Elisa Longo Borghini won the queen stage of the Women’s Tour on Friday, taking a sprint victory from a small group at the top of the Black Mountain in South Wales.
The Italian champion trusted her sprint on the steep final pitches to the line, gapping her rivals and taking a clear win ahead of Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) with overall leader Grace Brown (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) taking third.
Longo Borghini had launched two earlier attacks on the five kilometre climb, both in an attempt to thin the leading group, but waited patiently for the final sprint. With just a handful of riders left in the front group, Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco) led into the final 500m, the Italian closing a small gap.
With her teammate Alex Manly moving up in preparation for the final sprint Faulkner still led with 200m to go, but Longo Borghini was too strong, no one able to challenge her sprint.
With one stage remaining the general classification is as tight as it could be, Longo Borghini and Brown both on the same time, though the Australian continues to lead overall on countback.
Saturday’s sixth day sees the peloton cover 142.9km between Chipping Norton and Oxford, and while the first half of the day is lumpy, passing through the Cotswolds, the final 50km are virtually flat and a bunch kick is on the cards.
However, with the GC so close there may be some intricate tactical manoeuvres in an attempt to influence the overall.
How it happened
Much anticipated, stage five of this year’s Women’s Tour provided the race with the first mountain top finish in its eight editions.
Starting where the 2019 race finished on the closed road cycle circuit at Pembrey County Park, just west of Llanelli in south west Wales, the peloton headed north encountering two classified climb hors d’oeuvres. The main course though was the Black Mountain, 5.5km at an average of 5.6%, it comes after a few kilometres of an uphill drag, there are steeper pitches and the 25kph headwind were all set to make this a tough day out.
After her stage four win in Welshpool on Thursday, Grace Brown (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) began the day four seconds ahead of Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) and six on Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), with a host of climbing talent only within 20 seconds. That Brown’s climbing is not recognised as equal to her two closest rivals ensured we were in for a fascinating day’s racing.
The racing began very early on, a group of 10 getting clear in the opening kilometres, however, with Christine Majerus (SD Worx) in that group looking for Queen of the Mountains points, Canyon-SRAM worked to bring them back. That work paid off, as though Majerus took maximum points, Canyon’s former Swiss champion, Elise Chabbey was second, preserving her lead in the competition.
On the foot of the second climb, some 24km in, Jos Lowden (UNO-X) attacked, going clear and getting a lead of around a minute before Majerus infiltrated another group. This group ground away at Lowden’s advantage, catching her with 63km to go.
Lowden, Majerus, Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), Sheyla Gutiérrez (Movistar) Krista Doebel-Hickok ((EF Education-Tibco-SVB), Georgia Williams (BikeExchange-Jayco), Marta Lach (Ceratizit-WNT), Thalita de Jong (Liv-Xstra), Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ), Romy Kasper (Jumbo-Visma) and the Canyon-SRAM pair of Mikayla Harvey and Shari Bossuyt entered the final 55km with a lead of 1-10 on a depleted peloton led by FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope.
Of the leading group Bertizzolo was best placed on GC, at 1-19, though the Italian had a mechanical she dropped back to the peloton. Doebel-Hickok, however, was a particular threat to GC, the American climber beginning the day only 1-26 down.
Despite the team having never previously led a WorldTour stage race, Brown and her squad were in no mood to let the escapees have their fun, steadily closing them down. With just over 30km to go and the gap at 30 seconds where it hovered a while until the break were caught with 20km remaining, the pace then easing.
An intermediate sprint just before the final climb began brought a fight for bonus seconds which were taken by Brown’s team mate Clara Copponi. From there the GC teams formed into trains ahead of the final climb, tension clearly rising in the peloton.
As the road tipped up, and with about six kilometres to go double stage winner, sprinter Lorena Wiebes (DSM) tried an attack though was soon brought back, Trek-Segafredo leading the peloton hoping to set up Elisa Longo Borghini.
She led the race until around three kilometres to go when Longo Borghini launched the first of a number of attacks, initially getting taking a small group with her, though as she sat up, realising the head wind was too much for a lone move, a large group re-formed. Another kilometre further on she went again, this time whittling the group down, but such was the wind there was no getting away solo, and as the group swelled slightly Brown’s yellow jersey came to the front.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SD Worx) also tried a late move, inside the final 1000m, and though she created a gap of around 10 bike lengths , she was reeled back in for the final sprint.
The Women’s Tour 2022, stage five: Pembrey Country Park - The Black Mountain (106.6km)
1. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo in 3-01-49
2. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM
3. Grace Brown (Aus) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
4. Kristen Faulkner (USA) BikeExchange-Jayco, all at same time
5. Alex Manly (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco, at 3s
6. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) SD Worx, at 6s
7. Riejanne Markus (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 19s
8. Veronica Ewers (USA) EF Education-Tibco-SVB, at same time
9. Becky Storrie (GBr) CAMS-Basso, at 21s
10. Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) UAE Team ADQ, at 23s
General classification after stage five
1. Grace Brown (Aus) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope in 15-40-56
2. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at same time
3. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM, at 2s
4. Alex Manly (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco, at 20s
5. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) SDWorx, at 28s
6. Elisa Chabbey (Sui) Canyon-SRAM, at 45s
7. Kristen Faulkner (USA) TeamBikeExchange-Jayco, at 50s
8. Veronica Ewers (USA) EF Education-Tibco-SVB, at 1-41
9. Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) UAE Team ADQ, at 1-46
10. Mikayla Harvey (NZL) Canyon-SRAM, at 1-52
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