No other rider could match the birthday girl's attack on the final summit finish of the Cow and Calf
Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) took a birthday win on the second stage of the Tour de Yorkshire, finishing 17 seconds ahead of the nearest rider and earning the top spot overall following the two stage race.
Canyon SRAM’s Alena Amialusik was her closest rival, whilst Dani Rowe (British Cycling) took the third step of the podium and also secured second overall.
With minimal time gaps following the flat, fast finish of the opening stage won by Kristin Wild (Wiggle High5), the climb laden course from Barnsley to Ilkley looked ripe for a breakaway – of which there were several, the final decisive move taking place with under 20 kilometres to go.
A break of fourteen made it to the foot of the Cow and Calf climb, with the 33-year-old American Guarnier timing her attack to perfection in the final uphill stretch to the finish line.
How it happened
Tony Orrell, manager at Torelli-Brother had said in advance “I think it’s going to get blown to bits today. There are no flat sections: it’s just up and down all day” – his words certainly rang true.
Several groups made attempts to get up the road over the 124km of the race, which contained three classified ascents, including the summit finish of the Cow and Calf.
Early attacks proved unsuccessful, with Katia Ragusa (Be Pink) and Manon Lloyd (Drops) gaining a maximum of 51 seconds at the 55 kilometre to go mark, only for their margin to be eroded to 21s with 46km to go; the bunch back together with 40km left.
The peloton reunited, World Champion Chantal Blaak (Boels Dolmans) made her move, she was joined by Eri Yonamine (Wiggle High5), Floortje Mackaij (Sunweb), Alexis Ryan (Canyon SRAM), and Ane Santesteban Gonzalez (Ale Cipollini) with just over 30km to go.
Blaak, the most experienced rider in the break, took her turns on the front but didn’t appear close to her limit – likely using the break to soften the bunch, in preparation for an attack from Boels rider and birthday girl, Megan Guarnier.
The gap remained steady at around 25s, Wiggle High5 still working the front of the peloton and evidently not putting their eggs in the basket of Japanese national champion, Yonamine.
With 23km the peloton had them in sight, whilst some riders towards the rear began to drift from the bunch over the brow of a hill en route to the second classified climb – Cote de Old Pool Bank, which carries an average gradient of 9 per cent.
At the foot of Old Pool Bank, the five riders out front had 27s on the peloton, with 20km to go. The gap crumbled quickly, a clear split forming in the peloton as those with climber’s legs got closer to the break, and those without drifted back.
The blue leader’s jersey, sat on the shoulders of sprinter Wild, began to slip back as the pace wound up over the climb.
Once the break was caught, Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) sprang to the front, followed by Canyon SRAM’s Alena Amialusik, plus Dani Rowe riding for British Cycling and Guarnier.
Longo Borghini’s attack created a select group of fourteen riders, with Team Sunweb, Boels Dolmans and Canyon SRAM all represented with numbers.
Rowe, now isolated from her team mates, became the virtual leader of the day having finished six seconds behind Wild on the previous stage. Though she was forced to respond to several attacks in the 17km that followed, wherever possible she sat in the group and saved her legs for the climb.
Sunweb, and particularly the team’s time trial specialist Ellen Van Dyke, worked hard to ensure the late break maintained its gap.
The final 10km became an attacking affair, Boels Dolmans leading many of them, with Karol-Ann Canuel and Blaak shooting off the front, leaving the rest of the group to chase and limit the damage whilst Guarnier sat comfortably in the wheels.
With only the ascent of the Cow and Calf climb left, Blaak and Canuel dropped from the group.
Guarnier put in a monster kick to distance herself from the reduced bunch, Amialusik initially following, with Rowe not far behind.
Neither could latch back on to Guarnier, who was able to cross the line 14s ahead of second place Amialusik, with Rowe a further 3s in arrears but still earning a place on the podium.
1 Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels Dolmans in 3-19-50
2 Alena Amialusik (Bel) Canyon SRAM, at 14s
3 Dani Rowe (GBR) British Cycling, at 17s
4 Erica Magnaldi (Ita) BePink, at 22s
5 Ane Santesteban Gonzalez (Spa) Ale Cipollini
6 Liane Lippert (Ger) Sunweb
7 Juliette Labous (Fra) Sunweb, at same time
8 Shara Gillow (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, at 27s
9 Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Wiggle High5, at 28s
10 Janneke Ensing (Ned) Ale Cippolini, at 50s
Final general classification after stage two
1 Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam 6-48-09
2 Dani Rowe (GBr) Great Britain, at 17s
3 Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Canyon-SRAM Racing, at 19s
4 Liane Lippert (Ger) Team Sunweb Women, at 31s
5 Erica Magnaldi (Ita) BePink, at 33s
6 Ane Santesteban (Spa) Ale Cipollini, same time
7 Juliette Labous (Fra) Team Sunweb Women, at 36s
8 Shara Gillow (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, at 38s
9 Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Wiggle High5, at 39s
10 Janneke Ensing (Ned) Ale Cipollini, at 01-01