Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) won stage 4 of the Women's Tour in a sprint of three riders, beating Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) after an exciting finale where Brown attacked from a front group of ten that had formed on the day's climbs.
Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma bridged to Brown with less than three kilometres to go, and Longo Borghini opened the sprint, but Brown fought back and powered past the Italian champion on the final 100 metres to win the stage. Niewiadoma pipped Longo Borghini to the line for second place.
Brown is also the new GC leader ahead of the queen stage with a summit finish on Black Mountain: Time bonifications give her a lead of four seconds over Niewiadoma and six seconds over Longo Borghini.
“The race split up on the first QOM of the day, there was a group of ten riders off the front, and I was amongst them. The gap kept growing and coming back, we didn’t know quite if we would make it to the end. In the last five kilometres I decided to attack, at first I was solo, then Elisa Longo Borghini and Kasia Niewiadoma joined me, and we rode to the line, then had a little sprint, and I was lucky enough to win,” said Brown after her first WWT victory of the 2022 season.
“I knew that, on paper, I had a better sprint than the other two, but coming into the final 500 metres, I was left on the front. That’s never the best place to be for a sprint, especially when it’s a small group. But I played it alright and was able to come around in the end to win, so I’m happy. It was a tough day out, we were on the pedals the whole time, we didn’t have any respite,” Brown finished.
How it unfolded
The 144.7-kilometre stage from Wrexham to Welshpool went continually up and down through the hills of North Wales, though only second-category Hirnant Bank and first-category Bryn-y-Fedwen were classified.
A breakaway of four took the points at the first intermediate sprint after 15km before being caught again, but a new front group quickly formed. Mikayla Harvey (Canyon-SRAM), Teuntje Beekhuis (Team Jumbo-Visma), Elena Cecchini (Team SD Worx), and Maaike Boogaard (UAE Team ADQ) held an advantage of up to a minute and a half, contesting the second intermediate sprint before being caught just before the climb of Hirnant Bank started.
After multiple attacks, a group of six crested the climb together: Longo Borghini, Niewiadoma, her teammate Elise Chabbey, Kristen Faulkner (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Team SD Worx), and Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) had a small gap at the top. Brown, Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), Alexandra Manly (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), and Riejanne Markus (Team Jumbo-Visma) joined them on the lap around Lake Vyrnwy, establishing the decisive selection of ten.
Chabbey led the group over the top of Bryn-y-Fedwen, scoring enough points to take over the green QOM jersey from Christine Majerus (Team SD Worx) who was in what remained of the peloton – as was yellow jersey Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) who had hoped to sprint to another stage win in Welshpool.
On the rolling 50km to the finish, Team DSM chased hard, gaining ground on the descents and flat sections, but losing time again on the hills. The gap fluctuated between 18 and 46 seconds for a long time, but eventually, the DSM riders had nothing left to give, and the front group could race for the stage win.
Just after Van Dijk dropped out of the front group with a mechanical, Brown launched her attack, just over five kilometres from the finish line. This fractured the group as Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma took up the chase, only reaching Brown with 2.5km to go after a large effort from Longo Borghini in particular.
On the finishing straight, Brown was at the front and rode slowly until Longo Borghini launched her sprint 210 metres from the line. The Italian champion took the lead, but Brown powered up and came past to win the stage, Niewiadoma also just beating Longo Borghini to the line.
Wiebes won the sprint of the peloton for tenth place, 1:16 minutes down. She had to relinquish the race lead to Brown and will wear the pink points jersey on stage 5. The red sprints jersey remains on the shoulders of Maike van der Duin (Le Col-Wahoo).
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