“Who’s in the break for Team GB?” I overheard a man ask his wife. “Is it Emma?”
She looked blank. “It’s the other one,” she said.
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Whereas most people lining the road race route on Saturday would have been able to identify Messers Cavendish, Wiggins and Froome, for many picking out the British women in today’s event clearly wasn’t proving so easy.
Not that it seemed to matter to the 100 or so fans gathered around a small TV in the Burford Bridge hotel at the bottom of Box Hill, many of whom will have sacrificed a good spot on the climb for a better position in front of the screen to see the finish.
Their enthusiasm – undamped by the heavy rain out – was clear to see; a British winner was a possibility, after all. It didn’t seem to matter if you knew who Lizzie Armitstead was or not, everyone bar a Dutch family in the room was backing the Brit.
There were cheers, Wimbledon-esque “come on Lizzie” chants and even some sustained clapping. Anything to stop biting the fingernails, I guess.
There was a brief moment of panic among some of the crowd when the TV pictures showed a British rider off the back with a mechanical. Once again it was a case of mistaken identity – the rider in question was indeed Emma Pooley, somewhat belatedly.
As the leading trio rode nearer to the finish, both noise levels and tension rose. Some were shouting encouragement at the screen, others were dishing out tactical advice.
Ultimately it the Briton’s day, but the women had given us a fantastic show of aggressive and determined riding, which is likely to elevate both Armitstead’s status as well as the profile of women’s cycling in this country.
That could be quite handy, especially if you ever get asked to identify who is in the front group of a race.
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