Escaping the peloton with around 50km to rode, Polish champion Kasia Niewidoma bagged her first Women’s WorldTour win at the Ovo Energy Women’ s Tour stage one.
As the sprinter’s teams looked at each other behind her, the 22-year-old built a lead approaching 3-30, finally winning in Kettering with just under two minutes to spare.
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While the opposition squabbled over responsibility in the peloton, Niewiadoma’s WM3 Energie team were able to stay calm, allowing Marianne Vos to position herself perfectly to take second place. Boels-Dolmans’ Christine Majerus, who won on this finish in 2015, placed third.
Before Niewiadoma escaped, the stage had been fairly benign, though number of crashes had caused some withdrawals from the race. It was only on the two classified climbs and the intermediate sprints where the race came alive, especially as the sprints carried bonus seconds.
It was after the second of those sprints, in the Northamptonshire town of Oundle that Niewiadoma made her move, gaining time quickly.
Previous editions of the race have been decided by tiny margins, the first, in 2014 had the maximum time gap between first and second on general classification of 30 seconds.
Then Marianne Vos won by 30 seconds after hoovering up time in the sprints and with three stage wins. It could be that today’s winning margin of 1.47 could see Niewiadoma secure overall victory.
“She is pretty fresh from a month off and I think she will recover from today,” Danny Stam, Boels-Dolmans’ team manger told Cycling Weekly. His team won the event last year with Lizzie Deignan and, despite their dominance in the Ardennes classics and at the Tour of California, he felt it was not down to his team to chase the Polish rider.
“There were other teams who had the chance to win the stage and I said that it is not only us to do the chase. Kasia rode extremely well and stayed out with 1.47, so it is going to be difficult to get her out of the jersey.”
All the riders had been given a pink ribbon to wear by the event’s charity Breast Cancer Care, each bearing the name of a sufferer of the disease and it was this that gave Niewiadoma extra motivation.
“I was thinking about the girl from my ribbon and I felt a lot of energy from her,” she said at the finish. “I am so happy, it was a hard time for me in recent weeks as I’ve had a small injury to my knee, so I was a little unsure of my shape.
“It was crazy because usually stages like this end in a bunch sprint and I knew there were a lot of teams who wanted to make that and I was sure they would chase me hard, but when I saw 15k to go I knew I had to go hard.”
The best British rider was Alice Barnes (Drops), who, riding on roads close to where she was brought up, finished seventh.
Thursday’s’s 144.5km stage starts ad finishes in Stoke-on-Trent and takes in some tough terrain on the way, including the feared Gun Hill.
Ovo Energy Women’s Tour – Stage one Daventry to Kettering 147.5km – result
1. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Energie 3-51-39
2. Marianne Vos (Ned) WM3 Energie at 1-42
3. Christine Majerus (Lux) Boels-Dolmans
4. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Wiggle-High5
5. Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Canyon-SRAM
6. Christina Sigaard (Den) Team Veloconcept
7. Alice Barnes (Gbr) Drops
8. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) Cervélo-Bigla
9. Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Ita) Lensworld-Kuota
10. Roxane Fournier (Fra) Francas des Jeux – Aquitaine Futuroscope all at same time