Vos redeems herself in Aviva Women’s Tour stage 4 as Armitstead increases her GC lead

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In addition to the Women’s Tour and football’s Euro 2016 tournament, the United Kingdom is being occupied by something else at the moment too. On June 23rd, the referendum to decide on a potential Brexit is being held. The campaigns to get people to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ have been running for months.

Ever since the referendum was announced, I have felt we’re witnessing something huge. Talk of leaving the European Union has been in the mouths of politicians before – in the Netherlands too. But the UK is the first country to actually put it up to public vote.

It might prove a decisive moment for European politics in the years to come. The UK joined the European Coal and Steel Community in 1973 and has been an important player in the EU the last half century. Like Dutch newspaper AD put it: “An EU without the UK would be like tea without milk. Bitter.” If the country does leave the EU, this is important (and in my view dramatic) in economic, socio-political and historical terms.

A whole different dimension was added to the event when Labour MP Jo Cox was fatally injured outside her constituency surgery last Thursday. I was shocked, just like many others. Whether the murder was politically motivated isn’t confirmed yet, but the attacker supposedly shouted ‘put Britain first!’ at least twice before he shot and knifed Jo Cox. She was campaigning for Britain to stay in the European Union.

I didn’t know how to incorporate this information into my report of the Women’s Tour. I couldn’t unite the events. While the Women’s Tour celebrates the fantastic cycling culture in the UK, and the women’s cycling sport in particular, the other is a horrendous act of violence, not doing any good for Britain’s already semi-detached relationship with the EU.

Then Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) did something fantastic when she won the Women’s Tour stage 3 yesterday.

It was perfect. It was a small gesture, but I appreciated it immensely. Maybe exactly because it was so small. The horrendous act of one madman should not affect one of UK’s nicest women’s cycling events. But Jo Cox should be honoured, and Armitstead found the perfect way to combine both.

I am now given the opportunity to extend my condolences to family and friends of Jo Cox and to express my disgust with people like this, who feel they have the right to take the life of a hard working woman over something like this. With some ease of mind, I can now return to reporting on stage 4 of the Aviva Women’s Tour. This young and wonderful stage race, that is entertaining women’s cycling fans as part of the Women’s WorldTour now.

Today’s stage was as thrilling as the first three stages. After a quiet first part of the stage, the second half was very exciting to follow on social media and through the Women’s Tour live blog. A stage with four riders versus a chase group, that left it to the final meters of the race to unite, which saw Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) finally take that much sought after win in the 2016 Aviva Women’s Tour.

The stage

After a relatively easy build-up, most of the 1,500 climbing meters in today’s stage came after the halfway point. The route dipped into the National Forest after 25 kilometers, where the first intermediate sprint was located.

Aviva Women's Tour 2016 stage 4 course map
A second intermediate sprint and two QOM’s would have to be contested by the peloton today.

How the race unfolded

The peloton left Nottingham at 10:15 a.m. GMT, with the official start given fifteen minutes later.

A crash early in the race brought the Luxembourg champion down, sixth in the GC at 32 seconds from teammate Armitstead. Her team reported she chased back with a determined look on her face and joined the peloton not much later, ready to support the GC leader again, bloodied jersey and all.

The intermediate sprint, just after leaving Hartshorne where one of the many spectators filmed the peloton passing, was used by Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv), Armitstead and Leah Kirchmann (Liv-Plantur) to collect some bonus points for the GC. The three women have been contesting the intermediate sprints from day one.

In between all the action, hydration is important! At Cervélo-Bigla, Lisa Klein made sure her teammates were topped up with liquids throughout the stage.

Some riders are always great to have in a race, since they will always entertain if they have the legs for it (and sometimes even when they don’t). Emilia Fahlin (Ale Cipollini) is one of those riders. After unsuccessfully trying to get into a break in the last couple of days, today she was finally given the go ahead by the peloton.

When Fahlin accumulated her lead to 2 minutes, attacks started coming from the peloton. However, since this was considered to be a stage for a breakaway, and yesterday’s stage was won by someone in the break as well, the peloton was not so keen to let a big group of riders get away.

