If you want proof that women’s cycling is growing – indeed, has grown and is now able to rival men’s cycling in popularity – then the crowds that gathered in Oundle’s Market Place to see off the first stage of the inaugural FLG Women’s Tour is that proof: the general consensus among the press was that the crowds that gathered there in the warm morning sunshine were the biggest ever seen at a women’s cycling event, here or abroad. For that, we should thank the organisers SweetSpot, the riders, the fans who’ve been spreading the word and the people of Oundle, because the Northamptonshire town proved itself to be fantastic host.
Each and every team and rider was clapped and cheered on the stage, from the mighty Rabo-Liv and Orica-AIS to the less well-known squads of Matrix-Vulpine (Helen Wyman delighted onlookers by taking out her phone to grab some photos of the fans) and Lointek. There were laughs too: “You can pop in for a cup of tea,” the announcer told Lucy Garner (Great Britain) when she told him the race passes her front door. “I think my mum’s ready,” she replied. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) raised laughter too: “Who’s the biggest threat to you,” she was asked. “Well, the usual – Marianne Vos!” she answered.
Jade Wilcoxson (Optum p/b Kelly Beneft Strategies) had said that the wind would be the biggest problem facing the riders today, and she was correct – the peloton stayed together all the way to the first intermediate sprint at Rushton 30km into the route, with most of the protected riders staying in the middle of the bunch for shelter. Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) was first through, followed by Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) and Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv).
The first attack came right after the sprint, just as a heavy squall hit and made the roads slippery. Harriet Owen (Matrix-Vulpine) crashed hard enough to smash her helmet; she was able to continue and, 15km later, regained contact with the peloton – at which point, it turned out that her bike had been damaged in the crash and her derailleur snapped off. She never got back to the pack but she finished the stage, in last place and to huge supportive cheers from the spectators in Northampton. There’ll be many who believe she deserved the Combativity award today.
Rossella Ratto (Estado de Mexico-Faren) won the first QOM at Harrington 36km from the start, with Sharon Laws (United Healthcare), Jolanda Neff (Switzerland NT), Karol Ann Canuel (Specialized-Lululemon), Elena Cecchini (Estado de Mexico-Faren) and Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS) following for the rest of the points. The second QOM, 15km later at Spratton, went to Vos followed by Linda Indergand (Switzerland NT), Laws, Armitstead, Canuel and Ellen van Dijk. Laws’ total of nine points made her the first rider to wear Strava’s polka dots jersey.
The peloton reached the second intermediate sprint at Wootton after 83.8km and Elise Delzenne was fastest – she also picked up the Combativity award. Armistead was second with Vos once again third; Johansson therefore holds the Yodel Points Jersey with a total of 15 points; Vos has 12 and Barnes has 9.
The uphill sprint leading to the finish seemed likely to favour Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda), but the Italian had stated before the race that tends to peak later in the year and doesn’t have the form to challenge for victory at present – she was fifth over the line. Trixi Worrack (Specialized-Lululemon) was fourth, just behind British rider Hannah Barnes. Vos is a favourite for every race in which she competes, but she too isn’t at anything like a peak right now, following her extended break from racing after the cyclo cross season. As a result, she wasn’t able to get an edge on Johansson, and the number one in the world-ranked Swedish rider took the first yellow jersey of the race.
Barnes, as the leading Young rider, will race tomorrow in the Matrix Fitness white jersey. Garner is just behind her on +04″. There were five riders unable to finish: Molly Meyvisch of Lotto-Belisol, Michela Maltese of Astana-BePink, Hitec Products’ Siri Minge and Audrey Cordon and Ashlynn van Baarle of the Netherlands National Team – the Dutch rider suffered head injuries in a crash and will be flown home tomorrow; her team manager Johan Lammerts gave reassurances that she is OK.
Results and more photos below
Stage 1 Top Ten
1 Emma Johansson (111; Orica-AIS) 2h28’29”
2 Marianne Vos (1; Rabo-Liv) ST
3 Hannah Barnes (141; United Healthcare) ST
4 Trixi Worrack (126; Specialized-Lululemon) ST
5 Giorgia Bronzini (154; Wiggle-Honda) ST
6 Lucy Garner (41; Great Britain NT) ST
7 Elena Cecchini (36; Estado de Mexico-Faren) ST
8 Lizzie Armitstead (21; Boels-Dolmans) ST
9 Amy Pieters (91, Netherlands NT) ST
10 Tiffany Cromwell (124; Specialized-Lululemon) ST
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