By Owen Rogers
Young German rider Franziska Koch took her first professional win at the Boels Ladies Tour on Saturday. The 19 year-old was one of a group of three women who came to the final in Nijmegen and was able to win the sprint on the line.
In second place was Luxembourg champion Christine Majerus, who had started the day just 23 seconds off the overall lead, but with the leader's orange jersey finishing in a group 44 seconds down, she now leads the race overall.
Riejanne Markus (CCC-Liv) was third on the stage, two seconds behind the winner.
British rider Lizzy Banks (Bigla) was he best of the rest, finishing fourth and leading the pack home with a late attack.
The leading trio had entered the final kilometre with their advantage hovering around 35 seconds, when Markus, realising she was not the best sprinter of the three attacked. Though she got a gap, Majerus brought her back, and as she rounded a chicane into the final 150m opened her sprint first.
It looked certain the Luxembourger would take the win, but Koch came past her in the final metres.
The win was Sunweb’s first WorldTour victory of the year, and came form an unlikely source. Though the same age as Brit Pfeiffer Georgi, Koch is the most junior rider on the team, only joining them at the start of August, since when she has ridden aggressively and productively.
How it happened
The 135.6km stage between Arnhem and Nijmegen began as the previous three have, the riders all together, though at 40kmh the pace was higher.
Passing the through the drop zones where airborne soldiers landed 75 years ago next week, the race was relatively flat, though with woods and crops alongside the road.
An early break of 11 riders managed to escape, though they were never able to gain more than 20 seconds lead and were soon caught.
Once again crashes took their toll. Apparently worst off from one of those incidents was former world time trial champion Ellen van Dijk, who, according to her Trek-Segafredo team twitter, broke both her pelvis and arm.
Passing through trellised orchards around half way along the parcours, the weather closed in with heavy rain accompanied by high winds, the latter helping to split the race.
At first the peloton was in shreds, the 75 riders remaining in the race split into seven groups, but as the route changed direction it reformed into two larger groups, separated by 25 seconds, though the rear of those split further later on.
While all those who started the day in the top five overall managed to make the font group, none Lizzie Deignan’s Trek-Segafredo squad made it, with the WNT-Rotor team of Lisa Brennauer, in seventh one place behind the Brit, was also absent.
However, after more than 10km of fighting, a section of tailwind allowed the two groups to come back together. Nearly as soon as the race re-formed though, the winning move went away.
Riejanne Markus (CCC-Liv) instigated the break and was joined by Sara Penton (Virtu) and Franziska Koch. The trio and were soon joined by Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans), who began the stage in tenth place, only 23 seconds behind the overall leader.
Going into the final 30km the four women had a lead of 1.50 on the bunch, with Vittoria Guazzini (Valcar-Cylance) trapped in between. This put Luxembourg champion Majerus in the virtual race lead, and the gap continued increasing despite Penton and Koch skipping their turns on the front.
Inside the final 15km the lead was out to two minutes and the win looked possible, if unlikely. It looked less possible when the pack closed the gap to within one minute as they tackled the testing ascent of Aude Holleweg, 11km out, especially when Penton was dropped.
However, with Boels-Dolmans working to disrupt the chase behind, the three leaders resolute with Koch now contributing fully, they made it to the final kilometre with a lead of 35 seconds.
Tomorrow’s stage reverses today’s start and finish towns, beginning in Nijmegen and finishing in Arnhem. At 154.8km it does not reverse the route though, but will serve a similar fayre, with a tough hilly final.
That could well suit an all-rounder like Majerus, and her 30 second overall lead should be defendable, with extra motivation coming as the race’s main sponsor is also the lead sponsor of her Boels-Dolmans team. after
Boels Ladies Tour 2019, stage four: Arnhem to Nijmegen (135.6km)
1. Franziska Koch (Ger) Sunweb, in 3-14-33
2. Christine Majerus (Lux) Boels-Dolmans, at same time
3. Riejanne Markus (Ned) CCC-Liv, at two seconds
4. Elizabeth Banks (GBr) Bigla Pro Cycling, at 44s
5. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg
6. Lonneke Uneken (Ned) Hitec Products
7. Alison Jackson (Can) Tibco-SVB
8. Eugénie Duval (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
9. Leah Thomas (USA) Bigla Pro Cycling
10. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Sunweb, all at same time
General classification after stage four
1. Christine Majerus (Lux) Boels-Dolmans, in 13-04-51
2. Lisa Klein (Ger) Canyon Sram, at 30 seconds
3. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg, at 32s
4. Amy Pieters (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, at 36s
5. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Sunweb, at 40s
6. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Mitchelton-Scott, at 42s
7. Lizzie Deignan (GBr) Trek-Segafredo, at 47s
8. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) WNT-Rotor, at 49s
9. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 51s
10. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, at 52s