Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) will likely turn her attention to the mountain and sprint classifications – both of which she leads – after a mechanical in the prologue knocked her out of early contention for the overall title at the Boels Ladies Tour.
The flat stage race doesn't offer the best terrain for the South African climber, and stage 1 even less so as it was an entirely pan-flat 123-kilometre affair. However, the race organisation had decided to give out mountain points on the first passage through the finish line with 25km to go in order to be able to award the polka-dot jersey. A few kilometres earlier, Moolman-Pasio had suddenly found herself with a small gap over the rest of the peloton.
"I knew from my teammates that the local lap was technical and had a feeling it could be quite crazy in the peloton," the 33-year-old told Cyclingnews.
"As we approached a corner, I accelerated to go around the corner – and no one followed. So I thought, 'OK, I'll give it a go.' I didn't specifically plan to go for the mountain points or the sprint points; it was just an instinct to accelerate at that moment."
Moolman-Pasio had experienced misfortune during the previous day's prologue when a mechanical meant she had to dismount from her bike on the short, but steep, climb that was part of the course, losing valuable time. She finished 33 seconds slower than stage winner Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott), putting a GC result virtually out of reach, and this made her commit to the solo attack.
"I had nothing to lose," Moolman-Pasio said. "This race is preparation for the world championships, and I'm doing the individual time trial there, so it was good training.
"I felt really strong, my form is good, and I'm happy with my effort. I suspected that it would be difficult to stay away to the finish because the sprinters would want to go for the sprint."
Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) went after Moolman-Pasio with 21.5km to go, with the British rider getting a gap on the bunch, meaning that two riders were out on their own.
"When I heard that Lizzie was in the middle, part of me wanted to let her join, but I also knew that if I sat up or came off the pedals, the peloton would get more motivation to chase," said Moolman-Pasio.
"In a way, Lizzie's move to come across wasn't good for me because the peloton could see her ahead of them, giving them motivation and speeding up. But I put my head down and went for some good training. In the process, I picked up two jerseys and some podium time and TV time for the team, so that's all a bonus," she said.
The South African road race champion was reeled in by the peloton on the final lap, setting things up for a sprint finish. But before that, she had won the mountain points and the bonus sprints for three crossings of the finish line, taking a three-second time bonus as well as the polka-dot mountain jersey and the blue intermediate sprint jersey.
"I'm not certain whether I'll go for the jerseys now," Moolman-Pasio said. "We'll discuss our ambitions in the team meeting tomorrow. But why not? The opportunity to go for the GC isn't great, so we'll see what the next days bring. Either way, I'm enjoying the racing here and am happy to have had a go today."
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