Georgia Williams has fought to silver in the Commonwealth Games women’s road race. The national road and time trial champion took second place behind Chloe Hosking who took the win for Australia; with Danielle Rowe of Wales third ahead of Sharlotte Lucas who took fourth.
6 laps of the 18.7km course – a total of 112km – greeted the field of 49 women taking on the Commonwealth Games women’s road race. In the mix were six Kiwis in Georgia Williams, Kate McIlroy, Sharlotte Lucas, Bryony Botha, Linda Villumsen and Rushlee Buchanan hoping to secure at least one final women’s cycling medal for New Zealand.
Two short but steep climbs featured en route along the circuit, in a race that wasn’t really expected to favour the pure climbers. Any sprinters who wanted to challenge for the win would have their legs tested though over the course of the day. Australia went into the race with favourite status on their shoulders; particularly in front of a home crowd. But the first successful break of the day came courtesy of Kimberley Ashton of Jersey.
Ashton was well suited to the climbs, but it was on one of the flatter sections that Ashton took off and quickly established a 1.05min lead. The peloton were unfazed by the breakaway of the Jersey rider, and seemed content to just sit back and conserve energy for the time being. Paying close attention to the goings on at the front were the likes of Rushlee Buchanan and Bryony Botha early on.
Towards the end of the first lap Wales and England marshalled their forces at the front of the race, while Georgia Williams also came forward as Ashton’s lead moved out to 1.35mins at the end of the first lap. Crossing the start line Australia moved up on mass to the front and from there they reined the solo leader back in to within 25 seconds or so; which is where they kept her for a couple of laps.
While Ashton remained out in front there appeared to be little urgency from the peloton; but eventually the break was reeled back in with 64km and more than half the race still remaining. Once Ashton was reeled in the attacks began to fly here and there, with Bryony Botha expending the last of her energy with an attack at 53km to go. That would be her last action on the front of the race from there as Botha then was reeled back in and spat out the back of the bunch.
A brief lull ensued but then Australia began to really try and make use of their numbers, putting the hammer down and beginning to shed the numbers in the peloton. This they did successfully, with a little help from the other favoured nations. Georgia Williams, Rushlee Buchanan and Linda Villumsen all made brief moves. Williams’ move saw her escape briefly with Australia’s Katrin Garfoot and Welsh rider Danielle Rowe; while Rushlee Buchanan’s move also drew out strong riders in the likes of Sarah Roy of Australia and once again Kimberley Ashton.
With 2 laps to go New Zealand still had strength up in the front of the race. Botha and McIlroy had been dropped – although the latter chased hard to get back on board -but Georgia Williams, Rushlee Buchanan, Linda Villumsen and Sharlotte Lucas still remained. Going around the hillier section of the lap Australia tried to force the issue again and briefly caused a split that saw four Australians and one Welsh rider drop the rest. Williams and Villumsen chased across to make a group of 14; with Buchanan and Lucas in a group behind that also joined in time for the bell lap with 18.7km remaining.
The pace briefly went out of the peloton for a time, allowing the peloton to shake their legs off a little bit. This seemed to play into the hands of Australian sprinter Chloe Hosking who appeared happy to let the race stay together; confident that she could take out the bunch sprint. Wales led the way through 15km to go, Antri Christoforou of Cyprus was behind them, while sitting fourth wheel was the first of five Australian riders still looking very much in control.
At 14km to go Rushlee Buchanan made a move to drag Georgia Williams to the front of the race, but as she did that Shannon Malseed also pulled the Australians to the front, with the Trans-Tasman teams going side-by-side to the bottom of the climb. As the gradient kicked up Elinor Barker of Wales moved towards the front, but Australia kept control of the pace as the bunch behind tried to keep on their wheels. The intensity in the bunch wasn’t quite as severe this time around, with many of the group still able to keep pace; but Australia were now intent on remaining at the front of the race.
Linda Villumsen was well positioned on seventh wheel for the time being, while Georgia Williams and Sharlotte Lucas still sat in the group; as did Kate McIlroy. Approaching 10km to go though Australia piled on the pressure to try and split the group again and this time they did with just 7 riders remaining. The rest of the group were at full throttle on the descent trying to regain contact. Williams was in that group that eventually became eight, with two Welsh riders, one Scottish, and still four Australians. With just over 7km to go the gap to the nearest chasers – containing Linda Villumsen and Sharlotte Lucas – was just a handful of seconds.
At 6km to go Lucas’ and Villumsen’s chasing trio managed to get back on board with the leaders. Elinor Barker and Danielle Rowe were there from Wales, marking Australia closely; while New Zealand now faced a strong numerical position. The three riders rallied towards the back of the group, just assessing the situation; while behind the leaders another pair of chasers could be seen working their way through the following cars.
One of those chasers was Hayley Simmonds of England, and no sooner had she joined the leaders than she went straight on the attack; placing Katrin Garfoot on the back foot and forcing the Australian to chase now. But chase Garfoot did and with just over 3km to go it was back together. The final real opportunity for a solo breakaway came with 2km to go where a slight uphill awaited. But Australia were back in control at the front.
Still the Kiwi trio sat at the back of the group, biding their time with less than 2km to go. Australia’s Garfoot put the pace down though on the slight uphill, deterring any attacks; and dropping Linda Villumsen. Just Lucas and Williams remained but they had a lot of work to do now as four Australians and the Welsh duo were still there.
On the final turn Garfoot led the way, but then Barker took over for the lead out. Rowe was on her wheel, with Williams just at the back of the small group making their way to the line. Finally Chloe Hosking struck for the line and Williams went with her. There was no answer to Hosking though who charged to the win. Williams arrived well clear in second place, after just managing to remain on the wheel of the Australian. Behind her Danielle Rowe just edged out Sharlotte Lucas for third place.
Linda Villumsen crossed the line 25 seconds behind the leaders to take 12th place, with Kate McIlroy crossing the line 19th; while Rushlee Buchanan placed 26th.