Stage 2 – Hinckley to Bedford
Rain, rain and more rain was the order of the day. It started coming down hard before the start of Stage 2 in Hinckley, and although it lightened promisingly at a few points, it kept on coming down throughout the day. The wet weather didn’t deter the crowds in Hinckley, and the umbrella-d masses turned out to welcome the riders as they signed on.
Rain jackets and shoe covers were the main additions to the team kit today while break aways, some short-lived, and some sustained, were a motif of the racing.
Jo Tindley of Matrix Fitness Vulpine was the first to make a break for it, gaining a 40-metre advantage before being swiftly caught by the peloton just outside of Hinckley itself. Next came Silvia Valsecchi of Astana Bepink, who broke free of the peloton around 5km into the race. After extending her lead up to 59 seconds at one point, she was caught by the peloton in the lead up to the first sprint section.
The first crash of the day came shortly thereafter involving riders from the Boels Dolman, Specialized Lululemon, Great Britain and Astana Bepink. Riders in the middle of the peloton hit a dip or obstacle in the centre of the road and went down.
The first Strava Queen of the Mountain of Stage 2 came at Kilworth, and saw a sudden attack from Ciara Horne of Team GB. Although she was caught by a rapidly accelerating peloton, Horne rode hard enough to gain the first QOM, with current Strava QOM Jersey holder Sharon Laws of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling in second place.
Smooth but narrow roads around Cottesbrooke Hall saw little drama, until Rossella Ratto of Estado de Mexico Faren made her move. Ratto echoed her actions of yesterday when she pushed ahead in advance of the second Strava QOM section at Brixworth, and went into the section with a lead of 55 seconds.
Ratto took the second QOM section win, with Jolanda Neff of Switzerland in second and Laws in third, meaning Laws gains enough points to keep the polkadot Strava Queen of the Mountain Jersey going into Stage 3.
Annette Edmondson (Orica AIS) and Annemiek Van Vleuten of Rabo Liv made a counter attack at Nutcote but were caught by the peloton after 5 minutes of riding. They succeeded in narrowing the gap to Ratto to 25 seconds.
At the 51 km mark the race descended a steep road section which then narrowed across a double canal bridge. This was the scene of the second crash of the day involving riders form Lotto Belisol, Matrix Fitness and Estado de Mexico Faren, with at least one rider reportedly entering the water.
The front of the peloton rode clear, and Sussanne Zorzi of Astana BePink also made a break for it, jumping the gap and joining Ratto. These former teammates and compatriots were clearly on great terms, and working together they managed to extend their lead to over 2 minutes at one point, with a lead of 1 min 45 coming into the second sprint section in Turvey.
Ratto rode Zorzi’s wheel on the last corner, and managed to get the advantage on the final straight, to take the Stage 2 win. Zorzi took second place, Vos in third and Amy Pieters of the Netherlands in fourth.
That means that Rossella Ratto takes not only the Stage win but also the Yellow Leaders Jersey.
“I originally attacked to get the points for the Queen of the Mountains but I continued because I felt good - I am training for the time-trial at present - so I thought why not? I was on the point of giving up when Susanna came across to me from the peloton. Two is always better than one so we started to ride hard again. The gap started going up and we thought maybe we could do it. Susanna, who is a good friend, helped me a lot and we were able to ride all the way to the finish, it was a dream"
Rossella Ratto, Estado de Mexico Faren
Vos and Armitstead both commented on the rain in the press conference, stating that they didn’t mind it. In fact, Vos called for more rain and more wind to make it a more challenging event.
With the next stage starting by the sea in Felixstowe, she may just get her wish.
"In terms of the GC we are still in the hunt if the stages are challenging enough but realistically we need some wins to make it more interesting. I've been going for all the intermediate sprints so far, I have been in stage races before when it comes down to second so if it does get close on Sunday I don't want to look back on any lost opportunity."
Lizzie Armitstead, Boels Dolmans Cycling Team
Stay tuned for more excitement tomorrow at Stage 3. During a casual chat with Giorgia Bronzini of Wiggle Honda after the race, she predicted war from the very start tomorrow.
Friends Life Yellow Leaders Jersey: Rossella Ratto, Estado de Mexico Faren (ITA) Yodel Direct Sprint Jersey: Marianne Vos, Rabo Liv (NED) Strava Queen of the Mountain Jersey: Sharon Laws, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling (GBR) Matrix Fitness Best Young Rider Jersey: Susanna Zorzi, Astana Bepink (ITA) Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research Best British Rider Jersey: Lizzie Armitstead, Boels Dolmans (GBR)
Sprint 1 winner: Silvia Valsecchi, Astana BePink (ITA) Sprint 2 winner: Rossella Ratto, Estado de Mexico Faren (ITA) QOM 1 winner: Ciara Horne, Great Britain (GBR) QOM 2 winner: Rossella Ratto, Estado de Mexico Faren (ITA)