Emma Pooley’s win at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda in Italy on Sunday – the opening round of the UCI Women’s World Cup – was the icing on the cake for a strong week of performances by British riders on the road and track.
A packed programme of racing meant that the Track World Championships, Volta a Catalunya, Ghent-Wevelgem, Dwars door Vlaanderen, Criterium International, E3 Prijs, Tour de Normandie and Trofeo Alfredo Binda all took place over the past seven days – and British riders were in the mix in pretty much all of the big events.
British riders made a total of 15 appearances in the top three of international events – but that is a statistic that hides some of the most inspiring performances of the week.
The week started with Great Britain academy riders Luke Rowe and Mark Christian placing second and third behind winner Tobias Ludvigsson in the Tour of Normandy prologue. Two days later, Rowe moved into the leader’s jersey after finishing third on stage three of the UCI 2.2-ranked race. Rowe completed the race on Sunday fifth overall behind Frenchman Alexandre Blain, who rides for British-based team Endura Racing.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, British national road race champion Geraint Thomas (Sky) was duking it out with Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank) for the honours at Dwars door Vlaanderen in Belgium. The two riders were the remnants of an early escape, but had managed to keep the pack from swallowing them up. Thomas sprinted for the line, but was passed by Nuyens in the last few metres.
Over in Spain, Sky’s Chris Froome was a big player in the day’s escape group in stage five of the Volta a Catalunya on Friday – inevitably, Froome’s breakaway was caught by the bunch within the final 5km. Also worth noting is that Birmingham-born Irishman Daniel Martin (Garmin) finished the race on Sunday in third place behind winner Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank).
On Sunday, Ian Stannard had British fans holding their breath again as he launched a solo effort at the end of Ghent-Wevelgem. Stannard had shed his breakaway companions for a last-ditch attempt to take a lone win in the Belgian classic. And he nearly made it, cruelly caught by the accelerating sprinters just 200 metres from the line.
On Corsica, British time trial champion Bradley Wiggins (Sky) was en route to his second runner-up spot in a major time trial this season, placing behind stage winner Andreas Kloden (Radioshack) in Criterium International‘s final 7km test against the clock on Sunday.
In Italy, British road race champion Emma Pooley (Garmin-Cervelo) soloed to win the Trofeo Alfredo Binda for a second time – the first was in 2008 – putting over a minute and a half into her closest rivals on the tesing course. She goes into the women’s Tour of Flanders on Sunday as one of the hot favourites.
From Wednesday to Sunday, Britain’s track squad was in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, contesting the 2011 UCI Track World Championships. Although there wasn’t the overwhelming gold rush of previous years, the squad still came away with a respectable haul of medals topped by Wendy Houvenaghel, Dani King and Laura Trott’s gold in the women’s team pursuit.
Britain’s male team pursuiters, male and female team sprinters, Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, Victoria Pendleton and Dani King all won medals at the track worlds.
The stand-out factor from a grand week of classy British performances is the age of some of those top performers – Laura Trott, Dani King, Luke Rowe, Geraint Thomas, Mark Christian, Jason Kenny, Matt Crampton and Ian Stannard are all under 25 with their best racing years ahead of them.
Brits in the mix: Top three results (March 21 to 27 2011)
1st: Emma Pooley, Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Italy (Sunday, March 27)
1st: GB women’s team pursuit (Houvenaghel, King, Trott), Track World Championships, Netherlands (Thursday, March 24)
2nd: Geraint Thomas, Dwars door Vlaanderen, Belgium (Wednesday, March 23)
2nd: Luke Rowe, prologue, Tour of Normandy, France (Monday, March 21)
2nd: Bradley Wiggins, stage three TT, Criterium International, Corsica (Sunday, March 27)
2nd: Jason Kenny, sprint, Track World Championships, Netherlands (Friday, March 25)
2nd: Sir Chris Hoy, keirin, Track World Championships, Netherlands (Saturday, March 26)
2nd: GB, women’s team sprint, Track World Championships, Netherlands (Thursday, March 24)
3rd: Mark Christian, prologue, Tour of Normandy, France (Monday, March 21)
3rd: Luke Rowe, stage three, Tour of Normandy, France (Wednesday, March 23)
3rd: Sir Chris Hoy, sprint, Track World Championships, Netherlands (Friday, March 25)
3rd: GB, men’s team sprint, Track World Championships, Netherlands (Wednesday, March 23)
3rd: GB, men’s team pursuit, Track World Championships, Netherlands (Wednesday, March 23)
3rd: Victoria Pendleton, sprint, Track World Championships, Netherlands (Saturday, March 26)
3rd: Dani King, scratch race, Track World Championships, Netherlands (Saturday, March 26)
Near misses of the week
Ian Stannard on solo escape, caught in final 200 metres of Ghent-Wevelgem on Sunday (March 27)
Luke Rowe moved into the overall lead in the Tour de Normandie on Wednesday (March 23)
Chris Froome in escape group in stage five of Volta a Catalunya on Friday (March 25)
Flying the flag: Britain’s world-beating team pursuit trio, Wendy Houvenaghel, Laura Trott and Dani King
So close: Geraint Thomas comes second in Dwars door Vlaanderen
Bradley Wiggins placed second in Criterium International’s time trial