Copponi wins Women's Tour opener

Clara Copponi (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) has won stage 1 of The Women’s Tour, beating Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ) and Elena Cecchini (Team SD Worx) to take her first UCI victory. Copponi emerged as the surprise winner of a sprint that was marred by Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM), Coryn Labecki (Team Jumbo-Visma) and others crashing in the penultimate turn with 300 metres to go.

The race was paused and then re-started with 35 km to go after a one-hour break due to a road accident on the race course in front of the peloton. Lone attacker Danielle Shrosbree (CAMS-Basso Bikes), who had a 1:10 advantage at the stoppage, was reeled in 15 km from the line. 

The sprint trains came to the fore in the final, and Team DSM looked certain of delivering Wiebes to another victory when her lead-out woman Charlotte Kool slid out on the wet roads in a left turn with 300 metres to go, taking out Wiebes, Labecki and several more, and slowing down the other sprinters. 

On the final 300 metres, Clara Copponi built up speed and came past Bertizzolo and Cecchini to win the stage.

How it unfolded

Stage 1 covered 142.1km from Colchester to Bury St. Edmunds, snaking through Essex and Suffolk and including two intermediate sprints and two third-category hills.

On wet roads after morning rains, nobody wanted to break away for a long time, preferring to stay inside the peloton that contested the intermediate sprints and QOM sprints. Christine Majerus (Team SD Worx) won the QOM sprints in Brantham and Bildeston and will wear the green QOM jersey on stage 2 while Maike van der Duin (Le Col Wahoo) was first over the line at the intermediate sprints in Holbrook and Hadleigh, securing herself the red sprint jersey for stage 2.

Shortly after the Bildeston QOM, Danielle Shrosbree (CAMS-Basso) attacked from the peloton with 60km to go and quickly got a gap as the sprinters’ teams did not consider a single rider to be a danger to them. 

Shrosbree’s advantage maxed out at 1:45 minutes in Needham Market, 50km from the line before Team DSM and other sprinters’ teams slowly but surely took control of the chase.

The gap had fallen to 1:15 minutes with 35km to go when the race had to be stopped to attend to a road accident; a police motorcyclist and another vehicle had crashed on the race route ahead. This unexpected break took longer than expected, and riders put on extra clothes, climbed into team vehicles, or danced to keep warm.

It took almost an hour until the race was re-started with a 1.5-kilometre neutralised section to get back up to racing speed. The peloton gradually increased the pace and steadily reduced Shrosbree’s advantage, eventually catching her with 15 km left to race.

Due to a very technical finish, GC times would be taken at the 3-kilometre mark, but this wasn’t enough to defuse the final kilometres where sprinters battled on city streets that narrowed to only one lane, with two turns in the last 500 metres. Wiebes was expertly led out by her teammates Pfeiffer Georgi and Charlotte Kool, but Kool slid out on a narrow turn and crashed into the race barriers on the outside of the turn, taking down Wiebes, Labecki, and Barbara Guarischi (Movistar Team) with her.

With several sprinters crashed out, Copponi came forward from 12th position, took the wheel of Bertizzolo through the final corner and sped past on the last 100 metres to take the win. The Frenchwoman will wear the yellow leader’s jersey on stage 2 while Bertizzolo will wear the pink points jersey in her stead.

Results powered by First Cycling

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