The riders of Team Sunweb were the main protagonists on Thursday's stage 1 of the Ladies Tour of Norway. The team made the move of the day but then three riders crashed just before the sprint - losing their main sprint contender Coryn Rivera in the accident.
Team Sunweb had split the peloton in the crosswinds 32km from the finish. Having raced into a headwind for a long time, a left turn meant that the headwind became a crosswind, and the whole team lined up at the front to put the pressure on their rival teams. All six riders made the first peloton, and they attacked in turns on the three laps of the finishing circuit in Horten to make the race hard.
"It was a very good stage," said sports director Hans Timmermans. "We took control of the race and put it in the gutter, getting rid of around 60 riders from the peloton. The whole team was very strong with all six of our riders in the front group and keeping the pace high."
But on the final lap, as the team was getting ready to lead-out sprinter Rivera, disaster struck. Juliette Labous, riding in second position, slipped on a wet patch going through a sharp turn, bringing down teammate Franziska Koch. Split-seconds later, Anna Henderson (Tibco-SVB) slipped on the same wet patch as Labous, and Rivera was unable to evade the British rider, going down herself.
As the crash happened only 2.4km from the finish, the team had to change plans quickly. With designated sprinter Rivera out of contention, Leah Kirchmann was supposed to step in, getting a lead-out from Susanne Andersen.
"But we couldn't find each other, and I wasn't able to do the lead-out," said the Norwegian. "I thought it was better that someone would sprint rather than no one, so I went for it. I was already out in the wind with 600 metres to go so that I could get to the front. As a result, I didn't have the legs to finish it off."
Andersen finished sixth on the stage that was won by Lorena Wiebes (Parkhotel Valkenburg). "It is disappointing that the stage ended like that when we did such a great job the whole day. Luckily, there are three more days to go and we are definitely hungry for more!"
Behind, the three crashed riders were all able to get up and finish under their own steam. Labous was hit the hardest – after having her bike slip from under her, she slid over the wet asphalt until a traffic island brought her to an abrupt halt.
"Franziska and Coryn both look to be OK after the crash," Timmermans said. "Juliette went to the hospital for stitches in her leg. We will check them again in the morning to make sure they're OK and able to continue."
The Ladies Tour of Norway continues Friday with stage 2,133.6km from Mysen to Askim.