IT was what the thousands of spectators lining the roadside had come out to see.
With 14 kilometres remaining of a 122.5km route from Tadcaster to Harrogate, Yorkshire’s Lizzie Deignan pulled clear of team-mate Anna van der Breggen and British rival Dani King.
Twelve months earlier a solo breakaway had ended in disappointment, but this time – fuelled by the cheers of local fans – Deignan was not going to be caught. The Otley-born former world champion rode alone across the finish line to seal what she later, surrounded by friends and family, described as one of the best wins of her glittering career.
For race organisers Welcome to Yorkshire and Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) it was the perfect finale. After a low-key start in 2015, the ASDA Women’s Tour de Yorkshire has grown in stature and a home win, by one of the world’s top riders, will ensure the event continues to thrive.
The women raced over the same course as the men later on Saturday and Deignan described the huge crowds as “special and surreal”.
Having finally donned the winner’s blue jersey, she is already planning to defend her crown next year.
I think you will only see stronger and stronger women coming to this race and probably making it a real target. I will be back next year.Lizzie Deignan
“We don’t get crowds like this very often,” she observed. “To have all those people here – and the ones who have got the opportunity to watch at home too – is really important.
“I think you will only see stronger and stronger women coming to this race and probably making it a real target.
“I will be back next year.”
Deignan’s Boels Dolmans team got their tactics spot on. Amy Pieters got into an early breakaway and Deignan and van der Breggen bridged across to gain control at the front of the race.
An eight-woman break was reduced to three and the 28-year-old never looked likely to be caught after leaving van der Breggen and King behind, though she insisted she didn’t feel secure until the line was in sight.
“I didn’t dare believe it until I passed the 1km to go banner,” she said.
“It is a bit of a climb up to that and I am getting slower and slower and they are getting faster and faster behind. Until pretty late on I didn’t dare dream about it.”
Deignan was the biggest name in a strong contingent of Yorkshire riders. Also among the field was Abby-Mae Parkinson, of Dewsbury. It was a different experience for the 19-year-old, of the Drops team, who placed 40th, seven minutes 45 seconds behind Deignan
“It was pretty hard, but the crowds were amazing,” she said. “There were so many people cheering for me and Annie [team-mate Annabel Simpson, from Leeds] it was really, really cool.
“The support was absolutely fantastic. I love the Yorkshire spirit, it is so friendly and down to earth – it is great. The team did really well, Anna was in that second group so she did ace and we won the bunch sprint, so it was a good day.”
It was Parkinson’s first Women’s Tour de Yorkshire, but she said: “I’ll be back, it would be great to ride again. It would be really cool if it turned into more of a stage race next year, like the men’s. I definitely think there’s potential for it to develop. It’s really good that we are doing the same course in front of the men.
“That is such a good idea. It is great because the support is already there for the men. There were so many out early. As soon as we set off the roads were lined out.”
Of other Yorkshire-based riders, Elizabeth Banks was 26th, Simpson 32nd, Steph Mottram 67th, Hannah Larbaleestier 78th, Seonaid Thompson 79th and Sophie Thackray 88th. Louise Scupham and Liz Burrows did not finish.
Deignan also won the points competition with Boels Dolmans claiming the team category. Queen of the mountains was Wiggle High5’s Claudia Lichtenberg. The German rider said: “It was a beautiful race, but very, very hard for us.
“We gave our lives to come back to the front. It was very hard, but very enjoyable and the size of the crowds is incredible, I almost can’t believe it.
“It is so beautiful cycling is alive in this country. I wish everywhere was like that.”