Words by Maria David
In front of large crowds close to St Paul’s Cathedral, Lucy Shaw (Drops Cycling) broke clear of a four-woman breakaway to claim victory in the Women’s Elite Criterium at the Rapha London Nocturne.
In the twilight of the City of London, seventy of the UK’s best female road racers lined up on Cheapside to contest 40 minutes of tough competition at the women’s Elite Criterium. Despite the top British racers being on duty at the Women’s Tour, this did not affect the numbers of women who turned out for this hotly contested race.
From the gun, Drops Cycling stamped their authority by firing Abigail Van Twisk off the front, making the bunch gallop along to bring her back during the first lap. Then it was the turn of Storey Racing to send a rider up the road.
This time it was Neah Evans, a rider known for her strong track racing skills. From the second lap, Evans gained a 20 second lead on the chasing pair of Annasley Park (Drops Cycling) and Barbara Guarischi (Canyon//SRAM). Having Guarischi in the chase group was invaluable for those trying to reel in the Scotswoman up ahead. However, given Guarischi’s pedigree, she was also the most feared rider for the win, and a tactic would be needed to get ahead of her in the final dash for the finish line.
As Guarischi and Park worked together the field split into two large groups, and Evans steamed ahead to claim the intermediate sprints. At the first intermediate sprint, the two large groups were fractured into various pieces, as the Drops rider outsprinted her Canyon//SRAM rival to get second place.
Meanwhile, a group of fast local riders was lapped by the leaders, but for many, this race was a great stage to show off their teams to the large crowds. From the elites of Drops, Storey Racing, and Canyon//SRAM through the strong UK-based squads of Les Filles Queen of the Mountains RT, The 5th Floor Cycle Club, and Team Ford Ecoboost, to local clubs such as CC London and VC de Londres, this showed how active the women’s racing scene is nowadays in the UK.
At three laps to go, another small group bridged across to join the three at the front, this new larger group consisting mainly of Team Storey Sport and Drops racers. At this point, the bike race became a game of chess to see who would be the eventual winner. Evans, a strong track sprinter, along with Guarischi were the ones to watch, and it would all depend on who could have the best lead-out. That came down to Drops who got organised and thanks to Annasley Park and Abi van Twisk, managed to get Lucy Shaw into the right position to leap ahead and take the win ahead of the Storey Racing pair of Neah Evans and Ejay Harris.
"There are great crowds, it’s a great event and this is the third year I have done it now. The course is good and it is just a really fun event to do" - Lucy Shaw, Crops Cycling
Speaking at the finish line, Shaw said, “I was worried that Neah would win because she was up there for a long time. She went from the gun almost and I was too far back at the start so I was on the back foot. She is such a strong rider, the sort of rider that you don’t want to give a gap to.
A very happy sporting director in the shape of Tom Varney was really happy with the way the Drops riders raced. Tom said, "We had a good Tour Series, a similar type of racing to this, so we wanted to go out there and have fun."
Earlier in the evening a fixed gear criterium took place with a number of riders from that race also competing in the Elite Criterium. Among them was Nikki Kovacs, a strong local track rider. Speaking about the race she said: “The race was fast and aggressive, and the skill level has really gone up. The days of just spinning around in a bunch sprint finish are fading away – the race dynamic is evolving along with the sport. It’s great! Doing the fixed gear criterium first could definitely be referred to as a very very very good warm up!"
As part of the World Series of Nocturne races, there will be another Nocturne round in Copenhagen on August 19th.
Top 10 finishers:
1 Lucy Shaw - Drops
2 Neah Evans - Storey Racing
3 Elizabeth-Jane Harris - Storey Racing
4 Annasley Park - Drops
5 Femke Van Kessel - WV Breda
6 Charmaine Porter - Team Ford Ecoboost
7 Barbara Guarischi - CANYON//SRAM Racing
8 Abigail Van Twisk - Drops
9 Bethany Crumpton - Storey Racing
10 Monica Dew - Storey Racing