Anyone watching the women’s elite road race at the Flanders world championships last September might have been forgiven for thinking there was more than one Team GB rider wearing a Jumbo-Visma helmet.
After the British took control through Leuven and onto the Flanders circuit, the race exploded in attack after attack, most of them marked by a white jerseyed rider in one of those yellow and black helmets.
But despite its omnipresence there was only one GB rider wearing the distinctive lid. From the 100th kilometre onward Anna Henderson was rarely further back than 20th position. Indeed she covered 14 attacks for her leader, Lizzie Deignan, before making her own move off the front too.
Though she eventually finished 25th, 11 places and 48 seconds behind Deignan, she was arguably the strongest British rider in the race, maybe even the strongest woman overall. Despite that there is no hint that she feels she should have been going for the win.
“Unfortunately I couldn’t follow the last attacks to help Lizzie in the final,” she tells us from a pre-season Mallorca training camp. “Surprisingly I had really good legs, I didn’t feel very good at the start of the race and I told Lizzie and she told me to hang in and keep going. I really enjoyed it, the atmosphere was amazing and it was the best British performance anybody’s seen in years.” She’s not wrong.
“It was a long and tiring season for everybody, and I was just trying to keep right for the nationals and worlds. You spend the whole of September and October surprised if you have any form.”
Form hung around a few weeks longer though, Henderson putting in a dominant performance to win the national time trial title in Lincoln. “My power was terrible. I kept looking a my Garmin and thinking ‘this is not good day, but just keep going.’ I think what happened is that I managed to make my bike go really fast in places that other people didn't.
“I was actually very, very surprised to have come across the line first, it was a really bizarre day, which ended up being a really good day.”
The result was a far cry from her first ride at nationals, only three years before, aged just 19. There, on the roads around the Northumbrian town of Ponteland she finished ninth, 2.33 behind winner Hannah Barnes.
You can read the full interview in the January 27 edition of Cycling Weekly magazine, available to buy online and in stores. You can also subscribe to Cycling Weekly, save on the cover price and get it delivered to your door every Thursday.
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