A WEEK before her 40th birthday Bourton’s Sharon Laws failed by just six seconds to win the National Road Race Championships for the second time at Abergavenny on Sunday.
Laws simply did not have the legs in the sprint finish having suffered with cramp for the last 30km of the 101km race, which went to 22-year-old double Olympic champion Laura Trott.
But Laws battled bravely to stay in the elite breakaway group of five and was only seen off in the final 100 metres.
“It was not a bad group,” said Sharon with some understatement. “The other four girls (Laura, Dani King, Lizzie Armitstead and Emma Pooley) have all won Olympic medals. But I was cramping and I could not be as aggressive as I wanted. I had no legs left and I was just hanging in there.”
In finishing fifth, a minute and more clear of the remainder, Women’s Tour Queen of the Mountains title winner Laws was reminded of her frustration at missing out on another forthcoming international championship – the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow later this month.
“I was gutted but not surprised when I was not selected,” said Sharon, who finished well clear of several girls that had been picked ahead of her for the England team. “I still feel I am riding better than those girls, but the selectors have gone for younger athletes.”
At London 2012, Laws was controversially left out of the GB team in similar fashion. Her answer: to win the National Road Race Championship later that summer.
Sharon has been able to snatch a few precious days at her mum Joy's home in the Cotswolds before she returns to road racing.
She still has plenty of high-quality cycling left to do in 2014 for her successful American-based United Healthcare squad – but this time as a team player rather than an individual.
The principal target for the newly-formed UHC women’s team at the start of the year was to win the pinnacle of the sport, the 10-day Giro Rosa, which starts next week in Italy.
“I’ll have no chance to celebrate my big birthday while riding in that,” admitted Sharon. In Italy her job will be to do the donkey work for her team’s No.1 rider Mara Abbot as she bids to claim the winner’s pink jersey.
And Sharon revealed that UHC are to mount a serious challenge for La Course, the new elite women’s cycling race which will finish on the Champs-Elysées in Paris a few hours before the men’s peloton arrives at the finale of the Tour de France.
“That will be an exciting event and my job will be to try to get one of UHC’s best sprinters, Hannah Barnes and Coryn Rivera, on to the podium in Paris," she said.