The final stage of the Tour of Chongming Island brought the big sprint that everyone was waiting for. After crashes took out several of the top sprinters on stage 1 and a breakaway held off the pack on stage 2, nothing was going to stop the sprinters on the stage 3 circuit race.
Hitec Products-Birk Sport kept the race together to the very end in support of Charlotte Becker, who took the overall victory after her stage 2 win. The sprint trains took over in the final kilometres, and it was Kirsten Wild (Wiggle High5) who could raise her arms at the finish. The Dutchwoman was happy to win on Chongming Island.
"It's a WorldTour race, so we were competing against the best sprinters," Wild said. "This is quite a high-level race in terms of sprinters, so it's nice to get the win. We had good communication, and it was a team win, and that makes it really special. Everybody had a big part in this win. You can't win a sprint alone and the whole team is really happy about it."
Wild was one of the stage 1 crash victims, taking a tumble with the finish line in sight.
"I think I underestimated the effects of the crash a bit," she said. "The muscle in my leg hurts quite a lot, and I hit my head on the ground, so my neck and my shoulder are sore, and I have bruises everywhere."
The Wiggle High5 sprinter was not among the best three in the two intermediate sprints during the stage. But in the final Wild was unbeatable, not least due to her team's leadout.
"We could find each other really well today, the six of us," Wild said. "It's quite complicated normally. I think we lost each other a bit in the last kilometre, but still it worked very well. Nettie Edmondson was the last one in the train and she delivered me in the perfect position."
Jolien D'hoore (Mitchelton Scott) could not repeat her success of last year, when she won two stages and the race overall. Caught in the same crash as Wild on stage 1, D'hoore won the bunch sprint on stage 2 - but only for sixth place, 1:12 behind the breakaway. D'hoore says she was boxed in the sprint on stage three.
"The lead-out was great, but with 400 metres to go, Sarah Roy couldn't find a gap on the right side so we were boxed in on the right," D'hoore said. "I stopped pedalling and went around on the left but by then Kirsten had already launched her sprint.
"I felt that I could produce more speed than her so I came really close but it was too late. I'm quite disappointed to not give the girls a victory, but we can take lessons out of it and take it with us to the next race. We definitely gained a lot of confidence with our sprint group and we know that if we do everything perfectly, we can really nail every sprint."
The next chance for the sprinters in a UCI Women's WorldTour race will come at the Women's Tour of California, April 17-19, where stages 1 and 3 are completely flat.