In 2018, Jolien D'hoore won the first stage of the OVO Energy Women’s Tour in Suffolk. The 2019 edition started in Suffolk again on Monday, and the Boels Dolmans sprinter repeated her victory. Last year, it was her first race back after a collarbone fracture; this year, she broke a collarbone in March, derailing her spring season.
D'hoore returned to racing in May and won the opening stage of the Emakumeen Bira before going to the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour where she finished third on the final stage, confirming her good form. And back on Suffolk soil, there was no stopping her as D’hoore emerged victorious in Stowmarket.
“It was pretty hectic going into the sprint because it was downhill to the last corner, but the team did a perfect lead-out. Basically, I just had to follow, so I had the easy job. Amy Pieters put me in a perfect position with 150 metres to go and got second herself, so that proves that we are really strong as a team.”
Stage 1 victory put the green leader’s jersey on D’hoore’s shoulders, but the Belgian stressed that defending this lead is not a priority. Instead, she wants to help her teammates taste success.
“Stage wins are our main goal; we’re not really going for GC. But if you’re close in the stages, you’re obviously close in GC, so we’ll just take it day by day. I’m happy to help the team now, and I want to pay them back for all their work. We have strong girls like Amy, Christine Majerus, and Chantal Blaak, so we’ll see how we go.”
D’hoore’s teammate Majerus took the lead in the QOM classification, earning herself the mountain jersey after a cold, rainy day.
“The first challenge was to stay warm and motivated, and I think it stopped some girls from being aggressive. There were some small attacks, but nothing really stuck apart from the solo rider who went away. We were quite happy with that because it was something we could control and bring back in the last kilometres. Our lead-out was perfect, and Jolien delivered.”
That solo rider was Abby-Mae Parkinson (Drops). She attacked in the last 25 kilometres and quickly found herself leading the race on her own.
“Floortje Mackaij did an attack, a couple of girls followed, and then everybody just sat up. I thought, ‘Why not?’ and just went for it. I wasn’t expecting to get a gap, so it was nice to see the time going up. And everyone on the side of the road spurred me on so much, all the school kids cheering... It was incredible.”
Fifteen kilometres from the finish, the time gap between Parkinson and the peloton went above 1:30 minutes, fuelling hopes that she might make it to the end. Eventually, though, Parkinson was reeled in by the sprinters’ teams.
“I knew it would be really hard with all the good teams here up for a sprint, but I just gave it my all. When the time was coming down to 10 seconds and I had three kilometres to go, I looked over my shoulder and saw the whole peloton coming, but that’s bike racing.”
Coryn Rivera’s Team Sunweb was active at the intermediate sprints, taking bonus seconds for her and teammates Susanne Andersen and Leah Kirchmann. Rivera won last year’s edition due to the same tactic, and she said that going for time bonifications was part of the team strategy again.
“We’re investing a little bit on this, but we did that last year too, and it paid off. The parcours is still going to be really difficult throughout the week, but these seconds can either be a head start or a bonus to move you up in the end. For the finish, I wasn’t in the position I wanted to be in, it was just a really heavy, soggy day and not really my favourite."