The gap between Fahlin and the peloton decreased to 1’10” as the second intermediate sprint came up, with Fahlin obviously taking the 3 points and bonus seconds. Vos won the sprint in the peloton, followed by Armitstead.

After the crash in stage 1 just before the final kilometer of the race, no other notable crash had occurred since then. Today was different. After Majerus’ nasty crash at the beginning of the stage, a large one happened a few kilometers before reaching the first QOM.

VoxWomen reported that all riders were able to get up and chase back to the peloton. A little later, one rider unfortunately wasn’t able to continue.

With several riders less than were on the start line this morning – as Grace Garner (Team GB) and Amélie Rivat (PC Futuroscope) abandoned earlier in the stage -, Fahlin and the peloton reached the first QOM of stage 4. The Aviva Women’s Tour has an incredible partner in the QOM jersey’s title sponsor Strava. They have published overview videos of the all the QOM’s in this year’s Women’s Tour. If you want coverage and attention for your race, this is the way to do it!

Fahlin was caught before she reached the summit of today’s first QOM sprint, Ramshorn, and it was won by Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla).

The second QOM caused fireworks, with yellow jersey wearer Armitstead herself attacking. Once again, she got company from Moolman-Pasio and Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5), Armitstead’s closest chasers in the GC, plus Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5) – twelfth in the GC at 47 seconds after stage 3.

While the four leaders passed the top of the Oakamoor climb, a group of chasers escaped the peloton, among them best young rider Floortje Mackaij (Liv-Plantur), GC contenders Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS), Vos, Amy Pieters (Wiggle-High5), Kirchmann, Lisa Brennauer (Canyon-SRAM) and Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-High5), plus several other big name riders.

Out of the GC top 10, only Majerus wasn’t in the lead group or among the chasers, which surely had to do with her crash at the beginning of the stage.

The four leaders worked well together and still had 18 seconds to the chasers at six kilometers from the finish, but Sarah Connelly already looked to the situation if the two groups came together. Armitstead would be in the best position (with teammates Amalie Dideriksen, Chantal Blaak and Ellen van Dijk in the chase group), while both Moolman-Pasio and Vos wouldn’t have any teammates in that group.

A very exciting finale followed, with only 9 seconds advantage for the leaders left as they entered the last three kilometers. 

Seeing these Tweets entering my timeline felt like I was actually present at the stage, with the gap between the leaders and the chasers slowely coming down.

With my heart racing, I looked on as the Tweets kept coming in. Three seconds when passing the flamme rouge!

In the last few hundred meters, the chasers reached the leaders. A sprint ensued and I was thrilled to see Vos finally taking the stage win she was so desperate to get.

After losing the yellow jersey yesterday, Vos redeemed herself by winning the Derbyshire stage in the Women’s Tour today. Three top 5 results in stages 1 to 3, now finally a victory for her in stage 4.

Vos jumped from fifth to fourth in the GC, but Armitstead increased her lead in the GC by three seconds due to the bonus seconds she collected at the intermediate sprints. She is now 8 seconds ahead of Moolman-Pasio and 10 ahead of Longo-Borghini.

The standings

Stage 4 results
1. Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv)
2. Leah Kirchmann (Liv-Plantur)
3. Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5)
4. Amalie Dideriksen (Boels-Dolmans)
5. Lisa Brennauer (Canyon-SRAM)

The Women’s Tour standings after stage 4

General classification
1. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) – 13:02:56
2. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) + 0:08
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) + 0:10
4. Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) + 0:15
5. Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS) + 0:17

Stoke-on-Trent young rider jersey
Floortje Mackaij (Liv-Plantur)

Chain Reactions Cycles points jersey
Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv)

Strava QOM jersey
Katie Hall (United Healthcare)

Adnams best British rider
Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)

Stage 5

Northamptonshire was host to the first stage of the inaugural Women’s Tour back in 2014 and with a stage in the 2015 edition as well, Northamptonshire is the only county to have hosted a full stage in all of the three Women’s Tour editions so far. It’s therefore very suiting that the 2016 race should finish in the Northamptonshire city of Kettering, where the third Women’s Tour winner will be crowned.

Starting from the county town of Northampton, stage 5 will include some new routes and several climbs before finishing in the Kettering town centre.

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