Memorable Derbyshire Aviva Women's Tour stage produces British winner in Armitstead
Posted: Fri, 17 Jun 2016 18:18
A superb day of racing along the roads of Derbyshire ended with a storybook ending as British rider Lizzie Armitstead took victory in Stage Three of the Aviva Women's Tour from Ashbourne to Chesterfield.
The reigning world champion fought off three others contenders in a sprint finish along the cobbles leading into the town's market place that were throng with cheering people.
In what was billed as the toughest 'Queen' stage of the five-stage race, with more than 2,000m of climbing in the 109km distance, an initial group of 11 riders broke away.
View a picture gallery of Stage Three.
But Armitstead, along with Elisa Longo Borghini and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio escaped from the front of the peleton to real in those at the head of the field, making a decisive move up Bank Road in Matlock.
And once the race swept into Chesterfield, in the shadow of the town's famous spire – having passed through Buxton, Monyash, Winster, Matlock, the Chatsworth House Estate and plenty of stunning scenery – Armistead had the sprint speed to take first place and, with it, the yellow jersey for overall race leader by five seconds.
It was a great day all round for Armistead's Boels Dolmans team, for whom Derbyshire rider Nikki Harris was also competing.
She was delighted to ride along some familiar roads and has the honour of travelling through her home village of Draycott when the race passes through Erewash and South Derbyshire during tomorrow's Stage Four from Nottingham to Stoke.
"It was typical Derbyshire roads to be honest, not easy, even when we weren't climbing, but it was brilliant to be on home roads," she said.
"It's mad to think how much women's sport and women's cycling has grown in the last few years, particularly since London 2012.
"I hope that how we have raced will inspire some of the schoolkids watching. They will see that women are pretty tough and we can do exactly what the men do.
"It will be a bit mad to ride through Draycott tomorrow. I will have all my friends out supporting me. It's quite early on in the stage so I might get myself to the front and give them a bit of a wave!"
The people of Derbyshire – and beyond – certainly embraced the action by coming out in their numbers to watch.
At the stage start in Ashbourne, cycling shirts and flags adorned shop windows, bunting lined the lampposts and the Second Ashbourne Scout Group had helped assemble and paint a replica bike.
In the market place, the teams and riders were introduced to the crowd that contained a mixture of all ages, with some of the local schoolchildren receiving gifts from the Drops Cycling Team.
As the race got underway at 10.45am and the television helicopter hovered overhead, the riders were given a rapturous reception by hundreds of spectators who took up every conceivable vantage point to get the best view.
Dean Collins, Derbyshire Cabinet member for Highways,Transport and Infrastructure, who was at the start and also saw the riders finish in Chesterfield, said the day had been a great advert fir cycling in the county.
The local authority, along with a number of other key organisations, have committed to the Derbyshire Cycling Plan 2016-30 that aims to make the county one of the most progressive in terms of cycling and get people of all ages out on their bikes.
Cllr Collins said: "We're committed to bringing high-class sporting events to Derbyshire, which helps bring the visitors in.
"It's an Olympic year and we have some of the top cyclists in the world here on our roads, which is fantastic.
"Hopefully those who have seen the race live will want to get into cycling – it's a good way of keeping yourself fit and healthy.
"Now we have a strategy in place, we also have to get events like this to show our commitment throughout Derbyshire that we are serious about cycling and the plan we have."
The same enthusiasm for the race found in Ashbourne was also evident in Matlock, where big crowds lined Bank Road, the scene of a Strava Queen of the Mountains race-off, won by Katharine Hall of Unitedhealthcare.
As some sat in deckchairs, while others watched from shop doorways or first floor windows, not all the riders found the steep climb easy and the peloton was spilt as a result.
The race continued at breakneck speed down Beeley Moor – which the men climbed in last year's Aviva Tour of Britain – and into Chesterfield, where more schoolchildren were waiting to greet their heroes.
Several schools from Chesterfield School Sports Partnership had cycled into the town centre to watch and rode past the finish line in front of the waiting crowd.
"They have all been so excited to do the ride and made so much noise for the riders when they came through too!" said Brockwell Junior School teacher Jo Lenthall, who helped co-ordinate the ride.
"The children have had a blast and said it is one of the best days they have had in a long time. I think days like this are really important, especially for the girls. It's great for them to see that there's not just the netball and football, but cycling as a sport for them to do."
Want to find out more about Stage Four of the Women's Tour that passes through Erewash and South Derbyshire tomorrow? Check out our Aviva Women's Tour page.
If you want to get to try getting in the saddle, read our introductory cycling pages.