Grace Brown took her first WorldTour win since joining FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope, winning stage four of the Women’s Tour on Thursday.
In what was an exciting and tense race, the Australian attacked a 10 woman group of favourites with five kilometres off the stage to Welshpool remaining. Two kilometres later she was joined by Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), and the three riders, who all started the week as favourites, worked well together until the final 500m.
As the race entered Welshpool, Brown was forced to the front, where she remained stranded, but she stayed cool, waiting for the Italian to open her sprint. Longo Borghini passed her quickly, but the Australian slipped into her draught before coming over the top in the final 100.
Longo Borghini eventually finished third, with Niewiadoma taking second.
With previous race winner Lorena Wiebes (DSM) finishing 1-16 down, Brown leads overall, four seconds from Niewiadoma and six ahead of Longo Borghini.
Tomorrow’s penultimate stage is the race’s first genuine mountain top finish in its eighth edition, the line coming at the top of Black Mountain, Carmarthenshire, South Wales. It will doubtless be the deciding stage, and Brown will need to be on her mettle to defend against both Niewiadoma and Longo Borghini, both of whom are more highly acclaimed climbers.
HOW IT HAPPENED
After a dalliance with the hills on Wednesdays stage, for day four the Women’s Tour was well and truly in climbing mode for day four.
Returning to Wales for the first time since 2019 when they served up two decisive stages, organisers hoped this year’s visit to the principality would have the same effect, especially after three bunch kicks so far this year. The parcours certainly seemed as though it would, the 144.7km route between Wrexham and Welshpool providing enough climbing to spoil the sprinters’ party.
Lumpy all day long, the race headed south before turning west for a visit to the Cambrian Mountains, then looped east to the finish.
The race was alight form the start with numerous attacks almost as soon as the flag dropped. The first to gain any traction was Teuntje Beekhuis, the Jumbo-Visma rider getting a small gap before being joined by Maike van der Duin (Le Col-Yahoo), Lily Williams (Human Powered Health) and stage one winner, Clara Copponi (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine).
This group, though, didn’t last long and they were all back in the bunch by kilometre 40. Shortly afterwards Beekhuis tried again and was joined Mikayla Harvey (Canyon-SRAM), who were, in turn joined by Elena Cecchini (SDWorx) and Maaike Boogaard (UAE Team ADQ). This group formed the day’s main break, the bunch allowing them to build a gap of 2-25.
However, as the climb of Hirnant Bank approached the peloton began to reel the break back in and they were caught before reaching the climb.
As the ascent continued three women managed to wrestle themselves clear and were joined by seven more, making 10 at the front as they headed over the top, the group staying clear onto and over the second climb.
Elisa Longo Borghini, Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), Kristen Faulkner, Alex Manley (BikeExchange-Jayco), Kasia Niewiadoma, Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM) Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SDWorx), Riejanne Markus (Jumbo-Visma), Grace Brown (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope and Veronica Ewers (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) crested the final classified climb of Bryn-y-Fedwen, some 50km form the line, with a lead approaching 30 seconds on the closest of a number of small chasing groups.
On the descent see of those groups came together and with the entire DSM squad nailing it in the chasing group of overall leader, and double stage winner Lorena Wiebes, they fist controlling the increasing gap, then gena to erode it on the lumpy, though largely downhill run into Welshpool. With 30km to go the leaders’ advantage was still only 25 seconds, though on the final, significant, unclassified climb five kilometres later the favourites group at last stretched their lead to 50 seconds.
However, Wiebes had staged her intention to win a third consecutive stage and on the descent the lead once again began to drop and it seemed the stage was set for another bunch kick. But with the gap back to just 20 seconds 15km from the line, DSM were running out of riders, only British champion Pfeiffer left to work for her leader and when she was finished the gap once again began to grow, despite other teams heading to the front to chase.
With 10km to go the leaders’ advantage was out to 50 seconds and with the break more or less certain to take the victory, they could final look to each other.
With five kilometres to go Brown attacked alone. The Australian has previous for winning from similar solo moves, but on this occasion, despite some looking around behind her, she was soon joined by Niewiadoma and Longo Borghini, the three women riding together into the finishing town.
WOMEN'S TOUR 2022, STAGE FOUR: WREXHAM TO WELSHPOOL (144.7KM)
1. Grace Brown (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope in 3-48-34
2. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon//SRAM
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at same time
4. Riejanne Markus (Ned) Jumbo-Visma at 10 sec
5. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon//SRAM
6. Alex Manly (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
7. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio all at same time
8. Kristen Faulkner (USA) BikeExchange-Jayco at 36 sec
9. Veronica Ewers (USA) EF Education-Tibco-SVB at same time
10. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) DSM at 1-16
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FOUR
1. Grace Brown (Aus) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope in 12-39-11
2. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon//SRAM at 04 sec
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 06 sec
4. Alex Manly (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco at 13 sec
5. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon//SRAM at 17 sec
6. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) at 18 sec
7. Kristen Faulkner (USA) BikeExchange-Jayco at 46 sec
8. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) DSM at 1-06
9. Veronica Ewers (USA) EF Education-Tibco-SVB at 1-18
10. Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) UAE Team ADQ at 1-19
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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.
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