Wiggle-High5 gained a real boost to their morale by winning today’s stage two of the Aviva Women’s Tour in Stratford-Upon-Avon on Thursday afternoon. Dutchwoman Amy Pieters took a close sprint finish ahead of last year’s race winner Lisa Brennauer (Canyon-Sram).
Pieters, whose first win this was since joining the British registered team this year, was one of a group of 27 riders who entered the Warwickshire town more than a minute ahead of the main peloton, which had split over the final 30km of a tough course.
The stage began in Atherstone, in the north of the county and had been fairly benign with only Alé-Cipollini’s Swedish rider Emilia Fahlin animating the race, escaping in two solo breaks in the opening 70km.
The second of those excursions was brought to heel on the first classified climb of the day at Burton Dassett, which dragged on well past the mountains classification banner and saw the leading teams take control.
After the technical descent there followed a series of shorter, unclassified climbs with ramps in excess of 12%, each of which served to split the group, only for it to reform on the descent.
Watch: Canyon-Sram team bike
Prior to the final classified climb double junior world champion Amalie Dideriksen (Boels-Dolmans) and Polish Malgorzata Jasinska (Alé-Cipollini) escaped the peloton, building a lead of up to 42 seconds.
Dideriksen’s presence off the front allowed her teammates to hide in the peloton to defend the lead of yellow jersey wearer Christine Majerus. However the escape was short lived, the climb of Campden Hill being the decisive moment of the stage.
Here the peloton split conclusively and a group of top riders, including five from both Wiggle-High5 and Boels-Dolmans, went clear and were left to compete for the win.
“It was a hard day,” Pieters told Cycling Weekly at the finish. “There were some steep, hard hills and we did a really good job with the team. We have such a strong team here this week and we can play a lot of cards and I’m happy that I could finish it today.”
The team have suffered disruption recently with the departure of directeur sportif Egon van Kessel, though Pieters said this had not added any pressure.
“It was the decision of the team and the riders are here to win races and do the best all year. It was a decision of Rochelle [Gilmore team owner] and Egon. We are so strong as a team with tactics and she [Gilmore] always wants to win. This victory has been coming for the team.”
Wednesday’s stage one winner Majerus finished the day in fifth place, losing the leader’s jersey to third placed Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv), who boosted her standing by picking up bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints.
The Dutch multiple world champion now leads the race by three seconds from Majerus.
Friday’s third stage is only 109km but is the toughest of the race, with over 2,000 metres of climbing through the Derbyshire Peak District between Ashbourne and Chesterfield.
Aviva Women’s Tour 2016 stage two, Atherstone – Stratford-Upon-Avon
1. Amy Pieters (Ned) Wiggle High5, in 3-36-55
2. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Canyon-SRAM
3. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabo-Liv
4. Gracie Elvin (Aus) Orica-AIS
5. Christine Majerus (Lux) Boels-Dolmans
6. Emma Johansson (Swe) Wiggle-High5
7. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Wiggle-High5
8. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Liv-Plantur
9. Leah Kirchmann (Can) Liv-Plantur
10. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Rabo-Liv, all same time
Overall classification after stage two
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabo-Liv, in 7-01-26
2. Christine Majerus (Lux) Boels-Dolmans, at 3s
3. Amy Pieters (Ned) Wiggle High5, at 7s
4. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Canyon-SRAM, at 11s
5. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Wiggle-High5, at 13s
6. Leah Kirchmann (Can) Liv-Plantur, st
7. Gracie Elvin (Aus) Orica-AIS, at 14s
8. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Boels-Dolmans, at 16s
9. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Liv-Plantur, at 17s
10. Emma Johansson (Swe) Wiggle-High5, st