Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) was back to her winning ways on stage 2 of the Women's Tour, beating Barbara Guarischi (Movistar Team) and Shari Bossuyt (Canyon-SRAM) by several bike lengths in the sprint finish in Harlow.
After a solo breakaway by Sammie Stuart (CAMS-Basso Bikes) had been reeled in, Gladys Verhulst (Le Col-Wahoo) and Lily Williams (Human Powered Health) went on the attack, Verhulst chasing the QOM jersey without success.
A mass crash with about 7km to go split the after the first 24 riders, but more riders returned to the peloton for the final.
Verhulst and Williams were caught just before the two-kilometre mark, and in the sprint, Wiebes was led out expertly by Charlotte Kool before launching herself and opening a gap of several bike lengths on Guarischi, Bossuyt, and the remaining sprinters.
“Only Franzi [Koch] and I were in the small peloton after the crash but luckily Megan [Jastrab] and Charlotte [Kool] came back. We were a bit stuck in the middle of the road before the sprint, so I found my own way a bit. In the last straight the girls found me again and we a really nice lead out; they set me up perfectly. We can be proud of ourselves and are looking forward to the next stages now,” said Wiebes.
Due to bonus seconds picked up in the intermediate sprints, stage 1 winner Clara Copponi (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) continues to lead the general classification, three seconds ahead of Maike van der Duin (Le Col-Wahoo) and four seconds ahead of Wiebes.
How it unfolded
Stage 2, the shortest stage of the race at 92.1 km, started and finished in Harlow, with two intermediate sprints and two third-category QOM hills on the way. Held under a cloudy sky with the sun peaking through, the race nevertheless stayed together until after the intermediate sprints.
Van der Duin won the first intermediate sprint ahead of Elena Cecchini (Team SD Worx) and Copponi, reducing the yellow jersey’s advantage to two seconds, but Copponi fought back by winning the second intermediate sprint ahead of Van der Duin and Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ), increasing the gap to three seconds again.
Stuart attacked soon after and was up to 1:10 minutes ahead of the peloton, but the firefighter-turned-cyclist was caught before the last 20 kilometres that included the two classified climbs started. Stuart was rewarded with the day’s combativity prize. On Toot Hill, Verhulst won the first QOM sprint from the peloton, then broke away with Williams.
Verhulst was first on Stonards Hill, too, but as Christine Majerus (Team SD Worx) finished third in both QOM sprints, the Luxembourger holds on to the green QOM jersey by a single point.
The two escapees never had a gap of more than 15 seconds, but a huge crash in the peloton briefly interrupted the chase as riders tumbled into ditches and hedgerows, blocking the road for most of the peloton.
Williams and Verhulst were eventually caught on the run-in to Harlow, and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) led the peloton on the final kilometre. The DSM train brought Wiebes to the front, Kool started her lead-out 400 metres from the line, and Wiebes kicked with 200 metres to go, opening up a large gap on the rest of the sprinters. Guarischi just held off a surging Bossuyt to claim second place.
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