The second stage of the OVO Energy Women's Tour on Tuesday wasn't the usual day at a stage race. Instead of a point-to-point stage or a medium-length circuit, the parcours most of all resembled that of a criterium. The stage was very short at only 62.5 kilometres and consisted of 25 laps of the road circuit at the Kent Cyclopark that also includes BMX, mountainbike and cyclo-cross courses.
Stage winner Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) enjoyed the change of scenery but said that she was almost caught out on the fast-paced circuit when she suffered a puncture.
"There was a lot of action today. From the sidelines, it might have been a little boring, one bunch going around, but in the group, you’re constantly trying to move up, get to the front and stay in the front," she said. "It was interesting for us to do such a thing. I had a flat tyre today just before the second intermediate sprint. If the wheel change had been five seconds slower, I would have been dropped, and then the race would be over. I was quite lucky."
The Cyclopark circuit includes seven corners exceeding 90 degrees plus several other turns and was landscaped to have some height differences, with the finish line being situated atop a slight rise. This turned out to be an ideal finish for Vos, who took the overall lead with her stage win.
"I wasn’t in a perfect position, but suddenly a gap opened up, and I could find my way. At 200 metres to go I was quite far back, but I was in the draft, so I thought, ‘Now I need to go, and then I’ll just see how far I get’. I took a little gap, and I was quite surprised I could hold it to the line."
Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) finished second behind Vos, confirming that the Cyclopark circuit favoured lighter riders rather than pure sprinters. Deignan said that the stage had its place in the race and emphasised the importance of promoting purpose-built circuits that offer training and racing opportunities for a wider public.
“This adds something different," she said. "Winners of stage races have to be allrounders, and this race is definitely one for allrounders, with sprints, circuits and climbs. I think it’s a fantastic event, and it was great to see the amount of people who were here supporting it. A stand-alone circuit like this should be supported by us professionals. It takes a lot of money to fund these things, and I think it was a good idea to be here."
In her narration of the final lap, third-placed Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-Scott) described the technical nature of the circuit, showing that it is far from flat or straightforward.
"I did my best to hold my ground with the other sprinters vying for a good spot into the corners," Roy said. "I wanted to open up in the last chicane about 250 from the line. There was also a steep little hill before that, so knowing when to use your strengths was key. Vos got the jump from behind me and I started my sprint just a fraction too late."