Lisa Brennauer (WNT-Rotor) is the new leader of the OVO Energy Women’s Tour. Having won the race overall in 2015, the German allrounder moved into the green jersey due to time bonifications for her second place on Wednesday’s stage 3 as the overnight race leader Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) crashed out of the race.
Brennauer has had a successful season so far after moving to WNT-Rotor in the off-season. After piloting Kirsten Wild to sprint victories in Brugge-De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem, Brennauer herself won a stage of the wind-swept Healthy Ageing Tour from a breakaway.
In May, Brennauer performed well at the Tour de Yorkshire to finish sixth overall. The following weekend she did even better in the hilly Festival Elsy Jacobs, winning the final stage and the general classification of the prestigious race held in memory of the first-ever women’s road world champion.
At Blenheim Palace, Brennauer was bested only by Jolien D’hoore (Boels-Dolmans) in a sprint that she had targeted. “I wanted to win the stage, and I knew that the final would suit me. I did everything how I wanted to do it and I don’t think I did anything wrong. It’s just that Jolien is so fast and she passed me before the line.
“I had no idea I was the race leader until a person from the organisation came up to me and called me up for the ceremony. I’m happy about that, but there is the downside that we had a crash, and unfortunately the race leader had to drop out, so it also feels a bit weird to be the leader now. Unfortunately, things like that happen, and I want to wish all the best to the riders who crashed today.”
The crash that took out Vos and several other riders happened on the descent before the second intermediate sprint of the day when Jeanne Korevaar, in second position in the peloton, hit a pothole at speed. Vos’ teammate Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio now remains as the leader of the decimated CCC-Liv team as Vos, Korevaar, and Valerie Demey all had to abandon.
“The team was doing a leadout for Marianne,” recounted Moolman-Pasio, who will not start stage 4 after also being involved in the second crash. “Jeanne hit a big pothole and lost her handlebars. Marianne was sitting in her wheel, and so she went down. I actually landed pretty much on top of the crash, so I wasn’t too badly affected, but it was really unsettling. I know now is that everything is under control, that she’s okay. Jeanne hit her head pretty hard. She wanted to start to start again, but the team convinced her not to. With Valerie, it was her ribs.”
Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-Scott) was right behind Vos when the race leader crashed. “That was one of the bigger crashes I’ve ever seen or experienced,” she said. “Alex Manly and I were right there with everybody fighting for wheels, then CCC-Liv went down, and we did too, along with the majority of the bunch. It was a few minutes there before I was able to peel myself off the ground after someone removed the bikes from on top of me. Usually I jump right up, but that was a big crash. I’m sorry for Vos who was leading the race.”
With only a few riders unaffected by the crash, the race had to be neutralised for a substantial period until the injured riders were attended to. And even after the restart, trouble was not over.
“We started again, people were like, ‘we should be more cautious now’,” D’hoore said. “And then the second crash happened. It was really carnage in the bunch, it was a weird race today.”
Anna Plichta (Trek-Segafredo) was one of the riders caught up in the second crash. She had been on a solo breakaway earlier, earning herself the combativity award, and helped her team leader Lizzie Deignan return to the peloton after the crash.
“It was just a straight road,” said Plichta. “There was no reason to crash, but it happened. I was in there, so was Lizzie, and after I didn’t make it back.”