Team BikeExchange went from the chaos of waking up find that all their bikes had been stolen on stage 5 at the Tour de l'Ardèche to popping champagne corks by stage 6, when Teniel Campbell delivered a powerful sprint from the break to deliver her first victory since joining the team at the start of the season.
The rider from Trinidad and Tobago had initially missed the break but, determined to chase a stage victory, Team BikeExchange pulled the riders out front within reach so Campbell could bridge to the lead group. It was an effort that yielded dividends at the end of the 138.5 kilometre stage to Goudargues as Campbell wound up for the sprint against her 12 breakaway companions and, with a well-timed charge, managed to overcome Nina Kessler (TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank) and Lauretta Hanson (Trek-Segafredo).
“It’s a first win from me with Team BikeExchange and I will cherish and remember it for a long time as it was such an amazing team effort,” said Campbell in a team statement. “The first one for the season does indeed feel extremely good.”
Campbell said it was special to get the victory in so many ways, particularly after how calmly the squad worked its way through what had initially seemed like a chaotic situation – having all the team bikes stolen before stage 5.
“It hurt like hell but the trust from the team and how well we were working these last days really motivated me and gave me a drive and strong urge to get a stage victory here," said Campbell.
As well as being a first win of the season for the 23 year old, it was also a much sought after fourth international victory of 2021 for Team BikeExchange, which has seen its win count and team ranking slip with the departure of Annemiek van Vleuten to Movistar. The team has been aggressively pursuing stage success at Tour de l'Ardèche by staying active in the breaks while also working to keep Ane Santesteban well-placed on the overall.
Even on the day of the potentially race-ending theft of their bikes those efforts continued with Spratt, on a borrowed bike, launching into a break on stage 5. That break was ultimately caught but Santesteban held firm with her GC rivals to finish sixth.
“What a rollercoaster couple of days,” said Amanda Spratt on Twitter. “Yesterday we woke up to find out all of our bikes had been stolen. Thanks to our staff and some great people in the women’s peloton we were able to race stage 5 yesterday. It was a crazy stage with unusual circumstances and we were all disappointed afterwards.”
“So proud of the way the whole team here turned it around today! Great teamwork and super finale by Teniel Campbell finishing it off with the WIN! After everything that happened yesterday this feels like such a team victory and extra sweet.”
Spratt added that it was also a good way to thank the team staff, who had worked tirelessly to ensure they could stay in the race.
Team BikeExchange made it to the start line of stage 5 on a variety of bikes, as their rivals on the road helped out to make sure they could continue on in the race, but were back on their uniform fleet of Bianchi’s by stage 6. The team mechanics had gone into overdrive to get and build new bikes so the riders were well prepared on familiar equipment as they continued to chase victories and a high overall placing in the final two stages.
“Teniel played it really cool in the breakaway, showing her strength and just keep calm and under control and as planned, going for the sprint and she won it," said sport director Alejando Gonzales-Tablas. "Tonight we can celebrate and have same champagne after all the stuff that happened yesterday with the bikes.”
Tuesday the riders will line up for the seventh and final stage of the French race, which includes 1,557 metres of elevation gain over a distance of 82 kilometres from Le Pouzin to Privas. Team BikeExchange’s Santesteban sits in third on the overall, heading into the finale nine seconds back from race leader Leah Thomas (Movistar) and on the same time as second-placed Mavi Garcia (Alè BTC Ljubljana).
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