The final stage of the OVO Energy Women’s Tour turned into a game of seconds not only to decide Lizzie Deignan’s eventual overall victory but fore the placings further down the general classification.
During a tense ride in the south of Wales, Deignan and Trek-Segafredo defended her green jersey against Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) by taking a bonus second at the second intermediate sprint in Penygroes. Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb) and Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) crossed the sprint line ahead of Deignan, both improving their overall positions in doing so but Deignan opened a precious two-gap on Niewiadoma.
It is perhaps ironic that the sixth edition of the Women’s Tour included a hilltop finish and a true mountainous queen stage but ended with the smallest time gap between first and second place.
“It was hectic all day long, you couldn’t lose focus,” Deignan admitted.
“My main concern was Black Mountain, we were hoping the breakaway would stay away through the intermediate sprint. The second sprint was on a climb, so we didn’t really want to go for it. But Canyon-SRAM did a great job of bringing that back, and it was kind of like, ‘right, I’m going to have to sprint’. Kasia took me all the way to the line, she really fought all day long. But once I had that second and were up two seconds, it was a good position for us.”
But even with a two-second advantage, victory wasn’t in the bag for Deignan. The finish at Pembrey Country Park was a technical affair with several corners in the final kilometres.
“The priority was to beat Kasia and not have any gaps, especially in a final like this that you have not seen before,” Deignan revealed.
“I was looked after by Ellen [van Dijk] and Elisa [Longo Borghini]. Boels-Dolmans started leading out really early, and as soon as I saw their train coming, I jumped on the back of that and knew that I’d be safe then.”
Deignan is the first rider to win the OVO Energy Women’s Tour twice.
“I was not bluffing; I did not expect this,” said an emotional Deignan, mixing her racing with her role as a young mother.
“I am incredibly surprised and grateful to my teammates. I am really overwhelmed with all the support we received this week. I was here really to consolidate the first block of training and racing I have done, and my expectations were potentially if I got a good opportunity to go for a stage but thought that wouldn’t happen.”
“I think the last time I came here I was probably one of the favorites to win the race and this time I wasn’t a favorite. It was a different experience, and totally a team performance.”
A fight for the top five
Christine Majerus had been in fifth place before the stage, on the same time as fourth-placed Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg). With the mid-stage time bonification, Majerus moved up into fourth place as riders fought hard for places in the top five.
Kirchmann made an even bigger jump after starting the day in tenth place. After collecting three bonus seconds through winning the intermediate sprint, the Canadian all-rounder came close to the stage win, beaten to the finish line only by Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans). She moved up to sixth at 54 seconds.
“Susanne [Andersen] and Coryn [Rivera] put me into a perfect position, with Coryn also there to support me into the final 500 metres,” she explained.
“The finish itself was very technical and fast. I was third wheel out of the last corner at 300 metres to go and just couldn’t quite come past Amy at the finish. It would have been nice to win a stage, but we really took the maximum out of this final day of racing, and as a team we’re happy with that.”
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