Grace Brown (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope) lost the Women’s Tour lead in the final metres of Saturday’s stage after finishing outside the top 10 in the decisive bunch sprint in Oxford.
After winning the first intermediate sprint to take a lead of three seconds ahead of Longo Borghini - who was fourth on the line - Brown said she thought her lead was safe. Her teammate Copponi sprinted for the team, finishing second.
“We thought that we were pretty safe for the final as long as there were no gaps but it was really messy,” Brown said at the finish. “Trek did an amazing lead-out to put Elisa in a really good position ahead of the corners. That had her there to sprint for third, which we really didn’t expect.”
Despite finishing 12th with Copponi ahead, Brown was not completely out of contention in the sprint and was in the mix in the run-in to Oxford city centre.
“I knew that the finish was technical and that I had to be in a good position because when there are all those corners it would be really messy,” she said. “I wasn’t just sitting up and rolling to the finish. Elisa [Longo Borghini] made the most of it though.”
Brown won stage 4 in Gloucester and enjoyed two days in the yellow leader’s jersey, so is not entirely disappointed by narrowly missing out on the overall victory.
“There’s still a consolation for me in terms of the rest of the race,” she said. “I knew that coming into today it was close and there was a chance that I wouldn’t finish the day with the jersey, so I was already happy with the Women’s Tour.
“When I got the sprint seconds I thought that maybe I had it already, and then to lose it was disappointing but overall I’m very happy with the week.”
Her teammate Copponi, who took her first professional victory on stage 1 and finished second on Saturday’s final stage, echoed the mixed feelings in the FDJ team.
“I’m pretty sad because we lost the general classification, but I’m proud of my team,” Copponi said. “We did a very good week. I’m just sad for Grace and the team, but that’s cycling. We have a lot of races coming, so we will see.”
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Matilda Price is a freelance cycling journalist and digital producer based in the UK. She is a graduate of modern languages, and recently completed an MA in sports journalism, during which she wrote her dissertation on the lives of young cyclists. Matilda began covering cycling in 2016 whilst still at university, working mainly in the British domestic scene at first. Since then, she has covered everything from the Tour Series to the Tour de France. These days, Matilda focuses most of her attention on the women’s sport, writing for Cyclingnews and working on women’s cycling show The Bunnyhop. As well as the Women’s WorldTour, Matilda loves following cyclo-cross and is a recent convert to downhill mountain biking.