August 01, 2016 0 Comments
On Saturday evening the RideLondon festival continued apace. As we arrived in The Mall the Freecycle event was just drawing to an end, with many people still enjoying the rare opportunity to cycle around some of London's famous landmarks on closed roads.
As the roads were closed to the public the pro teams started to arrive on-site. As no team cars were allowed on the circuit during the race - only neutral service - the swannies and mechanics populated the pits with spare bikes, bottles and wheels.
Sadly for British fans, Nikki Juniper's Team Ford Ecoboost were denied a place in the starting line-up. Nikki - reigning British Cycling Road Series Champion - has been in tremendous form this year and surely would have relished the opportunity to mix things up in a circuit race with some of the top female riders in the world.
This was all the more frustrating when team of the season Boels-Dolmans pulled out on the eve of the race due to not being able to field the minimum number of riders.
Teams gathered ready to roll on to the circuit. Ali Tetrick and her Cylance Pro Cycling teammates appeared very relaxed pre-race, chatting to the officials and rival teams.
Hannah Barnes looked resplendent in her GBR National Champs kit, as did Mieke Kroeger of GER, as they listen to last minute team talk from Canyon SRAM Racing DS Beth Duryea.
Despite our light-hearted claim earlier in the year that these jerseys resemble an infamous Aston Villa FC goalkeeper kit from the early Nineties, Rapha have done a really nice job and the kit is certainly one of the coolest in this race.
Kirsten Wild of Hitec Products has the honour of wearing the famous "lucky" number 51 dossard. She was the last of the riders to roll on to the finish line after a brief chat with an official, possibly checking exactly how much prize money was available for first across the line.
Some of the favourites line-in at the front of the pack as the clock ticks down to 17:00. Everyone looks remarkably relaxed considering prize money totalling €100,000 is up for grabs.
The girls from Ale' Cipollini seem to have a difference of opinion as to which way they should be going ...
Possibly the most stunning backdrop for a crit race? Buckingham Palace stares back down the final straight as the seconds tick away before the start.
Not everyone gets nervous before the start of a big bike race, huge live audience and live on TV. Amy Roberts of Wiggle High5 sat patiently for the flag to drop, much to the amusement of team mate Lucy Garner, who mimicked her arm-folding just out of shot.
Not even a last moment adjustment on the start line could phase Amy. Calm as anything she just checked the rear wheel and then resumed her arm folding as if there was not a care in the world.
Marta Bastianelli of Ale' Cipollini holds on the the barriers underneath the start arch. There's a really nice atmosphere around the start area. Lucy Garner hands me a bottle from another rider and asks me to put it down on the other side of the barrier. Despite its many recent changes cycling remains as friendly as accessible as it has always been. Aside from the occasional run-in with stewards who seem to more comfortable working at athletics venues than bike races.
One innovation that seems to have been universally well received is the introduction of GoPro cameras on bikes. Here Amy Roberts has a camera fixed under her saddle filming the race behind her. Lucy Garner is not only recording images, she will be broadcasting live coverage for TV.
Less than a minute to go now before the start and everyone bunches up a little closer to the line. There's a lot of cash resting on the outcome of this race, and the girls are eager to get started.
And they are off! It takes precisely 11 seconds for those at the back to get their front wheel over the start line, and the richest race in women's cycling is underway.
Joe Fisher is on the mark as ever, whipping the crowd into a frenzy as the riders approach the start/finish line for the first pass. First lap was neutralised and the racing proper starts this time around.
Board banging is brought to you in association with Continental Tyres. Bang those boards people. Hup-hup-hup ...
Cameraman gets in my shot - how rude! Live pictures broadcast to the screen just visible above his head and also to homes all over the UK via BBC.
I guess Lizzie had a nice view from her bedroom window. The race loops past and back around Buckingham Palace.
Several attempts by riders to escape are all pulled back and the race eventually finishes in a bunch sprint.
Kirsten goes Wild! a couple of hundred meters after the line she celebrates winning the RideLondon Classique and picking up a tasty cheque for her troubles.
The effects of the tough race are all too evident as Ale' Cipollini's Polish rider Jasinska Malgorzata slumps over her bars trying to recover.
It's smiles all round for Team Hitec Products and a job well done as the girls head back in the direction of the podium for official ceremony duties.
Former pro and now RaboLiv WomenCyclingTeam DS Koos Moerenhout waits with the team to hear if they won the Team prize, and the €10,000 prize money. They did, and were heard immediately after saying "this is THE BEST race EVER".
Not everyone can be a winner, but all the teams appeared to enjoy the experience. Team BTC City Ljubljana celebrate with a team photo in The Mall, with Buckingham Palace as the breathtaking backdrop.
Hannah Barnes of Canyon SRAM Racing patiently gives an interview while the technician recovers the broadcast camera from under the saddle of her race bike.
Chapeau! to Alexis Ryan of Canyon SRAM Racing, third place in the sprint classification, but more importantly, first place in the how to wear a casquette like a boss classification.
There are plenty of media duties for Kirsten as she's kept busy with interviews for TV, radio and written press well after the podium presentation.
She still had time for one last victory selfie before heading off to count her prize money.
All in all a very enjoyable race and fantastic to see the top women in the world racing hard and enjoying a thoroughly memorable experience racing around the iconic landmarks of London village.
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