September 21, 2012 (Limberg, NED) – Great Britain’s Lucy Garner scored another gold for the UK defending her title as Junior Women’s road champ, as she capitalized on a picture perfect lead-out by her teammate Elinor Barker, this year’s Junior TT winner. Starting early at the 500 meter mark the British Junior women’s team strategy delivered the goods with Garner making no mistake as she claimed the gold.
Norwegian, Eline Brustad (seeded 59th), who was a mountain biker until this year, benefited from a huge effort from her team to best Italy’s Anna Sticker at the line to claim the silver. Sticker, also a relatively new junior rider seeded 29th, was happy to take home the bronze.
Canada’s Audrey Labrie, seeded 54th, had a solid ride with a few riders – “we worked together well” for much of the race – placing 43rd just 32 seconds from the leaders. Allyson Gillard and Ariane Bonhomme stayed together placing 68-69th, respectively at 9:02 behind the victor.
The Canadian team was short one rider on the start line today as Saskia Kowalchuk suffered a slight concussion from her ITT crash earlier in the week. “I felt bad not to help my team today, but I was told not to race.”
The Junior Women were the first riders to take on the 16.1 kilometer road race course, covering it 5 times including two climbs, the Bemelerberg (900 meters long, max 7%) and the Cauberg (1.5 kilometer, max 12%). The 80.5km race gave the United Nations of cycling crowd plenty of time to wave their national flags as the juniors suffered the Cauberg more times than they may have wanted.
The two climbs challenged the peloton leaving a lead group of about 30 riders that got whittled down to 20 who would contest the final sprint on the last lap.
Early on during the first lap it looked like a nervous race as there was a crash involving a few American riders, a Chilean and a French rider but all of them survived and regrouped.
As the race progressed the question of who might dethrone the UK defending champ wasn’t decided until the sprint finish. Up until that point various teams lined up for the kill, though not one team was hungry enough to set up a serious attack.
Barker lead her team controlling the race keeping pressure on the other squads as the Brits first kept back at first but then put the heat on after the first lap. Dutch riders Ashlynn van Baarle and Kirsten Coppens and Belgian favourite Lotte Kopecky were in the mix until the final throw down, with the Polish, Spanish, Danish and Italian teams fighting for position. But the Brits showed true grit when it counted.
Garner, the 2012 Junior European Road Champ as well as on the track (Junior 2012 Scratch), underlined her clutch win today adding another laurel noteworthy because another Brit, Nicole Cooke, also won back to back Junior Championships.
A day after her 18th birthday, Garner was asked today if she felt any pressure regarding Cooke. “ I put a lot of pressure on myself ! Today was tough especially at the beginning where a lot of riders were nervous and so I kept up front to avoid the crashes. After the pace got faster, everyone seemed to settle down. This course suited me quite well, especially with the last climb up the Cauberg.” As expected the legendary Cauberg climb became the deciding factor between sprinters’ fatigue and victory.
Garner, who won in Copenhagen last year in a very different race, was delivered to the best line and position possible easily beating the surprisingly strong Brustad. “I know I wasn’t supposed to be in line for a metal but as I was in good position for the whole race I was able to push through the pain – and yes, I think I’ll continue with road racing rather than mountain biking!”
The only two climbs – about half distance apart from each other – did little to provide the crowds with much drama producing no significant breakaway until the very last lap when finally a group of ten managed to put the pain on the pack splintering the lead group from 27 to 19 riders with Barker leading the second group at 3 seconds behind, pumping her fists as she helped Garner take home another rainbow jersey.
Full results HERE.