Report: Megan Barker wins in Redditch

Report from Gordon Wiseman on Megan Barker’s win in Redditch at round 1 of the 2018 Tour Series

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Report: Megan Barker wins in Redditch

from – Gordon Wiseman

Riding with a maturity that belies her years, Megan Barker (Team Breeze) opened her 2018 OVO Energy Tour Series account by out-sprinting Anna Henderson (Team OnForm) and NJC-Biemme-Echelon’s principal, Nikki Juniper in Redditch tonight.

That trio had broken away from the rest of the packed field before what many saw as a race-defining accident soon after 25 minutes racing had been completed when Team OnForm’s Charmaine Porter clipped the outside kerbing on the exit of the chicane just after the start-finish line and flew into the racing barriers.

Although she lay still for some minutes before being taken away by the first-aid crew on site, Charmaine wasn’t thought to be seriously injured but by that point the race organisers had taken the difficult – but safest – decision to stop the race. Up to that point, although  the race lead had been swapping between a number of riders, the names of Juniper, Barker and Henderson had often been appearing in the front 5 or so riders as each lap passed.

Going into the first of the Eisberg Sprint laps, scheduled to be contested after 15 and then 30 minutes racing, nearly ten riders had opened a small gap before the next group of around another 15 came through. Just as that regrouped front bunch approached the finishing line they already had the first of the back markers clearly in their sights but they didn’t interrupt that Sprint that saw Manon Lloyd (Trek-Drops) take what was to be the only crumb of comfort for the 2017 Series champions who, due to illness, injury and other races to prepare for, started their defence with a depleted squad of just three riders.
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It was just after Barker and Juniper opened a small gap at the front that Porter had her bad fall. For a lap or so riders were slowed down as they came through the chicane before racing was brought to a temporary halt. After what seemed like an age but was probably no more than a ten-minute wait as the circuit was made safe, the by now chilled riders lined up again for the restart of what was to be just a 5-lap conclusion to the nearly 20 minutes of further racing that was supposed to have taken place.

Some felt this didn’t do the women’s series justice – this year there are more women’s teams competing the full Series than there are men’s outfits – but the organisers had to juggle that decision with what would be the fading light if both races had been allowed to run full distance. Henderson, Barker and Juniper set off over 20 seconds ahead of their nearest rivals as the remainder of the field were given staggered starts roughly equal to where they’d finished when the race was originally stopped.
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The front trio contested the second of the Eisberg Sprints after two of those remaining laps had been covered and it was the OnForm rider who took the spoils which went towards her also winning the Eisberg Points jersey on the night.

As the final lap started – with now a nearly 30 second lead – the race commentators tusselled with the question of whether Juniper’s greater experience would out-sprint the powerful Henderson with no one apparently giving young Barker any chance of taking the win.

The Team Breeze manager Chris Newton shook his head in disbelief on hearing their words and his faith in the Welsh rider’s ability proved to be fully justified as his rider used her track speed to take a well-deserved win.

In last year’s race at Redditch Barker senior, Megan’s sister Elinor, finished in third place so this year it will be the younger sister who’ll have the Tour Series bragging rights. And maybe we witnessed another Barker launch herself into the limelight and – who knows – maybe a career that will result in more Barker Olympic gold in the years to come!

Megan Barker – “I wasn’t sure how things would pan out after the restart, I was panicking a bit about that but we got our time gap back and then it was just 5 laps to go. I decided I just had to commit for those laps and give it everything”.

On being told the race commentators didn’t expect her to win, Megan’s laughing response was “I don’t know what to make of that one. From my track background I felt I had the confidence and speed to go into the final lap and the strength to win. I knew both Anna and Nikki are really strong and Nikki is always known as being a strong crit rider. I knew it’d be tough but I felt really good for the whole race”.

Anna Henderson – before the race Anna said “I don’t like to have personal goals as it just puts more pressure on yourself so I’ll just see how each race goes and just do the best I can.”

After the race she didn’t try to change her original assessment: “I didn’t say I didn’t have any ambitions, I just said I didn’t have any specific ambitions. It proved to be a really good race, it seemed so hot at the start. Tonight I’m just chuffed to bits. Last year my best ever result was fourth so to beat that first time out this year, yes, that’s really awesome.

“Charmaine’s accident happened right in front of me, it was awful, I thought we’d both go down. I’ve heard that she’s OK and hopefully she’ll soon be back up and running for the other races”.

Nikki Juniper – “A third place may not be a win but I’m really pleased with my result tonight. People say I’m a crit rider but I just like a hard race whether it’s around city streets or in the hills like last week in Yorkshire. I think I knew that Megan and Anna were the better sprinters so, yes, I’m really pleased with that result tonight.

“And we got second overall in the team competition so I’m really very pleased with that result. We’ve got such an amazing group of girls this year. We’ve got no funding, we can’t give them anything apart from a jersey so I know they’re all here just to ride their bikes. And hopefully that came across tonight”.

Rebecca Durrell, fastest lap on her Boardman bike 



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