The opening stage of the Women’s Tour ended in the bunch sprint that was predicted though a group of ambitious riders did try their hand at a breakaway.
It was World Cup leader Lizzie Armitstead who crossed the line first, but her triumph was quickly followed by a crash.
In second was Lisa Brennauer (Velocio-SRAM) and third place went to Emma Johansson (Orica AIS).
Attacks began after the first Queen of the Mountains climb around 30 miles in, when riders tried to make use of the advantages gained. Eventually a break formed that succeeded until the last moments of the race.
The first riders to get away were Arianna Fidanza (Ale Cipollini), Coryn Rivera (United Healthcare) and Heather Fischer (Team USA). They were soon joined by Elinor Barker of Matrix Fitness, who shared with us her desire to ride the Tour in February.
As the breakaway rode through Ipswich the gap grew to around 75 metres, the small group negotiating the twisty streets with more agility than the bunch.
Not long after, Katie Archibald of Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International made the leap with Katie Hall of United Healthcare, eventually joining the leaders.
The margin continued to stretch, and became even greater after a level crossing came down between the two groups, halting the peloton. At their greatest distance, the group of five had a full 2 minutes 45 over the bunch.
They were riding well together and the level crossing only gave them an added 30 seconds.
However, with strong contenders in the peloton including Wiggle Honda, Rabo Liv, Boels Dolmans and Velocio SRAM the chasers soon got organised and the gap began to decrease rapidly.
At the second Queen of the Mountains climb, Katie Archibald began to drop from the back of the lead group, losing 20 seconds, then 50 seconds. She was eventually swallowed up by the peloton as they continued to persue.
The five intrepid front markers remained strong, still with a 40 second lead at the 3km to go mark, and press in the stands were expecting to see a select group cross the line first.
However, the power of the bunch was strong, especially as sea front headwinds began to play their part. By the time the riders got to the line the peloton was moving as one group.
It was Armitstead who crossed the line first, and as well as the General Classification, she also won the Chain Reaction Points and Best British Rider.
For her chase to the leaders, Pearl Izumi’s Katie Archibald won the Combativity Award, whilst Katie Hall (United Healthcare) took the Queen of the Mountains win and team mate Alexis Ryan was named Best Young Rider. The results put United Healthcare into the team lead.
Tomorrow’s Stage travels from Braintree to Clacton-on-Sea and is 138km long. It’s also expected to be a stage for the sprinters, but at this point it seems unlikely the current GC leader will be lining up at the start line.