Going into the Tour of Chongming Island, there were three big favourites for the sprints: Defending champion Jolien D'hoore (Mitchelton Scott), Kirsten Wild (Wiggle High5), and Chloe Hosking (Alé Cipollini). But a crash-marred final sprint in the opening stage brought down the main contenders, and the stage was won by former double world champion Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance Pro Cycling).
Not being able to contest the final sprint meant that the three sprinters lost valuable time bonuses, which could have had an impact on the overall outcome of the race come Saturday's finale, had stage 2 not been decided by a breakaway that gained over a minute on the field.
Cylance Pro Cycling sports director Manel Lacambra told Cyclingnews how he experienced the finale. "We had two of our riders involved in the first crash, but they are okay. Our train was in a good position, we wanted to take a clean line to avoid any crashes. They did a very good job, and in the final we had Marta Tagliaferro putting Giorgia in a good position, and then Sheyla Gutiérrez did the last lead-out from 400m to go to the line."
Each stage of the Tour of Chongming Island offers two intermediate sprints for time bonuses, and bonuses of 10, 6 and 4 seconds, respectively, for the top three finishers of the stage.
Lacambra continued that the team's goal was to win a stage. "That's why Giorgia didn't do any bonus sprints. We got what we wanted, now we have no pressure," he said. "We will continue to race, but the other teams also need to take the responsibility."
There was a first crash inside three kilometres to go that brought down the sprint trains of Alé Cipollini, riding for Hosking, and Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank that support Kendall Ryan. The US team had had a good day until then with two riders in the breakaway and the team well-placed in the sprint preparation until the crash put a stop to their ambitions.
"The girls are all okay after the crash. Ingrid Drexel and Brodie Chapman did a great job in the break, it is sad that those crashes ruined the finale," said a team spokesman to Cyclingnews.
Wild and D'hoore were still in contention coming onto the finishing straight. But a swerve rippling through the field pushed a Mitchelton-Scott rider into the road's centre strip, causing her and several others including the two sprinters to crash.
Wild's teammate Annette Edmondson sprinted to seventh place after being suddenly left without a sprinter to lead out, as she recalled on a team video. "I hit it with 500 metres to go. Then the gap was starting to close, and I thought Kirsten just got through, but then I looked again and she was gone. That was it, no more you can do."
Mitchelton-Scott road captain Gracie Elvin commented on the team website. "We tried to get Jolien in position for the last sprint, but with 400 metres to go there was another big crash that took out most of the favourites. Sarah Roy, Jolien and I were all involved, luckily we are all okay. Overall we are happy with how everyone is feeling and we will make up for it in the next two days."
The Tour of Chongming Island continued with stage 2's 121.3km race at Chongming Fenghuang Park. The stage finished with a breakaway of five riders making it to the finish line, thwarting the chance for a bunch sprint, as Charlotte Becker (Hitec Products-Birk Sport) took the victory. Becker also moved into the overall race lead with only one stage remaining.
With the decisive crash taking down the favourite sprinters on stage 1 and a breakaway succeeding on stage 2, the notoriously sprint-driven Tour of Chongming Island has suddenly become unpredictable.
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