Lorena Wiebes won stage 3 of the Women's Tour in the sprint of a reduced peloton, taking the leader's jersey in the process. Alexandra Manly (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) tried to anticipate the Dutchwoman's kick on the finishing straight, but Wiebes launched her own sprint in response and beat Manly and Coryn Labecki (Team Jumbo-Visma) to the line.
A three-rider breakaway was caught on the second classified climb of the day where Canyon-SRAM and Team SD Worx put the pressure on and fractured the peloton. Eventually, a front group of 17 riders emerged, but they never found a good rhythm, allowing dropped riders such as Wiebes to return, and in the rain-wet streets of Gloucester, Wiebes had no trouble winning the sprint. The Dutch sprint star is the new overall leader ahead of two hard stages in Wales that will decide the GC.
“Megan [Jastrab] did a really strong effort to bring me back to the lead group. In the last five kilometres, Pfeiffer [Georgi] and Megan came back to the front and did a great lead-out, and I am really happy to finish it off for them. I’m proud of the girls and all the work they did today. We will go all-in tomorrow to try to make it three,” Wiebes said after her second consecutive sprint victory.
How it unfolded
Criss-crossing the Forest of Dean, stage 3 from Tewkesbury to Gloucester was the hardest stage of the race so far, including two second-category climbs on its 107.9 kilometres. Riejanne Markus (Team Jumbo-Visma) went on a solo breakaway very early, holding a gap of up to 1:40 minutes on the peloton.
When Markus crested Worral Hill, the first QOM of the day, her advantage had been reduced to 30 seconds, and Christine Majerus (Team SD Worx) and Gladys Verhulst (Le Col-Wahoo) attacked after the climb, joining Markus halfway through the stage.
The three escapees started the Speech House climb with a 45-second advantage, and Verhulst was quickly dropped by Markus and Majerus. Further back, Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Team SD Worx) increased the pace, and the peloton started to fall apart.
Majerus and Markus made it over Speech House but were then caught on an uncategorised climb through Cinderford where the peloton was fractured for good when Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) attacked with Moolman-Pasio, Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), Kristen Faulkner (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), Chabbey, and Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) on her wheel.
Eventually, a front group of 17 riders formed as Markus and Majerus slotted into the group and Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), Labecki, Krista Doebel-Hickok (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB), Manly, Maaike Boogaard (UAE Team ADQ), Shari Bossuyt (Canyon-SRAM), Joss Lowden (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ), and Sara Martín (Movistar Team) bridged from behind.
They held an advantage of just over 22 seconds on the next group, and Chabbey won the second intermediate sprint ahead of Moolman-Pasio and Manly to take valuable bonus seconds, but the group never ran well, and there were several unsuccessful attacks followed by moments of hesitation.
Soon after the ten-kilometre mark, the second group that included Wiebes came back to the front. The race briefly split again, and there were more attempts to break away, but with five kilometres to go, the sprint trains of Team BikeExchange-Jayco and Team DSM were in position at the front of the race.
Wiebes won the sprint in familiar fashion, and as yellow jersey Clara Copponi (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) didn’t finish with the first peloton, the Dutch sprinter took the overall lead, 13 seconds ahead of Bertizzolo and Manly. Copponi will wear the pink points jersey by proxy on stage 4. Majerus defended her green QOM jersey but now has the same number of points as Chabbey. Maike van der Duin (Le Col-Wahoo) will continue to wear the red sprints jersey while Markus won the stage 3 combativity prize.
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