Guarnier's patience pays with podium spot in Norway

Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) put all the pieces together on Sunday in Norway, taking out the final stage in a hectic bunch sprint and climbing from fourth to second overall.

Guarnier made the select final group in the 156.6km Ladies Tour of Norway stage from Svinesund to Halden, then slung herself past Ellan van Dijk (Team Sunweb) through the final corner to take the victory. The 10-second time bonus to the stage winner moved her within 13 seconds of overall winner Marianne Vos (WM3), who was third on the final stage. Van Dijk finished second on Sunday and third overall.

“The team tried the whole week for intermediate sprints because we knew it would come down to seconds,” said Guarnier, who won the inaugural women’s WorldTour last year. “I’m glad that work paid off in a small way.

“It was nice to have Christine [Majerus] on the podium in stage 1,” Guarnier said. “As always, we stayed motivated in the race, and I’m happy we could take the top step on the final stage and get on the general classification podium. It really was a team effort.”

Guarnier finished fifth in Thursday’s opening prologue, tackling the 3.4km blast in Halden just four seconds behind winner Van Dijk. She finished 20th on the first road stage and 23rd on stage 2, going into Sunday’s finale fourth overall, 17 seconds behind Vos and 12 seconds behind Jolien D’Hoore (Wiggle High5) and Van Dijk.

On Sunday, Guarnier bided her time in the group during the aggressive first half of the day, then waited until her teammates and others reeled in the trio of breakaway riders one at a time.

“We knew it was a long day, and we had to take the distance into consideration,” Guarnier said. “We were never under pressure in the beginning of the race. The team was always well-represented.

“We knew the final laps were very technical and quite hard, so we knew there would be opportunities for us,” she said.

Orica-Scott’s Rachel Neylan escaped on the finishing circuits in town, and once again Guarnier preferred to let the others react. As repeated attacks and accelerations thinned out the field, a vicious attack from Van Dijk finally brought Neylan back into the fold.

“There’s a risk when you let anyone go up the road that it won’t come back,” Guanrier said of the dangerous move. “I looked at what the other teams were doing and what their motivations were, and I thought that it wasn’t my job to chase it back. I knew there were other riders in the general classification that would be interested in bringing it back as well.”

With Neylan successfully brought back, a field sprint looked inevitable until former time trial world champion Linda Villumsen (Team VeloConcept) took a lone flyer off the front. Villumsen built a 100-metre gap, but the favorites were not giving away the stage victory and reeled in Villumsen with only 200 metres to go.

“It was kind of heartbreaking that Linda got caught with only 200 meters to go,” said VeloConcept team director Carmen Small. “It was a really good attempt.”

With all the attacks swept up, it was left to the reduced bunch to fight for the stage win. Guarnier again waited patiently for things to play out, then overhauled Van Dijk, who jumped with 500 metres to go, in the final corner for the win.

“It was a hard stage,” said Guarnier. “I wouldn’t say I completely rule myself out as a sprinter, but I’m definitely not a bunch sprinter. That kind of hectic is not something I look forward to.

“We stayed on our toes, and we tried to make sure we were ready and offensive in the final laps,” she said. “Ideally it wouldn’t come down to a sprint, but it was a reduced bunch sprint in the end."

The victory is the third of the season for Guarnier after she took out the opening stage at the Amgen Women’s Race in California and then won stage 10 at the Giro Rosa.


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