The third stage of the Aviva Women’s Tour came down to another bunch sprint but the roads from Oundle to Kettering offered a great deal of variation from previous stages.
Christine Majerus took the win for Boels Dolmans, a fitting victory following the traumatic crash following Stage One which put team mate Lizzie Armitstead out of the running.
From the start in Oundle, the riders looped the town centre three times, a treat for the sea of fans who had come out to see local star Hannah Barnes race against some of the greatest cyclists in the world.
The town in Peterborough is clearly a haven for cyclists, and nearly every shop window was dressed in theme and at least a third of the crowd seemed to have come by bike.
Leaving the town, it was only around 11 miles until the first sprint, which went to Emma Johannson (Orica AIS), with Hannah Barnes in second to the delight of the home crowd.
Two riders, Lauren Hall of USA and Brianna Walle (Optum Kelly) abandoned the race, Hall due to a crash where she caught the curb.
The roads were much more rolling than previous days, with some leg sapping ramps along the way and some fairly long tough climbs which didn’t feature in the previous two days.
The peloton stayed together until the first QOM, which was around 1 mile long and peaked at around 12%. At that point, the group split but at around 50/50, making it easy for the chasers to catch the front group.
However, eventually it was Chloe McConville (Orica AIS) and Heather Fischer (USA) who made a successful effort to get away. They managed a concrete lead on the peloton who allowed the time gap to increase without forming a hard and fast chase.
At the second QOM climb, Sharon Laws (Bigla) seperated herself from the peloton, eventually reaching the two ahead and forming a break. A very long, straight, narrow road gave the small group an edge over the peloton and their gap reached 3 minutes 40 seconds.
Not far behind was Alexxa Albrecht of Optum Kelly, she was chasing and managed to get within 26 seconds of the break, but the leg sapping rollers began to saw away at her, the gap reaching 40 seconds, then 50.
Behind Albrecht, the peloton were organising themselves to catch the break. At 20k to go, the gap between Laws’ group and the peloton was just 2 minutes 5 seconds, dropping to 1.48 with 15k to go, and continuing to sink as Albrecht was eventually caught.
The run in to Kettering was lined with spectators, who got to witness the peloton bearing down on the three hopefuls, catching them just a few kilometer’s from the finish.
It was Beols Dolmans’ Christine Majerus who reached the line first, swinging her hands in the air in sheer joy – a far cry from the misery of the podium on Day one as the girls collected Armitstead’s jerseys.
The stage win also puts Majerus into the Yellow Jersey of the GC lead, ahead of Lisa Brennauer (Velocio SRAM) and Julian D’Hoore (Wiggle Honda).
In second place was Barbara Guarishi (Velocio SRAM) and Lucy Garner (Liv-Plantur) was third, with local hero Hannah Barnes (United Healthcare) taking fourth.
Garner was racing in front of crowds not far from her own home and also picked up the Best British Rider and Best Young Rider Jerseys.
For her concerted attack and for reaching the break of two, Laws picked up the Combativity award and told us afterwards that it had felt great to be back on the podium. Melisa Hoskins took the Queen of the Mountains jersey, once again.