Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) won an aggressive fourth stage of the Aviva Women’s Tour in Stoke-on-Trent today, sprinting clear on the uphill finish. The former multiple world champion victory led a group of 20 riders through the final corner crossing the line 120 metres later to claim her first victory of this year’s edition of the race.
Behind her, Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans), who had been part of the main break of the day, finished in sixth position, retaining her lead in the general classification, extending her advantage over second placed Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo-Bigla).
The race was aggressive from the start with numerous attacks, though none of them stuck until Vos had once again scored maximum bonus seconds on the opening intermediate sprint. This reduced her 27 second deficit to Armitstead. It was only then that Alé Cipollini’s Emila Fahlin escaped on a solo break for the second time this week.
The Swedish rider was able to build a gap of just under two minutes before the peloton began to reel her in prior to Ramshorn, the first classified climb of the day. The bunch remained largely intact over the top, it was only on the second climb where the fireworks began.
On that ascent at Oakamoor, the favourites took control with three of yesterday’s protagonists, Armitstead, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo-Bigla) and Elisa Longo-Borghini (Wiggle High5) joined by the latter’s Swedish team mate Emma Johansson, all of whom escaped on the steepest section.
However, though they soon snuffed out Sahlin’s lead, the quartet only managed to create an 18 second advantage over a chasing group of 17 riders chasing behind. In that group Vos had no team-mates, but, both Canyon-SRAM and Liv-Plantur she helped pull the four women back until they were finally caught in the closing two kilometres.
Vos clearly has her eyes on replicating her general classification victory of the open Women’s Tour in 2014, “It’s going to be difficult,” she said after the stage. “I can take some seconds but Lizzie won’t give the yellow jersey away that easy. It’s one more day and lot of teams are empty handed and they want to go for a stage victory do it’s going to be an interesting stage.”
Her team mate Anna van der Breggen was involved in a large crash sustaining injuries to her buttock. Though the Dutchwoman was forced to abandon the race it is expected that she will be fit enough to defend her Giro Rosa title next month.
Tomorrow’s final stage is is a relatively flat run of 113km between Northampton and Kettering, and a sprint finish is likely. Should Armitstead remain within one second of Vos on the opening intermediate sprint she will secure the final yellow jersey of the race.
Watch: Lizzie Armitstead - the road to Rio 2016
Aviva Women’s Tour stage four, Nottingham to Stoke-On-Trent, 113km
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabo-Liv, 3-07-00
2. Leah Kirchmann (Can) Liv-Plantur, st
3. Emma Johansson (Swe) Wiggle-High5, st
4. Amelie Dideriksen (Den) Boels-Dolmans st
5. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Canyon-SRAM, st
6. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Boels-Dolmans, st
7. Amy Pieters (Ned) Wigle-High5, st
8. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SA) Cervelo-Bigla, st
9. Nikki Harris (GBr) Boels-Dolmans, st
10. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, st
Overall standings after Stage four
1. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Boels-Dolmans, 13-02-56
2. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SA) Cervelo-Bigla, at 8s
3. Elisa Longo-Borghini (Ita) Wiggle-High5, at 10
4. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabo-Liv, at 15s
5. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Orica-AIS, at 17s
6. Leah Kirchmann (Can) Liv-Plantur, at 37s
7. Amy Pieters (Ned) Wiggle-High5, at 40s
8. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Canyon-SRAM, at 44s
9. Emma Johansson (Swe) Wiggle-High5, at 46s
10. Gracie Elvin (Aus) Orica-AIS, at 47s
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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.