Photos: SWPix.com and Maria David
Megan Guarnier’s Tour de Yorkshire ended on a high, literally, as she stormed up the iconic Cow and Calf climb ahead of Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM Racing) and Dani Rowe (Team GB) on the final day of the two-stage ASDA Women’s Tour de Yorkshire.
This year’s competition was extended to a two-day stage race, with the finale being at the summit of Cow and Calf. Guarnier, a team-mate of Lizzie Deignan (who is currently pregnant), had been the overall pre-race favourite, so when the 108-strong peloton rolled out for the 124km-stage from Barnsley it was a matter of 'when' rather than 'if' the American would show her hand.
This happened just after the West Yorkshire town of Ilkley, on the last climb when the Boels Dolmans team led out their protected rider so that Guarnier could launch her attack up through Ilkley Moor. The likes of Amialiusik, Rowe, and Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) followed in hot pursuit up the 1.8km climb at an 8.2% average gradient, while the peloton splintered into several pieces behind.
Guarnier increased the lead on her rivals, including on the final steep kick up to the finish line in front of hundreds of spectators outside the Cow and Calf pub. Amialiusik was second across the line, while Rowe came home third.
While this victory for Guarnier also gave her the overall win for the Tour de Yorkshire, it was Team GB’s Rowe who leapfrogged Amialiusik into second place in the final standings thanks to the time bonuses she had accrued, leaving the Canyon-SRAM Racing rider to complete the complete the podium.
“It is a real honour to win this race and it’s my first victory of the year so I’m excited. I have never, ever seen so many people on a finishing climb and so many people cheering us on. That really helped bring me home because I was full gas at the end." - Megan Guarnier
Fresh from her bronze medal in the road race at the Commonwealth Games Rowe was very happy with her result. Speaking after the race, she said: “I’m so happy. I didn’t have a break after the Commonwealth Games because I wanted to get back with my team and target this race. It’s so special for me to race in this country. I just feel proud that my country is leading the way with women’s cycling and I’m really happy I could pull it off today."
The previous day’s comparatively flat stage from Beverley to Doncaster, South Yorkshire was won by another pre-stage favourite Kirsten Wild (Wiggle High5), the rider who had won the stage when it finished in Doncaster in 2016.
Under a very sunny sky and in front of large crowds, the riders started from the East Yorkshire market town to race 132km across the Yorkshire Wolds. Along the rolling course, there was one categorised climb in the Queen of the Mountains (QOM) competition, the Côte de Baggaby Hill in the heart of the Wolds.
This was won by Pfeiffer Georgi, riding for a local outfit, Team Jadan-Weldtite-Vive le Velo. The 17-year old was ecstatic to be wearing the red jersey for the leading climber. She said, “I knew that there was only one QOM and if I could win it I would get the jersey so I went to attack early and tried to get into a break. I went again on the climb and just tried to hold on until the end of the climb. I was a bit overawed by the field, and having Kirsten Wild around me, but before the race, I was told to just pretend like it’s just a normal junior race and race how I normally would. I like to attack, so that’s what I did!"
Although the stage had been animated with breakaways by Georgi, Nathalie Van Gogh (Parkhotel Valkenberg), Meike Uiterwijk Winkel (Parkhotel Valkenberg) and Anna Christian (Trek-Drops) who won the combativity prize on the day, the winner was determined in a bunch sprint.
Coming into Doncaster, the teams lined up their designated sprinters – Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM Racing), Amalie Dideriksen (Boels Dolmans), Marta Bastianelli (Alé Cipollini), Neah Evans (Storey Racing) and Kirsten Wild (Wiggle High5). Unfortunately, on the last roundabout before the finish line, Canyon-SRAM Racing took a long way round, putting themselves out of contention. However, Alice Barnes managed to rescue things and got into the mix to pick up third place behind Wild and Dideriksen.
For the second stage from Barnsley to Ilkley, there was still everything to play for as Rowe and Barnes were just 6 seconds behind the overall leader, Wild, and birthday girl Guarnier was 9 seconds behind the leader. The other birthday girl, Hannah Barnes was not to be discounted either.
During this final stage to the Cow and Calf one of the top UK amateur riders, Nikki Juniper (NJC-Biemme-Echelon) took the joint QOM lead with Georgi over the Côte de Blacker Hill, early in the ride, while Rowe continued to snatch time bonuses in the intermediate sprints in her quest to be the overall leader in the general classification.
Sadly, team Wiggle High5 suffered a blow when one of its key helper riders, Katie Archibald crashed out of the race.
By the time the peloton reached Ilkley the leader’s jersey had switched from the shoulders of Wild to those of Guarnier after the latter was second over the Côte de Pool Bank climb, behind Longo Borghini. Then on the Cow and Calf climb, with 500m to go, Guarnier sprang forward to take a clear victory ahead of a select group of around 10 riders.
This result was a great opportunity for Guarnier to make her mark after seeing her Boels Dolmans team-mates including Deignan and Anna van der Breggen, dominate women’s international racing in recent times. Furthermore, this was an upturn in fortunes for the 33-year-old whose 2017 season had been marred by injury.
Stage 1 Result
- Kirsten Wild (NED), Wiggle High5 3:28:20
- Amalie Dideriksen (DEN) Boels-Dolmans
- Alice Barnes (GBR) Canyon Sram Racing
- Dani Rowe (GBR) Great Britain Cycling Team
- Natalie Van Gogh (NED) Parkhotel Valenberg
Stage 2 Result
1 Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam 3:19:50
2 Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Canyon-SRAM Racing +14 sec
3 Dani Rowe (GBr) Great Britain +17 sec
4 Erica Magnaldi (Ita) BePink +22 sec
5 Ane Santesteban (Spa) Ale Cipollini
1 Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam 6:48:09
2 Dani Rowe (GBr) Great Britain +17 sec
3 Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Canyon-Sram Racing +19 sec
4 Liane Lippert (Ger) Team Sunweb Women +31 sec
5 Erica Magnaldi (Ita) BePink +33 sec
Points winner (Sprint competition) – Kirsten Wild
Queen of the mountains – Megan Guarnier
Most active rider (Combativity prize) – Dani Rowe