Team VeloConcept has signed former time trial World Champion Linda Villumsen for the remainder of the 2017 season. Villumsen, who rode for UnitedHealthcare in 2016 and 2015, the year she won the rainbow jersey in Richmond, Virginia, has not raced professionally since the Rio Olympics last August.
"Linda's name has been at the top of our list for a long time," said team manager Bo Handberg Madsen. "We already talked to her when we started the team, and now we have made an agreement. It's really great. Linda is a good name to bring 'home' to Denmark, and she is a strong stage racer who definitely can contribute a lot to the team. I look forward to working with her."
Handberg Madsen said he expects the new contract to be the start of a long-term collaboration.
"This is not just a half-year project, but a project towards the Olympic Games in 2020, and I think it will be benefit both Linda and the team," he said. "Now she just has to find the race legs again, but there are a lot of races in the rest of the season that suits her. And in our team time trial we are going to be very strong now."
Aside from her 2015 world title, Villumsen won the La Route de France Feminine in 2006 and 2013, and she has six Danish championships in the road race and time trial as well as having participated in several Olympic Games.
The team anticipates a mentorship role for Villumesen, who said she is excited to be art of the ambitious project of team owner Bjarne Riis.
"I have had a small break from races and professional competitions," she said. "But I have kept training and I want to start again and try to get back on top. I already know a couple of the girls on the team, so I look forward to joining a team in a well-known environment - even though I haven't been in a Danish team before. And it will be special for me to ride for a team that Bjarne Riis has helped to start up, as I have always looked up to him. I'm very positive and I'm really looking forward to it."
Villumsen's first race with the team will be Giro Rosa, the women's Giro d'Italia, starting June 30.
Cordon-Ragot claims first QOM jersey in Women's Tour
Wiggle High5 road captain Audrey Cordon-Ragot parlayed on aggressive day of racing into the first mountains jersey of the 2017 Ovo Energy Women's Tour on Wednesday, donning the black QOM jersey on the podium in Kettering.
The French time trial champion was first over the third-category climb of Haselbech after 24.8km. The Breton rider then took maximum points on the second-category Rockingham Hill climb after 73.9km, all while performing her usual domestique role for her teammates.
"I was feeling all right today, and [Directeur Sportif Martin Vestby] said that we were allowed to go for it if we were in a good position, so I did," Cordon-Ragot said. "It was open to any of us to go if we had the opportunity, so when I saw I was in a good position for the first one I just jumped on the chance.
"And then Martin asked to do the second, one so it was all right for me."
While Cordon-Ragot found success on the QOMs, the team's result on the finish line was less than they'd hoped for, with Giorgia Bronzini coming in fourth behind solo winner Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling), runner-up Marianne Vos (WM3 Pro Cycling) and third-placed Christin Majerus (Boels-Dolmans).
"We are a bit disappointed about the result," Cordon-Ragot said. "We really wanted to win this stage, and we tried hard to bridge on Kasia but we missed organisation and cooperation with the other teams. Everybody gambled a bit with the others, and obviously it wasn't the best choice when you have such a strong rider up the front."
Cromwell picks up the pieces for fifth
When her sprinter lost contact in the final kilometres of stage 1 at the Ovo Energy Women's Tour, Canyon-SRAM's Tiffany Cromwell didn't hesitate to pick up the team banner, coming in fifth after lone rider Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) soloed in for the win.
The team had initially hoped to split the peloton and whittle down the field for sprinter Hannah Barnes, but when those plans didn't pan out, Cromwell threw herself into the mix.
"In the final kilometres we knew we were racing for second place but were determined to sprint, and our plan was to have Hannah go for it," Cromwell said. "With 2km to go, Hannah was on my wheel but it was hectic and no one team really could maintain a lead out train on that course. Alena (Amialiusik) led us into the very final, and at 1km to go I quickly looked back and Hannah wasn't there. It was too late to find each other again, and I made it quite well through the downhill technical roundabout straight after that so decided I had to go for it.
"There was some slight hesitation with the leaders, so with not wanting to lose momentum I went into the final corner first. I did the best sprint I could with the legs I had, and a few girls came past in the last 100m. We'll be looking forward to a good stage tomorrow."
Marianne Vos won the field sprint for second behind Niewiadoma, with Christine Majerus (Boels Dolmans) third and Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle High5) fourth.