Elisa Longo Borghini took a surprise general classification win at the Women’s Tour on Saturday, bonus seconds once again proving key.
As expected the final stage ended in a bunch kick, and as expected Lorena Wiebes took the stage win. What was not expected was Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) finishing third in a sprint. And it was the four bonus seconds which gave her the overall, relegating Grace Brown (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) to second place, one second down.
Kasia Niewiadoma took third place for Canyon-SRAM.
Longo Borghini and Brown started the day equal on time, so bonuses were always likely to come into play. However, when Brown took three seconds at the first intermediate sprint and the Italian none all had seemed lost. But perfect positioning ensured Longo Borghini clawed back enough time to overhaul the Australian and take the win.
Brown had taken the race lead after her stage four win in Welshpool on Thursday, but Longo Borghini drew level when she won 24 hours later on Black Mountain in South Wales on Friday.
Wiebes’s win might have been expected by most, but not by her and the DSM team, who were instead working for Charlotte Kool. But when Kool found herself out of place in the final it was left to her Dutch compatriot to take the honours, and with it equal the Women’s Tour stage winning record of five.
How it happened
Going into its final stage the Women’s Tour was more finely balanced than any other year in the race’s eight edition history.
After Grace Brown (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) took victory in the fourth stage and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) won the fifth, the two riders were tied on time ahead of the 142.9km stage between Chipping Norton and Oxford.
Brown led the overall only by dint of count back, and for Longo Borghini to overhaul her she would need either to bag bonus seconds on the two intermediate sprints or on the line, or finish 24 places ahead of the Australian on the stage.
However, the top two also had Kasia Niewiadoma to worry about, the Polish rider beginning the day only two seconds down and leading an always aggressive Canyon-SRAM squad.
The course was one for the sprinters though. The only proper climbing coming early in the race as the peloton wound through the Cotswolds. The second half of the route was mostly flat, and a bunch sprint seemed inevitable, though the sprinters’ teams would need to position themselves carefully, especially with a left hand bend just under 300m from the line.
With so much at stake on the final stage it was little surprise no breakaways were allowed up the road, the odd attempt stifled before they could gain more than a few bike lengths. On the approach to Burford and the day’s second classified climb the teams of the three leading riders came to the front, Canyon-SRAM leading out Niewiadoma in an effort to split the race ahead of the intermediate sprint a few kilometres later.
Though Trek-Segafredo were caught out, they headed straight to the front and drove the bunch into Carterton for the sprint. However, despite an excellent lead out Longo Borghini could only finish fourth, behind team mate Audrey Cordon-Ragot. Worse still she ceded three seconds to Brown, who won, and one to Niewiadoma.
The first bonus seconds secured the race then lit up with repeated attacks until, half way through the stage a group of around 18 women got away. Though this included riders from all three leaders’ teams, as well as stage favourite Lorena Wiebes’s DSM squad, they were never allowed too much space.
Caught soon afterwards, FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope led into the final 50km, though only until Ane Iversen (Coop-Hitec Products) decided to head up the road. With her lead around 40 seconds Alessia Patuelli (UAE Team ADQ) and Mieke Kröger (Human Powered Health) set off in pursuit.
As a trio formed up the road DSM came to the front of the peloton, controlling the gap with a bunch kick and third stage win for Lorena Wiebes in mind. By this time though, no one was interested in the intermediate sprint, the breakaway taking the extra time, 21km from the line.
The leaders didn’t make things easy for the bunch though, the advantage remaining stubbornly above 30 seconds. Then, ten kilometres out with the gap around 20 seconds Kröger tried her luck, attacking her fellow escapees, though she was unable to make a difference.
It was a last gasp effort, though. Soon after Iversen was dropped and while the remaining two battled on gamely their time was limited and they were caught five kilometres from the line.
Driving into Oxford the race was split between two trains, BikeExchange-Jayco on one side of the road, Trek-Segafredo on the other. However, with 1500m to go DSM moved up to prepare the bunch sprint.
Result Women's Tour, stage six: Chipping Norton - Oxford (142.9km)
1. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) DSM in 3-38-15
2. Clara Copponi (Fra) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
4. Tereza Neumanova (Cze) Liv-Xstra
5. Barbara Guarischi (Ita) Movistar
6. Charlotte Kool (Ned) DSM
7. Maike van der Duin (Ned) Le Col-Wahoo
8. Arianna Fidanza (Ita) BikeExchange-Jayco
9. Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Ita) Ceratizit-WNT
10. Christine Majerus (Lux) SDWorx all at same time
Final general classification
1. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo in 19-19-07
2. Grace Brown (Aus) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope at 01 sec
3. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM at 05 sec
4. Alex Manly (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco at 24 sec
5. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) SDWorx at 32 sec
6. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon-SRAM at 49 sec
7. Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco) at 54 sec
8. Veronica Ewers (USA) EF Education-Tibco-SVB at 1-45
9. Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) UAE Team ADQ at 1-50
10. Mikayla Harvey (NZL) Canyon-SRAM at 1-56
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