Stage three of the Women’s Tour started in a lovely coastal town where the crowd was just as awesome as the previous two stages. Feeling and hearing the enthusiasm at the start really gets us fired up. We aren’t used to crowds like this – it just isn’t the norm in women’s cycling – and it has been absolutely amazing to be here in the UK to experience this energy and passion.
Heading out of Felixstowe, we had the longest neutral start yet. It was so hectic in those first seven kilometres that several crashes happened as riders were anxious to be in the right place at the right time when the start flag dropped. The heavy winds at the start meant the peloton was on alert for the gutter-action in the opening kilometres. That is exactly what happened.
It was single file from the start, and it stayed that way more or less throughout the entire race. That was our plan – to make it hard. We wanted to put pressure on the other teams. We wanted to make it fast, be at the front and put other teams on the back foot.
My teammate Loes Gunnewijk and I were to save energy in the first half of the race but be prepared to follow good wheels if things got really aggressive. As the race opened up in the second half, we wanted to either put the race in the gutter as a team or get into breakaways.
Loes and I both had a few good cracks, but nothing stayed away as there were enough teams who wanted a bunch sprint. Rabobank-Liv wasn’t super keen to work a break as they wanted to help Vos get the bigger bonus seconds at the finish. Wiggle-Honda wanted a sprint for their star Giorgia Bronzini who thus far has been pretty quiet in the sprints.
Boels-Dolmans set up Lizzie Armistead perfectly for the first sprint, and she snagged the three bonus seconds ahead of Vos and Emma. In the second sprint, Vos narrowly edged out Armistead as Emma slotted in for third again. As those three were duking it out in the second sprint, they naturally opened a small gap on the field. Just as Vos and Armistead sat up to be absorbed by the bunch, Emma put in a brilliant attack.
The sirens started going off immediately as Emma started to power up the road. It was great! She was riding so strong and fast on her own. You could feel the nervousness in the peloton – the other teams were very afraid of letting a rider like Emma get away. Boels-Dolmans sent Ellen van Dijk to the front to close the gap. Using her World Champion time trialling power, she single-handedly motorpaced the rest of us back to Emma.
From that point on it was pretty much gruppo compacto until the final three kilometres when Tiffany Cromwell made a solo dash for the line. Rabobank-Liv went straight to the front and caught her with one kilometre to go. Emma and I were sitting right behind the Dutch train, and I pulled her as hard as I could into the last corner. Obviously we were hoping to beat Vos once again, but she was too strong today. Congratulations to her and her Rabobank teammates on the win.
By virtue of winning bonus points on the road and at the finish, Emma was able to slip into second overall. We are happy with our effort to move her up. We are still in a good position and have more cards to play. We are all in really good spirits at the moment. We are ready and eager to fight for two more days!