Clara Copponi took the first victory of her career winning the opening stage of the Women’s Tour in Bury St Edmunds on Monday.
Elena Cecchini (SDWorx) led around the final bend, around 150m from the line, but was unable to hang on, and eventually finished third, with Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ) in second place.
Copponi (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) was in around 12th wheel as the race entered he penultimate bend, around 250m from the line. But when the leading riders were taken out by a crash on what was a very tight corner for so late in the stage, the French rider found herself in the perfect position.
That late crash took out the world’s best sprinter, Lorena Wiebes. The Dutchwoman had entered the race off the back of a three stage clean sweep at Ride London last week and was nailed on favourite for a repeat performance in Suffolk. However, she arrived at the DSM bus looking upset and angry, sporting rips to her clothing exposing nasty road rash.
Earlier on the race was stopped for more than 55 minutes after a police motorcyclist deployed to secure the rolling road closure was involved in a collision. Local police were called to investigate the incident leaving riders crammed into team cars to keep warm.
Suffolk Constabulary reported that the officer suffered a leg injury and was taken to hospital, while suffolknews.co.uk have reported that the incident was dealt with by in-race medical services and local resources were not required.
How it happened
Since the first edition in 2014 the Women’s Tour has become one of the pre-eminent races on the women’s calendar. Excellent organisation and challenging, if not tough courses ensured the world’s best made their way to British shores to compete.
However, in the face of an improved Giro Donne, a six day Tour of Scandinavia and the Tour de France Femmes, all with live television, there was a sense in the 2021 event that the race was beginning to lag behind. This was exacerbated as last year’s stages seemed somewhat disjointed, and with too many bunch sprints.
Now, though, with live TV for the first time, a genuine tour of the south of Britain and a proper mountain top finish, it seems the Women’s Tour is back where it belongs. Certainly that was the case geographically, as the opening stage returned to Suffolk and Bury St Edmunds where the first edition closed, with Marianne Vos the victor eight years ago.
Monday’s race started in Colchester, host to a stage start last year, heading south then north, before looping around the Suffolk town of Stowmarket, before finishing in Bury St Edmunds 142.1km later.
The opening kilometres were quiet, SDWorx sat on the front, with very little in the way of aggression. Only after 30km did the race kick off, Canyon-SRAM coming to the front on the approach to the day’s first classified climb, though it was SDWorx’s Luxembourg champion Christine Majerus who took maximum points.
It was a similar scenario with 41km done, the pace lifting ahead of the intermediate sprint at Holbrook, Maike van der Duin taking the bonus seconds for Le Col-Wahoo, the peloton easing afterwards.
The Dutchwoman took the honours at the second sprint too, with Jumbo-Visma going over the top in an unsuccessful effort to form a breakaway, repeating the the performance after the final classified climb which came 61km from the line.
However, it was not the Dutch team who got away but British squad CAMS-Basso, Dani Shrosbree getting up the road alone and building a lead of 1-45 with 50km to go. With the British rider in her first WorldTour race she rode on as an unknown, teams taking a while to get organised in the chase. Eventually the DSM squad of sprinter Lorena Wiebes came to the front, their 21 year-old German Franziska Koch eroding Shrosbree’s lead.
With 35km to go and her advantage down to 1-20, the race was stopped for a medical emergency on the route ahead of the race, but resumed after 55 minutes with Shrosbree’s advantage restored.
However, with DSM joined by Trek-Segafredo at the front of the race her time in the lead was limited and she was caught with 15km remaining and the race headed into Bury St Edmunds for a sprint finish.
ResultWomen’s Tour, stage one: Colchester - Bury St Edmunds (142.1km)
1. Clara Copponi (Fra) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope in 3-40-15
2. Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) UAE Team ADQ
3. Elena Cecchini (Ita) SDWorx
4. Arianna Fidanza (BikeExchange-Jayco)
5. Alice Barnes (Gbr) Canyon-SRAM
6. Eugenie Duval (Fra) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
7. Ingvild Gåskjenn (Nor) Coop-Hitec Products
8. Anne Dorthe Ysland (Nor) UNO-X
9. Letizia Borghesi (Ita) Liv-Xstra
10. Maike van der Duin (Ned) Le Col Wahoo all at same time
General classification after stage one
1. Clara Copponi (Fra) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope in 3-40-05
2. Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) UAE Team ADQ at 04 sec
3. Maike van der Duin (Ned) Le Col Wahoo at same time
4. Elena Cecchini (Ita) SDWorx at 06 sec
5. Alison Jackson (Can) Liv Xstra at 07 sec
6. Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Ita) Ceratizit-WNT at 08 sec
7. Laura Tomasi (Ita) UAE Team ADQ at 09 sec
8. Arianna Fidanza (BikeExchange-Jayco) at 10 sec
9. Alice Barnes (Gbr) Canyon-SRAM
10. Eugenie Duval (Fra) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope all at same time
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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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