torchbearer.

‘We have lost a shining light from the heart of British tennis – a true role model, a great competitor and a wonderful friend,’ said Iain Bates, the Lawn Tennis Association’s head of women’s tennis.

‘We have so many special memories to cherish, but this leaves a gaping hole for everybody in both British and women’s tennis, and words simply cannot express how saddened we are by this news.’

Baltacha retired from professional tennis last November after struggling to overcome a series of injuries and was diagnosed with her illness in January, only weeks after she married her long-term coach Nino Severino.

‘We are heartbroken beyond words at the loss of our beautiful, talented and determined Bally,’ said Severino, in a statement released by her family.

‘She was an amazing person and she touched so many people with her inspirational spirit, her warmth and her kindness.’


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