The opening stage of the Women's Tour from Daventry to Kettering was expected to follow the same script it had in the last two editions of the race, with the sprinters in the pack doing battle for the top honours.
However Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) had other plans, and the Polish champion ripped up the form book, soloing to her first victory of the season after attacking the peloton with 50 kilometres to go.
Niewiadoma had expected to be caught but that hoped her attack would help set up her teammate Marianne Vos when it came back together. Instead, Niewiadoma found her lead continue to grow until she had over three minutes on the pack behind.
"When I attacked I wasn't really thinking," she explained after the stage. "I just attacked because I thought that it was an opportunity to go but I expected that someone would join me. Unfortunately, I was alone, and I had 50km to go. There was a lot of wind and not really many hills so I wasn't sure if I could gain a lot of seconds there."
It was a lonely ride to the finish line, and Niewiadoma said that the thought of the name of the breast cancer sufferer on her ribbon that helped her to dig deep. Breast Cancer Care is the official charity partner of the Ovo Energy Women's Tour, and ahead of the race each of the riders was given a pink ribbon with a motivational message on it from a woman who has had breast cancer in the past. Niewiadoma made a point of holding it aloft as she sailed across the line.
"A lot of the time I was thinking about the girl on my Breast Cancer Care pink ribbon; somehow I felt a lot of energy from her," she explained.
"I felt that we could do it. It's so crazy; normally races like this end up in a bunch sprint, and I knew that there are a lot of teams here like Ale Cipollini and Sunweb who want a bunch sprint, so I thought they would chase me hard. When I saw the 15-kilometre to go sign, I knew I had to go full and see what happened. I'm so happy that I could win here."
It was a doubly good day for the WM3 team, with Marianne Vos outsprinting Christine Majerus (Boels Dolmans) for second place. Niewiadoma's efforts have given her a commanding lead in the overall classification. She leads her teammate by 1:46, while Majerus is at 1:48.
Watch highlights of stage 1 of the Women's Tour below.
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