Words by Michelle Arthurs and Jessica Strange
The first stage of the Women's Tour came down to the mass sprint that was expected - with Christine Majerus taking the win. However, the bunch conclusion was almost prevented by a breakaway from Alison Tetrick (Clyance Pro Cycling).
Starting out in the East of England, at the beach-side destination of Southwold, riders, fans, children and community rolled up in their masses to support the start of this epic road cycling event.
Convoy's of trucks and trailers were well prepared with everything a team could need for a successful ride: bikes, kit, nutrition, coaches and mechanics lined the parking lot in their teams colours anticipating the days ahead.
Fortunately, the weather had stayed dry throughout the night. Albeit overcast with ominous black clouds, the riding conditions were perfect and even favoured the racers with a slight tailwind for the duration of the stage.
Setting off from Southwold, the riders embarked on a 138.6km route taking them along winding country lanes and through towns and villages, all the way through to the finish line in Norwich. To kick off the tour, the first stage was relatively flat, with no gruelling climbs - though those will come later in the week. A great way for the athletes to stretch their legs and ease themselves into the event.
The beginning of the race saw a tight and steady paced peloton, keeping together and making their way through the first few segments.
The first 6.6km of the route was neutral riding, with the first Strave QoM section beginning around the 11km marker. A short and gradual ascent saw the peloton make their way up with the QoM results as follows: Llona Hoeksma (Parkhotel), Tayler Wiles (Orica-AIS), Lisa Klein (Cervelo Bigla).
The peloton maintained a steady pace throughout, keeping together and re-grouping after sprints and QoM sections.
Winner of the first Women's Tour in 2014, Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv), has been off the bike with injury for some time. Now she's back and looking fighting fit, and ready to go. Taking the win on the first sprint, Vos showed her winning determination. Vos was closely followed by: Gracie Elvin (Orica AIS) and Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans).
At the second climb the peloton was still together, the first rider through was Llona Hoeksma (Parkhotel), followed by Marta Bastianelli (Ali Cipollini) then Tayler Wiles (Orica AIS).
Then the unexpected happened. With 25km to go, US rider Alison Tetrick pulled off into the lead, gaining 25 seconds, with her gap increasing at a rapid rate.
Tetrick held on her lead growing to almost 2 minutes with 9km to go.
It was only in the final 5km that the peloton really closed in on her like a hungry pack. Still holding onto the lead at the 3km mark with 40 seconds, Tetrick was looking strong for the win.
A crash occurred just before the 1km mark involving a number of teams, but we're still unsure of the circumstances.
Despite the crash, and with 200m to go, the peloton caught Tetrick. The win went to Christine Majerus, with Marianne Vos coming in second and Giorgia Bronzini in third.
Speaking about her heroic break, Tetrik told us: “We’re here with five riders, and looking to make an impact. The race was relatively aggressive… but nothing really staying away… people seemed motivated for a sprint finish today. I attack a lot, and with that comes some mistakes and some successes. You can kind of read a race and see when they’re willing to let something get away that may not be too threatening at the moment but ultimately pretty threatening to the end. So I was able to take a pretty bold move about 25km to go, and you know you go as hard as you can. You never believe you can win until you cross the line... but man, ten metres to go, at that moment, I believed I could win. I sure would have liked to win, but I’ve got four more stages to go."
At the press conference, eventual winner Majerus said: “As this was supposed to be easiest stage of the week we expected it to come down to a sprint. We had a look at it and it’s really technical and hectic. The plan was to lead me out to the last left corner, the girls did a perfect job so I didn’t really have to do anything for the whole race, so I saved my legs for the last 300 metres and I was happy I could finish the work off."
Discussing the break away from “When we turned left I was not sure if we’d catch her [Tetrik] back or not. I could see her coming up, so I knew I had to launch my sprint or she would make it. It was a brave move, congrats to her, but I’m happy we could bring her back."
“The crash in the last kilometre was behind me, I could hear it – but my team mates were in front so I knew they were all safe, and that was what mattered to me today."
“It was a big relief [to cross the finish line]. There was pressure for me, I had the best cyclists in the World riding for me today, so you have to win – there’s no excuse. So it was a big relief. Obviously I’m really happy. This is one of the biggest races in the calendar this year, especially now it’s moved up to be a World Tour race."
“We have the jersey, if I can keep it I will do anything to keep it, but if one of my team mates can have it I will give it."
Check out the images below, and scroll to the bottom for the full results...
The top twenty on GC are as follows:
Best British Rider: Lizzie Armitstead
QOM: Ilona Hoeksma (Parkhouse)
Young Rider: Floortje Mackaij (Liv-Plantur)
Sprint: Majerus / Vos tie