A strong breakaway of 10 riders dominated stage 3 of the Emakumeen Bira. Pauliena Rooijakkers (WaowDeals) attacked from this break but was caught shortly before the finish, and the sprint was won by Amy Pieters (Boels Dolmans).
After the race, Rooijakkers said that her teammate Anouska Koster was the rider who initiated the breakaway.
"Anouska attacked, and a lot of girls attacked behind her. There was another girl who attacked to bridge to the first group, and I went with her. Then we were two up in the break."
With this strength in numbers, Rooijakkers went on her long solo attack. She had an advantage of over a minute at one point, but her brave bid for the stage win eventually came to naught.
"Our plan was that I would attack, and we would always have Anouska for the sprint. I attacked on the last long climb, it was still 30km to go. I was feeling good, but I had small problems in the downhill, and they could see me riding. I tried everything, but they caught me four kilometres from the finish. Maybe it is easier to close the gap than to stay out front."
Clara Koppenburg (Cervélo-Bigla) and Emilia Fahlin (Wiggle-High5) normally work for their teammates, but on stage 3 they went into the break that had a four-minute advantage on the peloton at one point and ended up sprinting for victory.
While Fahlin found herself up front with Pieters in tow, Koppenburg picked the right wheel for the sprint and finished in third place.
"I was dropped on the first two climbs but fought my way back to help our leaders. After the bonus sprint, there was a gap, and I got into the breakaway. We were working well together," said Koppenburg. "Coming into the sprint, I was on Amy Pieters' wheel because I knew she was the favourite to win."
Fahlin was two bike lengths further up going into the sprint, but as she had Pieters sitting right behind her, there was little the Swede could do.
"I felt good throughout the race, and the opportunity opened when the break went away," he said. "It's really good to get the little fire once in a while from racing for the win. Amy was in my wheel in the finale and got the jump earlier, I got closed in a bit. I'm quite happy I could find the gap to get the second place."
Pieters said that she studied the finale on the passages earlier on the stage and knew when to launch her sprint.
"It was a hard finale because the road narrows, and there were some cobbles and holes. I knew I had to start before the small village. That was a pretty long sprint, but I think you have no other choice with this finish. In the end, it worked out," she said.
While other riders were going for the stage win, it was the general classification that was on the mind of Georgia Williams (Mitchelton-Scott). Only two minutes down on GC before the stage, she was the virtual leader for a long time. In the end, Williams was three seconds short of taking the leader's jersey, which stayed on the shoulder of her teammate Annemiek van Vleuten.
"I was lucky with the move that I got into as I was the rider that was placed highest on GC," said Williams. "I rode as hard as I could to the finish to try to put as much time into the chasing bunch. I gave it everything and wasn't sure what the time gap was when I crossed the line. I had nothing left for the sprint finish, I put everything into taking time on the peloton."
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