Anna van der Breggen took a stranglehold of the Women’s Tour of California, comfortably winning stage one.
The reigning world champion attacked on the last climb of the day and soloed to victory, finishing 18 seconds ahead of chasing group of seven led by Elisa Balsamo (Valcar Cylance).
Collecting bonus seconds on the line, Van der Breggen has a healthy lead of 25 seconds on GC to Balsamo ahead of Friday’s Queen stage take takes the riders up to the summit of Mt. Baldy.
It is the Boels-Dolmans rider’s second win of the season, her first arriving just a few weeks ago at La Flèche Wallonne. She won this race in 2017.
Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) and Olga Zabelinskaya (Cogeas-Mettler) both tried in vain to catch up with Van der Breggen.
How it happened
An undulating course wasn’t all the peloton had to contend with, with strong winds and gusts throughout the 96.5km stage from Ventura that headed towards the coast before returning to the start town for the finish.
There were attempts at forming a breakaway from the get go, but the peloton refused to let any riders club together. After almost 20kms, Lindsay Goldman of Hagens Berman-Supermint was permitted to ride clear.
Behind the American, the relentless nature of the small climbs and incessant pace set by the strongest teams shredded the peloton into what was a much smaller group
Goldman was producing a valiant effort out front all alone, but she was caught by the reduced peloton with 50km still left to ride.
No other ride was able to jump away until Zabelinskaya successfully freed herself of the bunch. The Uzbekistani immediately built an impressive lead that stretched to more than a minute and looked favourite to take the stage and thus control of the race.
Her chances increased when the wind caused echelons and yet more splits in the chasing peloton behind.
However, despite holding a 45 second advantage with six kilometres to go, she she was caught at five kilometres to go.
On the slopes of the final climb, Van der Breggen made her move, attacking powerfully to move ahead of what was now a select group of the world’s best riders, including Ashleigh Moolman (CCC-Liv) and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-Sram).
Deignan chased after Van der Breggen but the Dutch woman had quickly amassed an unassailable lead and the Briton was sucked back into the small group behind, all its members content with racing for second-place.
Stage two of three will likely determine the final outcome of the yellow jersey, and Van der Breggen’s team-mate Katie Hall, the reigning champion, will have to overturn a 20 second deficit to retain her title.
Women’s Tour of California stage one: Ventura > Ventura (96.5km)
1 Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels-Dolmans in 2-36-17
2 Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Valcar Cylance at 18 secs
3 Arlenis Sierra (Cub) Astana
4 Leah Kirchmann (Can) Sunweb
5 Ashleigh Moolman (RSA) CCC-Liv
6 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-Sram
7 Emma White (USA) Rally UHC
8 Lizzie Deignan (GBr) Trek-Segafredo, all at same time
9 Brodie Chapman (Aus) TIBCO-SVB, at 20 secs
10 Marta Cavalli (Ita) Valcar-Cylance, at same time
General classification after stage one
1 Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels-Dolmans in 2-36-04
2 Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Valcar Cylance at 25 secs
3 Arlenis Sierra (Cub) Astana at 27 secs
4 Lizzie Deignan (GBr) Trek-Segafredo at 29 secs
5 Leah Kirchmann (Can) Sunweb at 31 secs
6 Ashleigh Moolman (RSA) CCC-Liv
7 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-Sram
8 Emma White (USA) Rally UHC
9 Olga Zabelinskaya (Uzb) Cogeas-Mattler at 32 secs
10 Brodie Chapman (Aus) TIBCO-SVB at 33 secs