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Women's Tour: Longo Borghini triumphs on Black Mountain

Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) won The Women's Tour queen stage that finished on The Black Mountain.

The Italian champion followed all attacks by her competitors, then started her sprint with 200 metres to go and held off Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) to the finish line.

Stage 4 winner and GC leader Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) surged past Kristen Faulkner (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) to take third place on the stage. 

“I felt really strong, and I wanted to pay back all the work that my teammates did,” Longo Borghini said. “This climb is long but not steep and it’s hard to make the difference, plus we had a headwind, so it was like attacking and hitting a wall.  In the wheel you stayed really comfortable actually, so I attacked to try and make the others tired.”

With the time bonuses at the finish, Brown and Longo Borghini now have the exact same time, Brown keeping the yellow jersey on stage placing countback. Niewiadoma is third overall, just two seconds back.

"On the final climb, I knew it would be impossible to ride away because of the headwind where those behind you could benefit so much from being on the wheel. I was waiting for the final kilometre. Unfortunately, I had some issues in the final which made it more challenging but I just had to adapt and do my best. I'm a bit sad not to get the stage win but it's even closer now on GC so let's see what happens tomorrow," Niewiadoma said. 

Her teammate Elise Chabbey extended her lead in the mountain classification, which is all but sealed with two climbs on stage 6. 

"At the start, I was a little worried when (Christine) Majerus was in the early move, but the team helped close the gap and I could jump to her on the top of the first climb. I got a good number of points on the second one and it’s nice I secured the jersey," said Chabbey.

How it unfolded

Starting in Pembrey Country Park and finishing on Black Mountain, stage 5 included three first-category climbs on its 106.6 kilometres. Pontyates Hill and Crwbin came in the first 25 km, followed by rolling hills and a short flat section before the finishing climb.

A group of 11 riders attacked soon after the start, and Christine Majerus (Team SD Worx) could win the Pontyates Hill QOM sprint, but only made up one point on Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM) who had bridged from the peloton on the climb, and the group was caught shortly afterwards.

On the Crwbin climb, Joss Lowden (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) launched a solo attack and took full points with Chabbey leading a reduced peloton over the top. Romy Kasper (Jumbo-Visma) and Mikayla Harvey (Canyon-SRAM) went off to chase Lowden and were joined by Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ), Thalita de Jong (Liv Racing Xstra), Marta Lach (Ceratizit-WNT), Majerus, Shari Bossuyt (Canyon-SRAM), Georgia Williams (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), Krista Doebel-Hickok (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB), and Sheyla Gutiérrez (Movistar Team).

They caught Lowden after the first intermediate sprint, and this front group of 12 held an advantage of up to 1:30 minutes on the peloton that was led by FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope. In the final 30 kilometres, Bertizzolo dropped out of the break with a mechanical, and later Lach and Bossuyt couldn’t follow the pace, but the advantage had been reduced to only 25 seconds at this point, and the break was reeled in with 23 km to go.

Clara Copponi (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) won the second intermediate sprint ahead of sprints jersey Maike van der Duin (Le Col-Wahoo) and Elena Cecchini (Team SD Worx); as Van der Duin now has a seven-point lead, she only needs to finish the race to win the sprints classification.

A crash brought down Doebel-Hickok and Danielle Shrosbree (CAMS-Basso Bikes), though both were able to continue the race, and when the nine-kilometre finishing climb started, double-stage winner Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) briefly went on the attack.

But Wiebes’ move was short-lived as Van Dijk set the pace, steadily reducing the size of the peloton. Only 31 riders were left in front four kilometres from the finish, but a strong headwind discouraged long-range attacks. Longo Borghini made a move with 2.5 km to go but could not get away. Lowden was next to try at the 2km mark and reduced the group to 19 riders, then Longo Borghini put in a second attack.

Brown was attentive and closed the gap, then went to the front of the group to control the pace, with Becky Storrie (CAMS-Basso Bikes) also briefly taking the lead. Another attack by Lowden was countered by Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Team SD Worx) who managed to get a small gap with 1.3 km left to climb, but Longo Borghini quickly closed her down again.

Riejanne Markus (Team Jumbo-Visma) was the next to attack with Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) in her wheel, and again it was Longo Borghini who closed the gap. Moolman-Pasio made another acceleration that was neutralised by Longo Borghini, followed by an attack by Niewiadoma that put Moolman-Pasio on the backfoot, leaving Niewiadoma, Faulkner, Longo Borghini, Brown, and Alexandra Manly (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) in front with 500 metres to go.

Faulkner went to the front, and Brown had to leave a little gap that Longo Borghini closed for the final time before launching her sprint 200 metres from the finish. Niewiadoma could not match the Italian’s acceleration and finished second, Brown came past Faulkner on the final 50 metres to finish third and take an immensely valuable four-second time bonus.

The time bonifications taken by Longo Borghini and Brown as winners and third-placed rider on stage 4 and 5, respectively, mean that both are on the same time overall. Brown keeps the yellow jersey on stage result countback as she finished better than the Italian champion if all five stage results are added up. Niewiadoma is third and Manly is fourth.

With the GC this close, the two intermediate sprint on stage 6 will be crucial and hard-fought as they could decide the overall winner of the Women’s Tour.

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