Lizzie Armitstead won the final round of the UCI World Cup over the weekend, scooping the overall victory in the last ever series before the World Tour replaces it.
Determined to regain her title and win the series, she sprinted to victory during the final event - Grand Prix de Plouay in France.
Tough terrain and the deciding nature of the race meant that it was always going to be a hard fought battle – with several potential candidates for the overall win lined up on the day.
Lizzie Armitstead, Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda) and Anna Van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) were all in with a chance of finishing the race as the series leader.
Julien D’Hoore, who won the last round in Sweden, was also eligible, but had announced that she would not race, instead preferring to concentrate on the UCI Road World Championship later this month.
The five-lap race was comprised of four 27km laps and one shorter 14kp loop. Each of the large laps featured three notable climbs and multiple rollers along the way. It was the final climb of each lap, up Ty-Marrec – that proved the most heavily utilised as a springboard for attacks.
As the race unfolded...
The peloton stayed largely as one group for the first lap, but cracks began to show, and from the end of the second lap, attacks began thick and fast.
With 30km til the finish, a leading group of nine riders had formed – but they were chased down at the foot of the final climb on the loop - Ty-Marrec. At this point, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Rabo Liv), attacked. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda) followed, along with Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans).
Not far behind, Armitstead prepared herself for a counter attack. The Yorkshire rider put the power down, opening up a gap that was bridged by Anna Van Der Breggen (Rabo Liv), Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS), Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda), Ferrand-Preovot (Rabo Liv) and Ashleigh Moolman Paiso (Bigla).
The group featured the candidates for the overall win, and looked strong, but their gap wasn't wide enough. By the final 14km lap they were joined by a chase group of ten.
At the last ascent of Ty-Parrac, Armitstead attempted another attack. With around 3km to go she had clear road between herself and the rest of the race. However, Van der Breggen wasn’t prepared to see her go, and she chased hard to latch on to the British National Champion's wheel. Behind, Longo Borghini, Johansson and Moolman Paioso saw that Armitstead had been caught and soon the group was one.
Armitstead had hoped to avoid the now unavoidable bunch sprint and dropped her head as the group solidified, continuing to pedal ferociously.
With 1.5km to go, the pace slowed dramatically as the remaining five contenders sailed towards the finish line. Pedal strokes were punctuated with sideways glances and it looked like they’d all opted to prepare for the sprint.
After the 1km marker, Longo Borghini, hanging around the back of the group, launched an attack. She was chased down within fractions of seconds, putting herself on the front end of the peloton on five.
Now with less than 500 metres to go, four chasers, including Rabo Liv's Ferrand-Prevot and Armitstead's team mate Evelyn Stevens made contact with the leaders.
With the finish line in clear view, Emma Johannson launched herself to glory, but Armitstead still had one final kick, which took her to the front of the group, with daylight only between herself and the finish.
Next Up: UCI Women's World Tour
The UCI have announced that as of 2016, the Women’s World Cup will be replaced by the UCI Women’s World Tour, allowing the peloton to demonstrate their prowess over longer events, as the men do.
The UCI have all said that all of the World Tour races will need to meet a set of requirements, which include being broadcast on Live TV, through live streaming, or via same day highlights in magazines.
The races must also create hashtags and social media pages for their events – providing the women's peloton with assurance they will be racing to a watching audience and opening the way for greater sponsorship of the sport.
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