Ovo Energy Women’s Tour  7 – 11 June

Katarzyna Niewiadoma claimed her first UCI World Tour victory in the OVO Energy Women’s Tour. The 22-year old Polish champion, making her British debut, stormed to victory on stage one, from Daventry to Kettering, bringing a lead of 1 minute 42 seconds to the second stage. The peloton had misjudged their response to her solo attack and the WM3 Pro Cycling rider’s lead would prove to be unassailable over the course of the 5-stage event.

102 of the world’s top cyclists took the start of the Women’s Tour including Olympic Champion Anna Van Der Breggen and former World Champion, and winner of the 2016 tour, Lizzie Deignan (formerly Armitstead).

Stage 2 left Town Road in Hanley in unpleasant wet conditions, riders trying to avoid the slippery painted lines as they headed towards Stone with Boels Dolmans’ Christine Majerus leading the way.

 As they arrived in Uttoxeter Ale Cipollini’s Anna Trevisi and Alison Jackson (Bepink Cogeas) had forged a 1 minute 15 seconds lead over the peloton which was led along Town Meadows Way by WM3’s Anna Plichta. Jackson won the first sprint of the day in Rocester before they caught by the peloton and another group of 6 riders rode clear. Majerus claimed the 3-second time bonus for winning the second sprint of the day in Cheadle.

As they reached the foot of the 3 mile Queen of the Mountains climb at Ipstones, Sunweb team leader Lucinda Brand made a determined break off the front of the leading group, reminiscent of Niewiadoma’s attack of the previous day. Brand duly crossed the summit first, followed by Trixi Worrak (Canyon) and Majerus and then increased her lead on the descent.

The remainder of the leaders were swallowed by the chasing group, now around 30 riders and including race leader Niewiadoma. Brand led over the top of the second QoM climb, the brutish Gunn Hill while Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Wiggle High5) headed the chasing group over the hill to retain her QoM lead.

Brand’s valiant effort to push on for the stage win ended on the outskirts of Stoke as she was caught by the chasing group. Conditions had improved considerably through the day and there were several attacks as the pace increased in the closing stages. Sunweb’s Ellen Van Dijk led as the riders hit the final twisty, technical climb, just 100m from the finish, but Boels Dolmans Amy Pieters found the best line through the curves to hit the front when it mattered most.

Canyon’s Hannah Barnes was second, to take the Best British Rider jersey from sister Alice, with Van Dijk third. Marianne Vos (WM3), second after day one, was fourth with team mate Niewiadoma an excellent fifth, maintaining her Wiggle Points lead and retaining the overall leader’s green jersey. Cervelo Bigla’s Lisa Klein retained the Eisberg Sprints jersey. Brand was awarded the day’s Combativity Award for her efforts.

“It was a really hard day,” said Pieters afterwards. “We lost a bit of time on the General Classification yesterday so our goal was to go for the stage win. Our team was pretty strong today. Christine (Majerus) got in front at one point and we were almost all there together going into the finish. We spoke about preparing for a sprint so they could save my energy, and the girls helped me really well in the finale. The climbs were really tough. The first one was long, the second was really steep and stayed steep all the time. We came back over the top of Gun Hill and I knew it was going to be a sprint. I’m really happy that the girls helped me today.”

Ale Cipollini’s Australian rider Chloe Hosking won stage 3 in Royal Leamington Spa as Alice Barnes regained the British leader’s jersey. Niewiadoma again finished in the leading group to retain her overall lead.

It was wet again as the field left Chesterfield at the start of stage 4. Elisa Longho Bourghini

Won the first climb of the day at Middleton-by-Wirksworth before Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb), Sarah Roy (Orica) and Shara Gillow (FDJ) won the sprint in Belper and established a 2 minute lead over the peloton.

Lizzie Deignan tried to bridge the gap on the approach to the final climb at Crich, a move countered by Niewiadoma who needed to be on her guard to protect her race lead. Gillow was first over the hill in Crich, but the peloton had been fragmented on the climb. Christine Majerus was successful in bridging the gap before the final sprint in Staveley taking a vital 3 second bonus for winning the sprint and going on to push the gap to Niewiadoma to 2 minutes 20, taking a virtual lead in the Tour. This was eventually pulled back to around 15 seconds as they returned to the finish in Chesterfield.

The final sprint over the Chesterfield cobbles was fought out by Majerus and Sarah Roy who claimed her first stage win by 1 second. Niewiadoma was 21 seconds behind to retain her green jersey while Hannah Barnes regained the Best British Rider’s jersey from her sister. “I knew it was a really dangerous move and I knew we had to start riding to bring Majerus back,” said Niewiadoma. “I tried to stay calm and relaxed and only think positively.”

Majerus gained 8 bonus seconds in the final day’s sprints but was still 1 minute 18 seconds adrift as Niewiadoma sealed victory in the Ovo Energy Women’s Tour. Wiggle High5’s Jolien D’Hoore won the final stage in London from Hannah Barnes and Majerus. This secured the Adnams Best British Rider jersey for Hannah Barnes. Majerus claimed the Eisberg Sprints and Wiggle Points jersey’s while Audrey Cordon-Ragot was the SKODA Queen of the Mountains. 2016 winner Boels Dolmans’ Lizzie Deignan who had not been feeling well, had a fairly quiet tour to finish in 42nd place, 12 minutes 37 seconds behind the leader.