By Owen Rogers
Former German road champion Charlotte Becker sprung a major surprise in China on Saturday by winning the Tour of Chongming Island. The Hitec Products rider was part of a five woman break who held off the sprinter's teams on the second of the three stages, taking what proved to be an unassailable advantage into the final day.
Fellow stage two escapees occupied the remaining steps of the general classification podium, with Australian champion Shannon Malseed (Team TIBCO-SVB) second and Anastasia Iakovenko (BTC-City Ljubljana) third.
The race is traditionally a sprinter's paradise, with wide, well-surfaced roads and a near pan flat route virtually guaranteeing bunch finishes.
However, when the break went on Friday's 121.3km stage, the sprinters' teams seemed unwilling to take responsibility for the chase, eventually finishing well behind the break with last year's race winner Jolien D'hoore (Mitchelton-Scott) leading the bunch home.
How it happened
The race began with arguably the world's top sprinters vying for victory, D'hoore apparently taking on Commonwealth champion Chloe Hosking (Alé-Cipollini) and Kirsten Wild (Wiggle-High5) for the honours.
It was the Wiggle-High5 who showed themselves first, setting up double junior world champion Lucy Garner for the mountains points on the 111km stage.
With that behind them D'hoore, Hosking, and Wild competed for bonus seconds in the first of the intermediate sprints, though shortly after a large group went clear.
As the final approached a first crash disrupted but did not prevent the catch, but it was a second and much larger crash that split the peloton in the final metres to leave former world champion Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance) to win the sprint from a small group.
With time gaps insubstantial, Friday began in much the same fashion as previous day. Once again Wiggle-High5 set up Garner to win the mountain sprint at the top of the bridge over the Yangtze river, the Brit to securing the classification jersey in the process
Shortly after, however, the winning group went clear, building a lead approaching four minutes before finally the peloton reacted.
It was too late however, and the die was cast for Becker's victory. All she and her Hitec Products team had to do on Saturday's closing stage was monitor attacks.
Working for second placed Malseed, Team TIBCO tried to go clear, but otherwise the day was a procession for the bunch, with Wild finally taking a stage with D'hoore in close attendance.
A powerful rider, this is Becker's first win since she bagged a stage and GC at last year's 2.2 ranked Tour of Zoushan Island, it is also the Norwegian team's first Women's WorldTour victory since Kirsten Wild won a stage of the Amgen Tour of California for them in 2016.
The race however, is not the best attended, with teams like Boels-Dolmans, Sunweb and Canyon-SRAM choosing to remain in Europe for their racing.
The next race of the Women's WorldTour will be the Amgen Tour of California, which for this year has been reduced to just three stages, beginning on May 17.
Tour of Chongming Island 2018, final general classification
1. Charlotte Becker (Ger) Hitec Products, in 8-45-55
2. Shannon Malseed (Aus) Team TIBCO-SVB, at 5 secs
3. Anastasia Iakovenko (Rus) BTC City Lubljana, at 8 secs
4. Dalia Muccioli (Ita) Valcar PBM, at 13 secs
5. Coralie Demay (Fra) FDJ- Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope, at 16 secs
6. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Cylance, at 1-04
7. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Wiggle-High5, at 1-12
8. Jolien D'hoore (Bel) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-13
9. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Alé-Cipollini, at 1-18
10. Kelly Druyts (Bel) Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport, at 1-19
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