Five days of racing across the United Kingdom and it all came down to just 11 seconds. From the early stages of the 678 kilometre OVO Energy Women’s Tour it was clear the big crowds and TV viewers were going to witness a tight battle for the overall at the popular Women’s WorldTour event.
By stage 2 the scene was already set for an exciting contest between three-time world road race champion Marianne Vos (WaowDeals), and one of the most talented riders to come out of the U.S in recent times, Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb). There were just centimetres in the win on that second stage. Rivera beat Vos with an impressive bike throw, to take her first Women’s WorldTour win for the year and step into the race leader’s green jersey.
Vos, the winner of the tour in 2014, mounted an impressive challenge in the following days and ended up on the podium in three of the five stages. However, the European champion couldn’t get quite enough time to whittle down the lead, particularly with Rivera grabbing bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints. So the battle ended just as it started, with a tight margin and Rivera coming out on top.
Stage 1: From broken to winning in three weeks
Given Jolien D’hoore (Mitchelton-Scott) broke her collarbone just three weeks before the tour, it’s not surprising the Belgian champion was a little uncertain of her form. With a scorching sprint win from a bunch finish right off the bat you’d have to say she quickly put those doubts to rest.
D’hoore stormed to the line ahead of Marta Bastianelli (Ale-Cipollini) and Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb). Marianne Vos (WaowDeals) reminded us that she’s also got this injury recovery gig down pat too, coming in sixth as she returned to racing after breaking her collarbone at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Last year she suffered the same fate at the Women’s Tour.
You can see the full results here and see how the stages unfolded in the photos from SWPix and Cor Vos below.
Stage 2: Throwing it all on the line for victory
Stage 2 came down to a tight sprint between Vos and Rivera who were both giving it absolutely everything as they went toe-to-toe right up to the line. It was a masterclass in the bike throw that delivered victory for Rivera, and left Vos to take the second step of the podium. Christine Majerus (Boels Dolmans) came in third.
Thursday’s racing also set up the tight GC battle to come. Rivera took the green leader’s jersey, while Dani Rowe (WaowDeals) sat in second at 15 seconds back and her teammate Vos was poised in third, just one more second behind. Still, with 13 other riders also within 23 seconds of Rivera, after the second stage, the GC competition was still wide open.
Stage 3: A second win for Mitchelton-Scott
It was another win for Mitchelton-Scott on Friday as Sarah Roy positioned herself beautifully for the sprint in a reduced lead group, with the help of teammate D’hoore. Roy had the Belgian champion, who was caught back in the second group, in her ear over the radio telling her to grab third wheel before the last corner. However, when she hit the front in the run up to the finish line, it was all up to her.
The Australian rider leapt out from behind Vos, who took third and moved up a spot in the GC. Roy just held off a closing Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance) to take her second stage win in the Women’s Tour in as many years. What Roy didn’t feel the need to repeat, though, was that post salute tumble caught by dozens of perfectly focussed cameras. This time instead of good-naturedly laughing off an ill-timed spill, Roy welled with emotion as she got got to celebrate another team victory instead.
Stage 4: This one is for Sharon
The 130 kilometre fourth stage from Evesham to Worcester was dedicated to much-missed racer Sharon Laws, who lost her battle with cancer late last year. She lived and trained in the area.
It was, suitably, a stage where a rider who spends much of her time playing the domestique – just as Laws did – had her day. In the star-packed team of Boels-Dolmans, the 22-year-old former world champion Amelie Dideriksen is often working for others. That’s why when she had the team behind her for stage 4 it was an opportunity for that first international individual victory of the year she was determined not to let pass.
Shooting out to the front at about 150 metres to go from behind a superb lead out from teammate Amy Pieters, she kept the power down as some of the world’s top sprinters tried to chase her down on her left and right. They just couldn’t make a big enough dent, and Dideriksen hurtled over the line clearly in front, with her arms in the air and a jubilant roar. Lotta Lepisto (Cervelo-Bigla) came second with Vos, third. With the bonus seconds from third, Vos whittled down the gap to Rivera on the general classification to a mere 14 seconds. However, in a blow for her WaowDeals team, Rowe, who was third on the GC, crashed on the run into the line.
Stage 5: When eleven seconds is all you need
It was a Welsh finale for the OVO Energy Women’s Tour and with things so tight at the top end of the general classification there were bound to be plenty of riders trying their hands at a break. Not only was Vos within 14 seconds of the lead, but there were another five riders within 30 seconds. Clearly Rivera’s Team Sunweb were going to have plenty of work to do to control the 122 kilometre damp and hilly stage.
Predictably the escape attempts came but there was nothing thrown at Sunweb that they couldn’t handle, particularly when they got a bit of help from WaowDeals to control one crucial break including fourth placed GC rider Amy Pieters.
That meant it all came down to a sprint at the line in Colwyn Bay, albeit with a reduced bunch. Lotta Lepisto (Cervelo-Bigla), jumped up one step from the previous day and took stage honours ahead of Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance) and Vos. The bonus seconds from third step on the podium weren’t enough to close the gap for Vos; there were still 11 seconds remaining and no stages left to win them back.
That 11 seconds meant Rivera could now celebrate her first overall win in a Women’s WorldTour stage race, and the second WWT stage race GC win for an American rider in as many months.