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With La Course moving away from the Champs-Élysées and into the Alps, no longer did the women’s peloton ride their circles on the Parisian avenue, on the closing day of the Tour de France. But for those who enjoy the fast-paced criterium-style racing, Prudential RideLondon Classique offered another chance at some urban racing only one week later.
A technical course through London’s city centre hosted the 14th Women’s WorldTour race of the year, showcasing London’s iconic landmarks as the women’s peloton demonstrated skill, tactics and finesse on a very rainy summer’s day.
Always there when it mattered, Team Sunweb grabbed enough points in the intermediate sprints to secure the Continental Tyre Sprint Competition for Leah Kirchmann, before they led out their sprinter Coryn Rivera for the win. In a close but well-executed finish, the American “pocket rocket” beat Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla) and Lisa Brennauer (Canyon-SRAM) on the line, netting her third Women’s WorldTour victory of the season.
The 2017 RideLondon
The 2017 Prudential RideLondon Classique offered a prize purse of 100,000 Euros, making it the richest race on the women’s cycling calendar. No wonder then that lots of teams travelled to Great Britain, in search of this record prize purse – and of course, WorldTour points.
A race for the sprinters, the 66-kilometre race was held on a 5.5-kilometre circuit through the city centre of London, straight over the Strand, the Mall and Whitehall.
Favourites in the line-up included previous winners Kirsten Wild (Cylance Pro Cycling), Barbara Guarischi (Canyon-SRAM) and Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-High5) as well as top sprinters like Rivera, Lepistö and former British road champ, Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM).
How the race unfolded
In typical British weather conditions –rain! –, the start was given at 6 p.m. local time. And while the downpour of rain caused the peloton to slow down in every tight corner, the overall pace was high.
Luxembourg road champion Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) led the peloton through the first couple of kilometres, but teams like Cervélo-Bigla and Team Sunweb would soon take turns at the front, keeping the pace high and the racing safe.
Claudia Koster (VéloConcept Women), the very first attacker of the 2017 Giro Rosa, opened the racing in London, too. However, with the first intermediate sprint lap approaching, where sprint points and prize money were up for grabs toward the Continental Tyre Sprint Competition (1,000 Euros for the winner of each sprint, plus 3,000 Euros for the competition winner), bigger teams took control of the peloton and Koster was soon reeled back in.
Katie Archibald (Team WNT), having just won the UK national criterium championships, took the maximum number of points at the first intermediate sprint, followed by Team Sunweb duo Kirchmann and Ellen van Dijk.
Kirchmann had a short stint off the front following the sprint, but it didn’t last long. With all the big teams controlling the front, a breakaway started to seem unlikely. Still, the peloton diminished as riders were dropped off the back due to a consistently steady pace. There was also a high number of flat tyres that saw riders unable to catch back on, Koster among them.
With the help of Lucinda Brand’s lead-out, Kirchmann and Van Dijk were able to secure second and third place again in the second intermediate sprint, this time behind Majerus. Local favourite, Archibald, took fourth place, and 200 Euros with it.
When the third and final intermediate sprint was contested, it was Boels-Dolmans now fully committing to the sprint points and prize money. World road champion Amalie Dideriksen won the sprint ahead of teammate Majerus, but Team Sunweb took some points and money again as well, as Kirchmann crossed the line in third. With Kirchmann securing the win in the sprint competition and Rivera safely tucked in the pack, Sunweb would surely be shifting focus to lead her out for the finish sprint.
With only three more laps, or 16.5 kilometres, left to race. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio continued to set the pace for Cervélo-Bigla and their sprinter Lotta Lepistö. The South-African spent the majority of the race on the front, keeping herself out of trouble while allowing Lepistö to rest.
The pace was kept high and the rain barely let up, which added a degree of difficulty as the peloton weaved around very tight corners. Surprisingly, the race remained safe, a testament to the riders’ bike handling skills and proper equipment.
As the peloton came barreling down the finishing straight, the domestiques had done their jobs and it was up to the sprinters to finish it off. With some favourites like Wild, Dideriksen and Barnes out of position, a three-way sprint ensued between Canyon-SRAM, Cervélo-Bigla and Sunweb.
Executing the team plan perfectly, it was Rivera who timed her sprint perfectly, coming around her opponents at the right second to finish half-a-wheel ahead of Lepistö and Brennauer.
“It was a really fun, aggressive race,” said Rivera. “The girls did a brilliant job and Leah was amazing in the sprints and took that home. That also meant that the girls could practice our lead-out a little bit before the finish, which was great. We knew where we had to be and we were there, it all came down to timing in the end.”
“This was a brilliant team performance today,” Team Sunweb coach Hans Timmersmans added. “The team had a good mind-sight, they weren’t afraid to put everything in for the sprints and they wanted to make the race their own. Coryn took confidence from the team’s successes during the race and was able to channel that into her power on the bike. It’s been a brilliant day to take the win across the sprints and team classification and of course the race win.”
“I actually didn’t have great legs today but positioning was good and I had to give it a go,” said second place finisher and Finnish national champion Lepistö said in her post-race reaction. “I didn’t have amazing legs and maybe that’s why I just missed out on the win. It was a hard race because it was short. I couldn’t do better, I gave everything on the line. I wanted to win but I don’t think I could have pushed any harder. I was dead after the finish.”
In winning, Rivera takes her third Women’s WorldTour victory of the season, as well as 25,000 Euros in prize money – more than 20 times the amount that Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) received for winning the 2017 Giro Rosa.
Neither of the leaders in the Women’s WorldTour, Van der Breggen as the overall Women’s WorldTour leader and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Cervélo-Bigla) as the leader in the young rider classification, were present in London. However, their margins were so big that they didn’t risk losing their jerseys.
Prudential RideLondon Classique (1.WWT) London → London
1. Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans)
Young rider classification
1. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Cervélo-Bigla)
What did you think of this year’s edition of RideLondon?