Organisers of the groundbreaking Women’s Tour of Scotland have not been put off by the notoriously fickle nature of Scottish summer weather and are determined to build the event into a major one of the cycling calendar.
After the first-day abandonment on Friday, there were more miserable conditions yesterday but not bad enough to prevent the “third” (technically second) and final stage going ahead, starting and finishing in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park via the Borders. Both yesterday’s race and the overall winning yellow jersey went to Leah Thomas of the United States, who burst through over the finish line, five seconds ahead of second-stage winner Alison Jackson of Canada and taking the win bonus to secure her place at the top of the podium.
A small but enthusiastic band of cycling fans greeted the riders home in teeming rain to witness the Californian become the first to win a UK female road race with prize-money parity of an equivalent men’s race, with a total pot of €50,400 (£47,400).
Darren Clayton, the managing director of the Women’s Tour of Scotland, said: “There’s a lot we can take from this, a lot of feedback.
“There are things we want to get right but we’ll learn from this and grow. We’ve had some really positive feedback from the riders. We had a good crowd out at the start but weather has played a small part.
“The next natural step would be to go to a five-day race, be part of the World Tour, live TV coverage. We want to keep raising the bar in terms of the prize fund. We’re at €50,000. Can we make this the richest event in the world? That’s our goal. We want to take it around Scotland. Go up north. We have some big aspirations for this. We’ve already had conversations about the cities we’d like to go to.”
Clayton revealed that plans were advanced for another three-stage race next year, a bit later in the summer because of the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The poster girl for this year’s inaugural event was Scotland’s Olympic track gold medallist Katie Archibald but, not currently in road racing shape, her involvement was more to show her support to the event and she finished 54th in the general classification.
The Milngavie hometown of Archibald and her Commonwealth Games medallist brother John was done proud by hotly-tipped teenage junior Anna Shackley, who was the highest placed Scot, finishing 13th in both the stage and the overall standings.
“It was a really good experience because it’s my first UCI event and it went better than expected,” said the promising junior. “I learnt so much about riding as part of a team which I’d never done before. But I prefer roads to the track anyway because it’s more interesting. It’s been a good event. I hope it gets harder and harder every year with more people. And hillier as well!”
As with the second stage from Glasgow to Perth on Saturday there were attacks from the off after the race set off from Holyrood Park at 10.30am yesterday morning.
Stage two winner Jackson’s second place in the second intermediate sprint at Bonnyrigg boosted her cause as she opened a six-second cushion. But the Bigla team of pre-race favourite Thomas got their tactics spot on in the approach to the capital and then the three-lap circuit around Arthur’s Seat to propel the 30-year-old from just outside San Francisco to glory. Bigla team-mate Elise Chabbey finished second, with Stine Borgli of Norway taking third in the stage and GC behind second-placed Jackson.
The Californian said she hadn’t been too bothered by the bleak weather conditions.
“Any time it’s wet and cold, it’s tough, but I enjoy the rain,” she said. “Back home, I’m the one who is always out in cold weather and I think that actually gives our team an advantage and it gave me an advantage today. There was one puddle we went through that was so deep that you tried to pedal and came to a stop or times when you got a huge tidal wave of water from the vehicles.
“There were definitely some epic moments but luckily the roads were safe enough.”
The champion added: “It’s amazing for Tour of Scotland to recognise [women’s cycling] and compensate us for that. It makes a big difference.”