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The inaugural Women’s WorldTour came to an end on Sunday, Sept. 11, with a fast and entertaining show in the heart of Madrid. A nail-biter of a last lap saw a two-person break of Claudia Lichtenberg (Lotto Soudal Ladies) and Simona Frapporti (Hitec Products) get reeled in with just two kilometres to go and then a mass cascading of teams to the finish.
Boels-Dolmans organised their leadout well but it was the black and orange WiggleHigh5 squad that once again proved themselves to be the best sprint team with Belgian Jolien d’Hoore taking the win ahead of teammate Chloe Hosking and Alé Cipollini’s Marta Bastianelli.
2016 GP de Plouay-Bretagne
1. Jolien d’Hoore (WiggleHigh5)
2. Chloe Hosking (WiggleHigh5)
3. Marta Bastianelli (Alé Cipollini)
How the race unfolded
An eventful race in a stunning backdrop, La Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta was the perfect ending for the inaugural Women’s WorldTour. Despite some notable absences such as the rainbow jersey wearer Lizzie Armitstead and teams like Canyon-SRAM, Cervélo-Bigla and Rabo-Liv, the racing was exactly as it’s been all season long: high quality, fast and active.
With speeds over 50km/h, the women’s peloton took to the second annual Madrid spectacle with vigour. Attacks were plenty, and despite having already secured the overall Women’s WorldTour title, Megan Guarnier and her Boels-Dolmans team traveled to Spain for much more than an honour lap.
It was Guarnier who ramped up the pace and did some serious damage about midway through the race when she attacked hard and rode off solo. The peloton strung out and initially there was little response.
Guarnier was left to dangle for a long time until the peloton, with Alé Cipollini at the front, reeled her back in. With 31 kilometres to go, the peloton was all back together again, but it wouldn’t be long before attacks continued. The pace was too high, however, and
all attacks were short lived.
Orica-AIS and Liv-Plantur policed the front, keeping the pace high while keeping their sprinters protected.
Meanwhile a fierce contest for the points qualification was happening between, interestingly, two teammates. Going for it with all their might, BTC City Ljublana’s Mia Radotic and Anna Plichta battled for the sprint honours and prize money with only Lensworld-Zennata giving them a slight bit of outside competition. In the end, it would be Radotic who took the sprint points qualification win.
With a 20,000 Euro prize purse and the last UCI Women’s WorldTour victory up for grabs, everyone was willing to take changes. When the pace started to ease up every so slightly to allow riders to take in some nutrition and teams to start getting organised, an unlikely duo slipped away.
Climber Claudia Lichtenberg (Lotto Soudal Ladies) and time trialist and track rider Simona Frapporti (Hitec Products) took off with 20 kilometres to go, working extremely well together to tackle portions of the course that best suited each rider. Soon the duo had increased their gap to 22 seconds and as the kilometres ticked down, things looked very promising for the two riders.
Alé Cipollini once again did the lionshare of the work as sprint teams were getting organised, but even with the help of Liv-Plantur and WiggleHigh5, the duo off the front held on to their lead.
At 5 kilometres to go, the duo held on to a 15 second gap when a crash took out the middle of the peloton. Safe on the front, Boels-Dolmans took over the lead, getting organised for a sprint finish as the duo of Lichtenberg and Frapporti, despite their best efforts, was reeled in with just three kilometres to go.
A sprint finish was no inevitable, and Guarnier was once again ramping up the pace, showing off the white leader’s jersey in the final stretches of the race.
Boels-Dolmans was well organised for Chantal Blaak or Christine Majerus but so was WiggleHigh5. They too had two cards to play with bronze Olympic track medalist Jolien d’Hoore leading out La Course winner Chloe Hosking. Boels-Dolmans seemed to ahve gone just a tad early and the black-and-orange train of WiggleHigh5 passed them. Hosking just did not have the strength to come around d’hoore and it would be the Belgian who posted up as she came across the finish.
Final Women’s WorldTour standings
1. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans)
2. Leah Kirchmann (Liv-Plantur)
3. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)
4. Evelyn Stevens (Boels-Dolmans)
5. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5)
Young rider classification
1. Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv)
2. Floortje Mackaij (Liv-Plantur)
3. Jip van den Bos (Parkhotel Valkenburg)