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British national championships: Alice Towers goes solo for breakout victory

Nineteen-year-old Towers goes clear more than 30km from the finish of stormbattered race to claim first road race victory of her career.

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Alice Towers (Le Col-Wahoo) produced the performance of her life to score solo victory at the British national road race in Castle Douglas, Scotland.

The 19-year-old Towers, a Yorkshire native, held off an elite chase group to seal victory in Dumfries in grim conditions after she attacked solo with more than 30km left to race.

The win is a coup for the British continental team, and a massive result for Towers as her first pro victory.

Towers beat back WorldTour level competition, including Jumbo-Visma’s Anna Henderson and defending champion Pfeiffer Georgi of Team DSM, who won the U23 time trial earlier in the week.

“I can’t really believe that it happened, I didn’t think that I could win or that the race would go that way,” Towers said. “It’s actually the first time I’ve ever won a road race, so to win the national championships is pretty special.”

The route clocked 128km around the Dumfries and Galloway area and featured over a thousand altitude meters, as the course traveled out of Castle Douglas around two long laps towards Dalbeattie, before beginning six laps of a 13.9km circuit around Castle Douglas.

In howling winds and fierce rain a lone breakaway rider, Christine Wiejak (Saint Piran) was the first to take the race by the horns, and she remained out front alone for an hour of racing. There were a couple of crashes on the slick roads as the rain soaked the determined peloton, led for a while by Dame Sarah Storey, who began to reel in Wiejak as the shorter circuits beckoned.

Wiejak was caught by a somewhat reduced bunch, with Le-Col Wahoo always on the offensive, first Towers and then April Tacey putting in injections of pace on the front.

On the climb, an elite group split away from the rest of the bunch, including the likes of former British champion Alice Barnes (Canyon-SRAM), Elynor Backstedt (Trek-Segafredo) and Henderson.

With three laps and just under 40km to go, Towers made her move, putting space between herself and the rest of the group, who were content to let her go, easing off the pace for long enough to allow the second group to catch them.

Monica Greenwood of Team Boompods put in a spirited chase to try and close the gap to Towers, but she was later swept up with 30km to go as the attacks began in earnest, the elite group once again moving clear of the chasing pack.

Georgi and Henderson took turns to try and thin the bunch, before one of the strongest riders of the domestic season so far, Sammie Stuart (CAMS-Basso) broke away and stretched out a few seconds’ gap with two laps remaining.

With two laps remaining, Towers lead was 1.10 to Sammie Stuart, with the peloton 2.25 behind and unable to make an impression.

Georgi put in a blistering attack once more, with Henderson, Backstedt and Lizzie Holden (Le Col-Wahoo) the only ones able to stick with her pace. The four formed a small chase group. They caught Sammie Stuart and had the final lap to close the gap of around 1.30 to Towers.

But the chasing group didn’t have the cohesion required to make up the distance. Stuart and Backstedt began to struggle on the climb, and Henderson and Georgi pulled clear, with Towers’ teammate Holden working to hang on to the WorldTour pair.

Georgi overcame Henderson in the sprint for second place, and Le-Col Wahoo finished the day with three riders in the top ten overall.

After the race Towers said her attack was spontaneous.

“I really didn’t plan it, I mean it probably was the best thing to do at the time with the condition, to be out front was definitely better than it was in the bunch,” she said. “I didn’t really think it was possible and the time kept going out and the kilometers kept coming down and all I could do is just keep plugging at it.”

Top-10

  1. Alice Towers (Le Col-Wahoo): 3:28:02
  2. Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM): +1:13
  3. Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma): S.T.
  4. Elizabeth Holden (Le Col-Wahoo): +1:16
  5. Elynor Backstedt (Trek-Segafredo): +1:21
  6. Sammie Stuart (CAMS-Basso): +1:25
  7. Alice Barnes (Canyon SRAM): +2:45
  8. Elund King (Le Col-Wahoo): +2:46
  9. Abi Smith (EF Education Tibco SVB): S.T.
  10. Dannielle Khan (Solihull CC): S.T.