Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM) started stage 4 of The Women’s Tour wearing the green Queen of the Mountains (QOM) jersey and made the trip to the podium to receive it again after the stage finished in Southend-on-Sea. Although the climbers jersey was not an initial target, she now hopes to keep it through to the conclusion of the six-day race on Saturday.
“It was not the team plan to go for the QOM. I was just there at the top trying to set up a breakaway, and in doing so, I collected some points. On stage 2, we were there in position when the first QOM came around on the laps, so we decided to go for it. Same for the second QOM because then it gave a good chance to be on the podium. It’s always nice for the team to go to the podium, and to bring a jersey home at the end of the tour, of course, would be great,” Chabbey said.
On the first two days, the Swiss climber had collected 10 points toward the mountain classification, and she was first over the top on the category one Hambro Hill on stage 4, taking another six points to bring her total to 16 and increasing her lead to seven points.
Hambro Hill came late on the 117.8-kilometre stage 4, cresting only 12.6 kilometres from the finish. By the time the peloton reached the climb, all breakaway attempts had been brought back.
“I really wanted to collect the maximum to set a comfortable advantage. There was only one QOM on offer, so we had it as a goal. The team brought me in position at the bottom of the climb and then I just went hard to the top without looking to see who else was going for it,” recounted Chabbey.
It worked. Chabbey made it first, followed by Liane Lippert (Team DSM), Ane Santesteban (Team BikeExchange), world champion Elisa Balsamo (Valcar-Travel & Service), Sheyla Gutiérrez (Movistar Team), and Soraya Paladin (Liv Racing) who took the remaining points.
It played to Chabbey’s advantage that her closest rival, Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx), took the overall lead on the stage 3 time trial and now has a more important jersey to defend. But Vollering was not the only rider the QOM leader needed to watch for.
“Demi is the GC leader, so QOM isn’t going to be her target, but I didn’t really focus on her and just went hard on the climb today. Janneke Ensing [Team BikeExchange] was only four points behind at the start of today’s stage, so it was never down to only Demi or myself,” said Chabbey.
Ensing did go on the attack on stage 4, although her solo breakaway in the first half of the stage was short-lived. She and her teammate Santesteban, now at seven points, as well as Lippert with six points will probably be Chabbey’s main rivals on the two remaining stages in Essex and Suffolk.
Despite the generally flat terrain, there are five second-category climbs with a maximum of three points each still to come: The Manningtree climb and two ascents of Tenpenny Hill on stage 5 as well as Skate’s Hill and Clopton Hill on stage 6.
“We will see if there are breakaways where someone collects points or if I am in a situation to go for it," Chabbey said. "Then, there’s always my teammate Ella Harris who has three points herself and can help take some points if, for example, she was in a breakaway. We want to keep the jersey now, but we also want to win a stage, so we will see what’s going to happen.”
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