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The past two stages of the OVO Energy Tour produced multiple dramatic moments, as Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) won Thursday’s fourth stage of the race, one day after race leader Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) crashed out of the event.
After four stages German rider Liane Lippert of Team Sunweb leads the overall; she is tied with Niewadoma in the general classification.
The race’s first major shakeup occurred midway through Wednesday’s 145.1km stage from Henley-on-Thames to Blenheim Palace, when a mass pileup on a fast downhill forced organizers to neutralize the stage. Vos was leading the overall race at the moment of the crash, and rode in third wheel behind two CCC-Liv teammates.
One of Vos’s teammates appeared to lose control at high speed at the front of the peloton, and the ensuing crash took out multiple riders, including Vos, who appeared to ride off the road and into bushes. Vos eventually left the race with cuts and abrasions to her face.
“The speed went up in preparation for the second intermediate sprint,” Vos said. “There was a fall before me, due to a dent in the road, which I could not avoid. I fell hard on my head and, apart from a cut and some scratches, I don’t have any other injuries. Yet I went to the hospital because the cut had to be stitched. Very unfortunate, I was quite upset by it, because I was in such a good position. But even after a fall, the race continues, but this time without me.”
Nine riders eventually abandoned, including Valerie Demey and Jeanne Korevaar (CCC-Liv), Barbara Guarischi, Anouska Koster, and Katrine Aalerud (all three Virtu Cycling), Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM), Trixi Worrack (Trek-Segafredo) and Julie Leth (Bigla).
Eventually, Belgian sprinter Jolien D’Hoore took the stage win ahead of Lisa Brennauer (WNT-Rotor), who took the race lead.
Brennauer’s overall lead lasted just one stage, as Thursday’s 159km stage featured hilly terrain, including a steep climb to the finish at Burton Dassett Country Park.
The peloton endured soaking rain and chilly temperatures, and the day saw several early attacks on the hilly course. It was Elisa Longo-Borghini who attacked inside 20km to go on the first of three hilly circuits, and her move was followed by Niewiadoma and Lippert. The trio was eventually chased down with just 10km remaining, however Niewiadoma struck out again at the base of the final climb.
The Polish rider took the victory with Lippert on her wheel, and Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) just seven seconds in arrears.
“Once I saw all the stage details I knew this one was for me,” Niewiadoma said. “I really like this kind of climb – short, punchy; hills where I can really make an advantage over the others. I knew I needed to be there and have a great position at the bottom of the climb and then see what happens.
“I felt like a piece of crap, I felt so bad because of the rain and cold. But once you attack you go into this weird suffering mode, you forget about everything and you just want to get to the line first.”
The victory further adds to Niewiadoma’s successful season thus far; in April she won the Amstel Gold Race with a stunning attack at the base of the Cauberg.
The OVO Women’s Tour continues on Friday with a hilly 140km stage in Wales from Llandrindod Wells to Builth Wells