Words by Maria David
Another year, another Women’s Tour winner. After Marianne Vos in 2014, Lisa Brennauer in 2015, and Lizzie Deignan last year, this year’s winner of the OVO Energy Women’s Tour was Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling). The Polish national champion and team-mate of London 2012 Olympic Champion Marianne Vos led in the general classification from stage 1 in Kettering and held her lead throughout the five-stage race.
This year’s Women’s Tour differed in a couple of ways compared with last year. As a Women’s World Tour race, attracting the best riders in the world, the course was made more challenging than in previous years. Starting from Daventry, the Tour visited Kettering, Stoke-on-Trent, Atherstone, Leamington Spa, and Chesterfield before reaching London, with stages that were around 150km, and included plentiful hills.
After four days in the English countryside, the final stage was a 62-km criterium in the heart of London, on a 6.2km circuit taking in Piccadilly Circus, Regents Street, Trafalgar Square, Aldwych, and Whitehall. This was the first time the Women’s Tour was visiting the streets of London, and the racers were keen to take a win at this iconic location.
In front of large crowds, under sunny skies, the 78-strong peloton containing riders from 17 teams, whizzed around the technical course at more than 26 miles per hour. This was not a circuit for the faint-hearted, and for the pros, it was extremely energy-sapping, as many were now racing on tired legs.
Coming into this stage with a 1 minute 25 second lead over her nearest rival, Katarzyna Niewiadoma’s win was all but sealed, barring accident – something that sadly had not been the case for her team-mate Marianne Vos, who had crashed and broken her collarbone a couple of days earlier in Leamington Spa.
The Queen of the Mountains competition was also confirmed, that jersey going to Wiggle High5 rider, Audrey Cordon-Ragot.
Racing on this fast circuit was fodder for the sprinters, with the likes of Katie Archibald (Team WNT Pro Cycling), Hannah Barnes (Canyon Sram Racing), Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling), and Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) battling to win points and time bonuses during the intermediate sprints. Things were far from easy as a vicious pace was set by the Boels-Dolmans women, and the group ended up being split in two.
Another intriguing competition was that for the Best British rider jersey, keenly contested by the Barnes sisters – Hannah (Canyon Sram Racing) and Alice (Drops). In the early stages the jersey had been on the shoulders of young Alice, but later in the week, her big sister took the jersey from her after moving up to 5th place in the overall standings.
In fact, by the end of the London stage, Hannah had moved up to 3rd place overall after when she gained time bonuses through winning both intermediate sprints and crossing the finish line in second place.
Jolien d’Hoore, who had started the day in the best sprinter’s jersey, sadly lost it to Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans), who had benefited from strong support from Lizzie Deignan and the other Boels-Dolmans riders at the front of the peloton.
However, d’Hoore rejoiced in a great consolation prize when she jumped clear of everyone in the bunch sprint and took the win, in the shadow of the Eros statue at Piccadilly Circus.
As a result of her solid sprinting, and a second place at the penultimate stage in Chesterfield, Christine Majerus not only won the sprinter's jersey and the points jersey, but she came second in the general classification, ahead of Hannah Barnes.
“We were chasing a stage win with Giorgia [Bronzini]. We worked really well together as a team and we believed in each other as a team. We knew we could do it. We played all our cards today and we’re happy with the result." - Jolien d’Hoore
Earlier that day the London criterium circuit was taken over by around eight thousand women who rode in the Pink Ribbon Tour in order to raise awareness of breast cancer. The Women’s Tour was a platform to highlight the issues around the disease, and how exercise can be beneficial to people living with the breast cancer. Many racers in the peloton, including race winner, Katarzyna Niewiadoma wore pink ribbons to show their solidarity for the cause.
Top 10 Final overall positions (General Classification)
- Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling)
- Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans)
- Hanna Barnes (Canyon Sram)
- Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb)
- Ellen Van Dijk (Team Sunweb)
- Alice Barnes (Drops)
- Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo Bigla)
- Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Cervelo Bigla)
- Dani King (Cylance Pro Cycling)
- Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5)
Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Wiggle High5 – 1st Place in the Queen of the Mountains Classification
“I was Queen of the Mountains from the first day, so it was a fight for the whole week to keep the jersey. The hills were short but steep, just the sort of hills that I like as I am a Classics rider. I hadn’t specifically been targeting the QOM but I had the opportunity so I decided to go for it. It’s quite special to get this jersey and even more so in London, this beautiful place. It was such a fast race. The whole time I had my nose to the handlebars trying to survive! It was super nice to see Jolien [d’Hoore] raise her hands in the air. I am so pleased"
Christine Majerus, Boels-Dolmans – 2nd Place Overall, 1st Place in the Sprints Classification and Points Classification
“We had not been thinking about jerseys. We were just trying to make it an exciting race, and attack from the gun. It wasn’t necessarily me who needed to go for the GC as we have six strong riders [including Lizzie Deignan]. Any one of us was free to take their chances for a podium place, and in the end, it was me. I think we can be happy as a team. It’s really nice to finish in a location like London, with a lot of people. It’s a really nice experience, and I hope we come back."
Hannah Barnes, Canyon Sram – 3rd Place Overall, Best British Rider
“I knew I needed to win the two intermediate sprints in the London stage. When the group split in two I had to make the jump across to the front group. If I hadn’t done so I wouldn’t have been able to go for a podium place in the general classification. The battle with my sister has been a joke between us really! I was more focused on GC [general classification] than on Best British Rider, but I am pleased to get the jersey, and I am still really proud of Alice."
Alice Barnes, Drops – 6th Place Overall
“I wasn’t particularly targeting Best British Rider. I was just trying to do the best I could each day. Along the way, it was nice to wear the jersey, but my sister is pretty good! It was going to be a tough shout to beat her. I’ve improved a lot over the last year, and I can be happy with how my year has gone, especially this week, which is more than I expected."
Katarzyna (Kasia) Niewiadoma, WM3 Pro Cycling – 1st Place overall (Green Jersey)
“Boels-Dolmans raced smart in London and made it a hard race for everyone from the start. I had the green jersey of race leader so I just needed to stay near the front to avoid any problems as the race had lots of corners and holes in the road. It was not good to lose Marianne [Vos] but I just made sure to take whatever opportunities I could, and not be in the middle or the back of the group, to avoid any crashes."
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