Anna Henderson is no stranger to breakaways.
At Jumbo-Visma, her role often is to soften up the ground ahead of the final for Marianne Vos or follow attacks by other teams, but Henderson also enjoys racing proactively when she herself is the team leader.
On stage 1 of the RideLondon Classique, the 23-year-old Briton was the only one to break away from the peloton on an otherwise uneventful day, before being caught on Maldon’s Market Hill only 200 metres from the finish.
“We wanted to race aggressively today. After my attack, I understood that the peloton did not really pick up the pace, so I went full throttle. I felt quite strong and kept going on the climbs. Unfortunately, the race lasted just a bit too long, so it ended in a sprint. I'm really looking forward to the coming days because this start gives me confidence,” Henderson said after the stage.
Having attacked on the first of two laps of a 21.8-kilometre finishing circuit, Henderson quickly extended her gap to 1:40 minutes when she crossed the Spring Elms Lane mountain sprint. With one lap to go, she still led by 1:20 minutes, and the twisty English country lanes played into Henderson’s hands.
“You’re kind of used to Belgian roads that can be quite straight, Dutch roads are quite straight, so it’s really funny going through the twisty, kind of up-and-down roads. It’s nice to be in England and hear all the British fans,” Henderson said to BBC Essex.
Even so, the sprinters’ teams wouldn’t let such an opportunity go amiss and chased in earnest on the final lap. Henderson’s advantage was reduced to 24 seconds at the three-kilometre mark, but in the end, it was the climb up Market Hill that spelled her doom: After 40km out on her own, Henderson could not keep the sprinters behind her on the steep climb, eventually finishing in 28th place.
“We had a great day. It was an ideal scenario for Anna as the final went over many narrow roads. We still had Coryn Labecki to fall back on in the sprint, but she didn’t have the legs for it today,” Jumbo-Visma sports director Lieselot Decroix was satisfied with the team’s performance.
Henderson’s exploits netted her the orange-blue mountains classification jersey, and stage 2 offers three more mountain sprints where she can defend the lead and secure a classification jersey ahead of the London stage on Sunday that is completely flat. However, she reiterated that stage wins were the team's main objective.
“It was going all in for the stage win. We’re here for the stage wins, we want to be competitive, and we did that today,” Henderson said. “Moving the finish line 200 metres closer would have been nice. But it was a really good ride and a really fun day out, so hopefully more again tomorrow.”
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