With her stage 1 sprint victory in Southwold, Jolien D'hoore (Mitchelton-Scott) picked up at the 2018 OVO Energy Women's Tour where she left off last year. D'hoore won the final stage of the 2017 race, and on Wednesday the Belgian champion raised her arms on British soil again.
But in the run-up to the race, it wasn't certain that D'hoore would even make the start: Only three weeks ago, she had crashed in a Madison track race. The crash resulted in a broken collarbone that needed surgery and put D'hoore out of racing. The OVO Energy Women's Tour was her first race back and she was uncertain if she could perform.
"Even before today's stage, I wasn't sure where I was at with my form," D'hoore said. "But the team had 100 per cent trust in me, and they gave me a perfect lead-out going into the finish. It's really great to start with a win, the pressure is off now."
Luckily for D'hoore, the opening stage wasn't the most challenging, as it was held in the flat landscape of Suffolk. "The stage was pretty flat and everyone knew that it was going to come down to a sprint, but it got pretty nervous and hectic going into the final."
With the last 300 metres rising slightly and a headwind on the finishing straight, timing was crucial in the sprint. "Thankfully I was in a really good position on the last corner. I started my sprint a little early but managed to hold on and it worked out really well in the end. We had a plan going into the stage and we stuck to it perfectly. The finish was quite tricky, but it couldn't have gone any better."
Unlike D'hoore, who focused on the final sprint, Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) was active in the intermediate sprints during the stage. In the final, she was piloted to the front by her team and sprinted to third place, but is second in the general classification thanks to the four bonus seconds she secured along the way.
"The team did a great job getting me in position to get some bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints," Rivera said. "I won the first one and got third in the second. In a crazy hectic final, Lucinda Brand really saved the day and got me into position with one kilometre to go. If it wasn't for her help I wouldn't have been able to go for the podium."
The OVO Energy Women's Tour continues on Thursday with a hilly stage 2 from Rushden to Daventry.
Watch the video highlights from stage 1 below.
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