Women's Tour starts on a high as big crowds catch riders by surprise

Hannah Barnes leads next generation of British road racers after noise of spectators deceives Armitstead into attacking too soon

Northampton

The ambition is to make the Women’s Tour the “biggest and best” race in the female calendar within three years. On the evidence of day one of this race through England that might prove a modest timescale. On Wednesday the riders, gathered from 21 countries, were visibly taken aback by the size of the crowds that waved them off from Oundle and welcomed them here into Northampton at the end of stage one some 60 miles later.

“It doesn’t need three years – I think it is already there,” said Hannah Barnes, the first Briton home in third place behind Sweden’s Emma Johansson and Marianne Vos, the Dutch pre-race favourite. “The crowds were amazing. I didn’t even recognise Northampton and I live five miles away. It was great.”

The London Olympics marked a sea-change for sports outside the mainstream in this country. Britons have always watched football and rugby in large numbers, but now it would seem the nation will watch any high-level sporting occasion in impressively buoyant numbers.

The Olympics have not got more people to take exercise  –  one trend that London 2012 looks unlikely to buck, though it has created a legacy of supporting more sport en masse, and it has impacted positively on women’s sport in particular. Australians are supposed to bet on two flies crawling up a pub wall; Britons would turn up in their thousands to watch them, especially if one of them was in red, white and blue.

“This is one of my most emotional moments in a life in sport,” said Tanni Grey-Thompson, who started the race. “London 2012 was brilliant but this is the real legacy of the Games. It’s about having events, inspiring people, and it shows what great support we have in this country.”

Even riders as experienced as Johansson and Vos were startled by the numbers, which matched the turn-outs for last year’s men’s Tour of Britain complete with Sir Bradley Wiggins and Co. The organisers of the women’s race, Sweetspot, also run that men’s event and estimate that it took four years for it to attract such crowds. This was year one, day one of the Women’s Tour.

The numbers lining the route into the finish even had an effect on the outcome of the stage. Lizzie Armitstead, who is expected to chase Johansson and Vos for the yellow jersey, thought the thickening crowd meant the finish was nearby and so launched her attack too early. She went with half a kilometre to go, uphill and into a headwind. Her effort was not sustainable and first Vos and then Johansson went past her. The Swede tucked in on Vos’s wheel and then edged past the Dutchwoman on the line. Armitstead finished in eighth, and will begin the second stage 10 seconds back.

“It was really special,” said Armitstead. “As a British rider you don’t get to experience this. I felt so proud to be British and so grateful to people for being there. We’re going to have to get used to the crowds. I started far too early basically. I knew that it was uphill with 500 metres to go. It was just simply a case of getting too excited.”

Johansson finished a disappointing sixth in the London 2012 road race but ensured better memories from her second ride in Britain, seizing on Armitstead’s error and then tracking Vos down over the closing metres.

“Lizzie got a bit too excited,” said Johansson, who  was even alarmed by the crowd support the peloton received. “It’s been crazy. I actually got a bit scared when they are shouting – we’re not used to it and you think maybe it’s a crash or something and it’s actually the crowd shouting you on.”

Barnes in third place collected a couple of jerseys, as the leading young rider and the leading Briton. The 21-year-old leads the next generation of British road racers, along with the former junior world champion Lucy Garner, who came home ninth at the head of a young Great Britain team.

While the likes of the flu-ridden Laura Trott and Dani King, placed 39th and 30th respectively in support of their Wiggle Honda team leader, Italy’s Giorgia Bronzini, prioritise the track, Barnes remains on the road even if  British Cycling, driven by Olympic medals, do not have a dedicated road programme for women.

The other Briton to feature on the podium was Sharon Laws, a rider at the other end of her career. A former mountain biker – a sport she took up while working in Africa – she switched to road racing six years ago at the age  of 33. Laws took the first Queen of the Mountains polka-dot jersey.

“It was fantastic,” she said. “I didn’t think we would see women’s cycling like this in Britain. It’s been amazing, all the people that were on the road supporting us, it is bigger than any race that I’ve been at including the Giro in Italy.”

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices