Alice Towers wins British National Road Championships with long-range solo attack

The 19-year-old became British champion amidst brutal weather conditions in Dumfries and Galloway

Alice Towers wins the British National Road Championships.
(Image credit: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

Alice Towers (Le Col-Wahoo) won the British National Road Championships after a memorable solo attack from 40km out despite brutal weather conditions in Dumfries and Galloway.

The 19-year-old from Yorkshire could not be caught by the chasing group that included a number of Women's World Tour riders, crossing the finish line with an advantage of over a minute.

Last year's champion Pfeiffer Georgi (Team DSM) edged out Anna Henderson in the sprint for second place.

Towers' teammate Lizzie Holden narrowly missed out on a podium spot, finishing fourth.

HOW IT HAPPENED

The battle to be crowned British National Road Champion took place over a 128km route around Dumfries and Galloway for the country's best women, starting and finishing in Castle Douglas.

Two laps of a 22.9km circuit were followed by six shorter laps of 13.7km over an undulating parcours that had a total of 750m of climbing.

Conditions for the race were typically Scottish – driving rain and strong winds that made the testing course even more challenging.

Headwinds for the opening half of the circuit made early attacks an unenviable task, however Christina Wiejak (Saint Piran WRT) managed to force a gap between herself and the rest of the field after just 7km.

The 29-year-old benefitted from the peloton becoming stretched by a crash at the back of the bunch.

Monica Greenwood (Team Boompods) attempted to follow Wiejak but struggled to completely bridge the gap.

The peloton finished the first lap a further 50 seconds behind before reeling in Greenwood with 100km to go.

Dame Sarah Storey (Storey Racing) went to work at the front of the pack, cutting down Wiejak’s lead to less than two minutes during the second of the two longer laps.

With 82km to go, and the race now moving onto the shorter circuit, the gap between the lone leader and the peloton sat at under a minute.

The conditions around the course were miserable, as the rain and wind continued to cause havoc.

With the race now onto the shorter circuit, the roads narrowed and Wiejak’s lead dwindled.

By the time the Saint Piran WRT rider had reached the end of the first small circuit laps she was in touching distance for the chasing peloton.

Wiejak held out for half a lap, but she was eventually consumed by the bunch, who were now nervy as they awaited the next attacker.

However, the awful weather conditions across the circuit meant that the riders still in contention appeared keen to keep their cards close to their chests.

With 50km to go, Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) attacked on the steepest section of the circuit, with several of the pre-race favourites momentarily joining her off the front of the peloton.

A group of 15, including Henderson, five riders from Le Col–Wahoo, Pfeiffer Georgi (Team DSM), Elynor Backstedt (Trek-Segafredo) and Abi Smith (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) managed to push on.

Le Col-Wahoo played the numerical game though, with Alice Towers going clear on her own with less than three laps to go.

As Towers raced away, the chasing group was caught by the peloton behind.

Attacks were coming thick and fast now as the race entered the final 30km, with Georgi attempting to whittle down the remaining riders left in the pack with a burst of speed, however last year’s champion was tightly marked.

Towers remained clear though, with a gap of 45 seconds as she headed into Castle Douglas with two laps remaining.

CAMS-Basso’s Sammie Stuart did manage to get away from the group to go off in hunt of Towers, but the gruelling conditions made hunting down the lone leader a tricky task for the full-time firefighter.

Towers’ lead over Stuart was around minute, but even more reassuring for the Le Col-Wahoo rider was her gap over the peloton - standing at more than two minutes with 20km remaining.

The bunch were not going to lie down and let Towers ride comfortably to the finish though.

Georgi attacked up the sole climb on the short circuit, taking Henderson, Backstedt and Lizzie Holden (Le Col-Wahoo) with her.

The chasing quartet were closing in on Stuart as they heard the bell, indicating one last lap of the 13.7km circuit, with a time gap of more than 90 seconds to Towers.

Stuart was caught early into the final lap, and the group of five began to try to reel in the sole leader.

With around 6km remaining, Towers had a gap of just over a minute as she tackled the steepest section of the course for one final time.

The chasing group then attempted to attack each other in a bid to boost their chances of a podium spot, and this only played into Towers’ hands more as her lead of a minute remained intact.

Backstedt and Stuart were dropped as Henderson, Georgi and Holden – Towers’ teammate – continued to hunt the youngster down.

The tailwind to the finish line made for a pacy finale, however, Towers safely weaved her way through the wet streets of Castle Douglas to reach the line with an advantage of over a minute. 

In the battle for the podium spot, Holden led out the sprint on the false-flat drag to the line in Castle Douglas, but it was Georgi who had the power to take second place, beating off Henderson inside the final 100m.

Alongside the elite title, Towers also secures the U23 crown with Georgi and Backstedt rounding out the podium in that competition.

RESULTS

BRITISH NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS - WOMEN'S ROAD RACE: CASTLE DOUGLAS - CASTLE DOUGLAS (128km)

1. Alice Towers, Le Col-Wahoo
2. Pfeiffer Georgi, DSM
3. Anna Henderson, Jumbo-Visma
4. Lizzie Holden, Le Col-Wahoo
5. Elynor Backstedt, Trek-Segafredo
6. Sammie Stuart, CAMS-Basso
7. Alice Barnes, Canyon-SRAM
8. Eluned King, Le Col-Wahoo
9. Abi Smith, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB
10. Danielle Khan, Solihull CC

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