Photo gallery: Highlights from the 2015 Aviva Women’s Tour

by Jessi Braverman


The 2015 Aviva Women’s Tour proved to be action-packed. Although each stage ended in a sprint, there were five different stage winners in Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans), Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle Honda), Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans), Lisa Brennauer (Velocio-SRAM) and Hannah Barnes (UnitedHealthcare). The race lead changed hands every day except the last. The racing was animated. The crowds were nosiy. The communities were welcoming.

Jered and Ashley Gruber beautifully captured all the Aviva Women’s Tour action – every loud and proud and fierce and fun bit of it. We’re thrilled to share this gallery with you.


STAGE ONE

The Aviva Women’s Tour picked up where it left off with an opening stage that began in Bury St. Edmonds, the town that played host to the final stage finish of the race last year. The eagerly anticipated crowds turned out in full-force –and the atmosphere was positively celebratory throughout the day. The race had far exceeded extremely lofty expectations in year one. Could it do it again in year two?

Yes. Yes, it could.

A fast start, in part due to a strong tailwind, limited opportunities to escape. When the course changed direction following the first categorised climb, the wind changed direction, too. Finally a breakaway took shape.

Marta Tagliaferro (Alé-Cipollini), Heather Fischer (Team USA), Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare), Elinor Barker (Matrix), Katie Archibald (Pearl Izumi) and Katie Hall (UnitedHealthcare) slipped up the road. Rivera was motivated by the intermediate sprints. Hall chased and secured the polka dot jersey.

Three kilometre from the finish, four of the six breakaway riders remained out front with a 40” advantage over the peloton. Quickest of the escape group, Rivera readied for the sprint –and was past in the final 200 metres.

Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) took the win, threw her hands up in the air to celebrate and came crashing down. The stage winner had directly into the photographers assembled just beyond the finish line. Her crash sparked a chain reaction, and multiple pile-ups followed. The jubilant mood quickly turned somber as Armitstead was put in a neck brace and given oxygen while she lay on the road for some 40 minutes.

Incredibly, we would later learn that Armitstead escaped without major trauma. No broken bones. She walked out of the hospital on her own accord. That evening, she would take to Twitter to thank everyone for their support and announce her withdrawal from the race.

STAGE TWO

Following Armitstead’s withdrawal from the Aviva Women’s Tour, Lisa Brennauer, second on the general classification, started the day in the yellow race leader’s jersey.

The open hour of the race was full of attacks, but the peloton elected to neturalise each and every attempt. Eventually Corrina Lechner (German National Team) was allowed to slip away. Vera Koedooder (Bigla) jumped across. The duo gained a four minute advantage before a Team USA-led peloton decided to give chase.

Lechner was the first to rejoin the bunch. Koedooder held off the peloton until just beyond three kilometres from the finish.

Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle Honda) won the uphill sprint into Clacton. The Belgian national champion opened her sprint from the final corner, a good 300 metres from the finish, and managed to hold of a fast-closing Brennauer (Velocio-SRAM) and Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) to the line.

Track world champion Melissa Hoskins (Orica-AIS) is better known for her fast finishes than her skills up hills. She surprised everyone, including herself, when she managed to pull on the polka dot queen of the mountain jersey at the end of stage two. Although it stated out as a joke, Hoskins admitted she quickly became foud of her orange spots and announced her intention of keeping the jersey as long as possible.

STAGE THREE

The stage three start served as a perfect reminder of the many things to love about the Aviva Women’s Tour. Oundle hosted the opening stage of the race last year, and it was clear the town was thrilled to welcome the race back into town. A man playing a bagpipe wandered around the team area providing entertainment to those within earshot. Shopkeepers had gone all-out in their storefront decorations showcasing their cycling best. “Open early for the bike race” read a chalkboard sign next to a bustling pub.

The stage between Oundle and Kettering is 139.8km. The race organisation was required to seek permission from the UCI to host a stage of this length. It included more hills than the previous two days – two of which played host to the Strava QOMS. There are two intermediate sprints, too –each with bonus seconds in play.

The pace was relaxed initially, but the action heated up as the first sprint point approaches. The peloton split over the first QOM but reconnects quickly. A flurry of attacks followed. Eventually Chloe McConville (Orica-AIS) opened up a lasting advantage. Heather Fischer (Team USA) jumped across to McConville. Sharan Laws (Bigla) will join the party up the road, too –making it a leading trio.

Wiggle Honda is the first team to chase. Velocio-SRAM take over in the final 30 kilometres. Seventeen kilometre from the finish, the gap has fallen to 1:20. The peloton sweeps up the leaders four kilometres from the finish, and the sprint trains ready for the technical fianle to come.

Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) won the sprint and pulled on the yellow jersey in the process. It was the Luxembourg national road champion’s first win for Boels-Dolmans and her first race leader’s jersey. Majerus opened up a gap around the final corner and proved strong enough to maintain the gap all the way to the line.

STAGE FOUR

The two intermediate sprints and the second queen of the mountain came in quick succession on stage four the Aviva Women’s Tour and made for an interesting race. The bonus seconds were hotly contest as the overall classification was anything but decided, and queen of the mountain Melissa Hoskins showed her determined to hold onto her polka dot jersey.

With the first ranked climb coming after only ten kilometres of racing, there was no easing into stage four. Elise Delzenne (Veloocio-SRAM) edged out Hoskins to the top of the first QOM –and from that moment on, there was not a single second of rest during the stage.

Light rain began to fall before the first intermediate sprint. The sprinkles turn to showers by the stage end.

The peloton split over the second QOM. Thirty-five riders made the front group selection. The fracture in the peloton was short-lived as the second group drove a hard pace to reconnect with the first.

Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda) and Sabrina Stultiens (Liv Plantur) combined forces up the road in the final 30 minutes of racing. The duo achieved nearly a minute advantage before Boels-Dolmans assumed responsibility for the chase. The Dutch-registered team’s work not only bridged the distance to the leaders but also destroyed the back of the bunch.

Lisa Brennauer (Velocio-SRAM) edged out Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) for the win. Lotto Lepistö (Bigla) rounded out the stage podium. With bonus seconds, Breannauer moved back into the yellow jersey she had lost to Majerus the day previous. Crowd favourite Melissa Hoskins (Orica-AIS) held tight to polka dot jersey –ready to fight to the finish to keep it.

STAGE FIVE

A mere 11 seconds separated first place from fourth place at the start of the final day of racing at the Aviva Women’s Tour. With bonus seconds on offer at two intermediate sprints and on the finish line, Brennauer;s hold on the yellow jersey was tenuous.

With so much at stake, stage five proved an animated affair from start to finish. There were non-stop attacks, two major break attempts, exciting intermediate sprints, fiercely contested queen of the mountain climbs, a fracture in the peloton that Wiggle Honda worked incredibly hard to repair.

Like each of the previous day’s, the final stage ended in a bunch kick. Best British rider Hannah Barnes (UnitedHealthcare) took the biggest win of her young career with a brilliant sprint victory in Hemel Hempstead over Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle Honda) and Simona Frapportia (Alé Cipollini).

Although she finished outside of the top three, Brennauer did enough to keep the yellow jersey. It was mission accomplished for Australia’s Mel Hoksins, who won the polka dot jersey following five days of racing -not a bad result for a trackie.