The final kilometres of Monday’s Women’s Tour stage were branded as dangerous by riders after a crash took out the pre-race favourite Lorena Wiebes.
The DSM rider was perfectly placed to add to her burgeoning tally of 2022 race wins in Bury St Edmunds, but was one of a number of women who crashed on the first of two narrow 90º bends inside the final 500m.
Positioned further back FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope’s French track star Clara Copponi went on to win the stage, her first pro road win, and her team’s third top tier success this season.
“I think it was a little bit dangerous,” Copponi’s Australian team mate, Grace Brown told CW in a gloomy Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds. “First of all we went from two lanes to one lane and then in the wet slippery corners on he pavé stuff in the finish it wasn’t a safe finish. I hope the rest of the tour can be a little safer.”
The chaotic finish had been anticipated by both Brown and her team. With 35km of the race remaining a motorcycle police officer involved in course security was involved in a collision causing the race to be stopped. While riders put on extra clothes and piled into their team cars to keep warm, news from team staff at the finish reached them and discussions began.
Riders’ safety representative Christine Majerus (SDWorx) could be seen on the television coverage talking with other riders and race staff.
“We had got info from the swannies that the last three kilometres were dangerous,” the Luxembourg champion told CW. “So we talked with every team to find a solution and make this as safe as possible. Everyone except DSM was actually happy to ride here neutralised, but we have to respect the decision that DSM wants to race so we have to find some middle ground.
“In the end we see that it is not safe because there was a big crash, of course it is the responsibility of the riders, and I could see that we were going way too fast for that corner in the wet conditions, but…”
Brown continued; “Christine was proposing that we just ride neutralised all the way to the finish line and call it a day, but some teams really wanted to sprint so in the end we came to a compromise that not everyone [would] get involved in the sprint and there was no time lost for anyone gapped in the finish.”
French squad FDJ-Nouvele Aquitaine Futuroscope might have one of the longest names of all Women’s WorldTeams, but they are mining a formidable vein of form this season.
For many years the French squad were the galant whipping girls of the peloton, trying hard but never able to take the big result. Their first top tier victory came only in 2020, Evita Muzic winning the final stage of the Giro Rosa.
However, Monday’s third WorldTour win of the year followed hot on heels of victory for Marta Cavalli at both Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne. With the team following a strategy of internationalising their roster their results have been on an upward trajectory in recent seasons.
Last year Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig’s stage three success at the Vuelta a Burgos was their only WorldTour win. In 2022 we can add to Cavalli’s success Muzic’s second place on GC in Burgos and Grace Brown’s runner’s up finish at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April to prove the team is now among the top squads.
“Confidence breeds confidence,” beamed Australian Brown after the finish of Monday’s stage in Bury St Edmunds. “It’s awesome that it’s not the same riders getting the results, we’ve had Marta, Evita, Clara and me all finishing on the podium so it’s really cool.”
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