Wiggle-High5's Dutch sprinter Kirsten Wild took advantage of an excellent leadout to win Thursday's opening stage at the women's Tour de Yorkshire.
Such was the strength and power of her sprint, the 35 year-old appeared to cruise over the line, sprinting in the saddle, beating 2016 world champion Amalie Dideriksen (Boels-Dolmans) and Briton Alice Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) into second and third places respectively.
The final kilometres were dominated by three leadout trains, with Canyon-SRAM first to set themselves up. Sunweb soon followed, but found themselves on the wrong side of the road. While Wiggle-High5 came to the front late in the piece, Wild was second wheel with more than 500 metres to go, but showed her skill and experience, following other teams' wheels before opening up her sprint.
How it happened
The moment the flag dropped on the outskirts of Beverley, some of the domestic teams hit the front in an attempt to form the day's break. The bigger outfits were unhappy with the size of those early groups and brought them to heel, setting the pattern for the opening kilometres.
However, after 16 of the 132.5km, GB Academy rider Pfeiffer Georgi, guesting for the domestic Jadan-Weldtite Vive le Vélo team, escaped with Meike Uiterwijk-Winkel (Parkhotel-Valkenburg) and the peloton finally seemed happy, letting them go.
Despite some half-hearted efforts to get the pair back, the two teenagers soon built an lead of 40 seconds on the rolling, twisting roads of the Yorkshire Wolds.
As the distance remaining clicked under the 100km to go mark, at the bottom the day's only classified climb, the Côte de Baggaby Hill, the pair's advantage exceeded one minute.
However, even the relatively shallow gradients of the 1.9km climb took their toll, and by the time Georgi sprinted clear to take maximum Queen of the Mountains points, the gap was all but gone, the peloton preparing themselves to compete for the bonus seconds available at the race's first intermediate sprint in Pocklington.
Shortly afterwards, another Parkhotel-Valkenburg rider, Natalie van Gogh escaped off the front, and was soon joined by Isle of Man based climber, Anna Christian (Trek-Drops), bridging the Dutch woman's 20 second advantage with ease.
The final 80km of the day were largely flat and, while the leading duo worked well together, they were initially unable to gain a significant gap, repeated attacks from the peloton causing the favourites' teams to chase. However, as they approached Howden and the day's second intermediate sprint, the peloton finally relaxed and the lead extended to 1.30.
With Team GB, Boels-Dolmans, Ale-Cipollini and Sunweb taking turns to keep tabs on the break, the gap remained largely the same until, with 23km to go, van Gogh attacked, effectively ending the break, the peloton engulfing the pair few kilometres later.
Despite some cones placed to guide the peloton as they entered Doncaster threatening to disrupt some trains, the closing 10km saw the bunch set itself for the sprint finish.
It's been good year for Wild, who won the final stage of the Tour of Chongming Island in China last weekend to add to the Scratch race world championship she won in the Netherlands.
Bonus seconds mean Wild will wear the leader's jersey for tomorrow's stage. With three classified climbs, tomorrow's stage is likely to define the general classification of the two day event. At 128km, it may be shorter than Thursday's race, but the winner at the top of the famed Cow and Calf climb near Ilkley is almost certain to win overall.
Asda Women's Tour de Yorkshire, stage one: Beverley to Doncaster (132.5km)
1. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Wiggle-High5, in 3-28-30
2. Amalie Dideriksen (Den) Boels-Dolmans
3. Alice Barnes (GBr) Canyon-SRAM
4. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) Parkhotel-Valkenburg
5. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Alé-Cipollini
6. Sara Mustonen (Swe) Experza-Footlogix
7. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Sunweb
8. Abby-Mae Parkinson (GBr) Trek-Drops
9. Neah Evans (GBr) Storey Racing
10. Sévrine Eraud (Fra) Experza-Footlogix, all at same time
General classification after stage one
1. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Wiggle-High5, in 3-28-30
2. Amalie Dideriksen (Den) Boels-Dolmans, at 4 secs
3. Alice Barnes (GBr) Canyon-SRAM, at 6 secs
4. Dani Rowe (GBr) Great Britain, at 6 secs
5. Natalie van Gogh (Ned) Parkhotel-Valkenberg, at 7 secs
6. Anna Christian (GBr) Trek-Drops, at 8 secs
7. Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels-Dolmans, at 9 secs
8. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) Parkhotel-Valkenburg, at 10 secs
9. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Alé-Cipollini, at 10 secs
10. Sara Mustonen (Swe) Experza-Footlogix, at 10 secs
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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.
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