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RideLondon Classique: Lorena Wiebes sprints to victory on stage 1 in Maldon

Team DSM rider beats Balsamo and Norsgaard after break caught in final kilometer.

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MALDON, England (VN) —  Lorena Wiebes outsprinted Elisa Balsamo and Emma Norsgaard to take victory on stage 1 of the RideLondon Classique in Maldon on Friday.

After a quiet day that saw no early breakaway, the action all came in the last 40km of the stage when the race reached the finishing laps in Maldon.

Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) attacked just after the first crossing of the line, and held an advantage for over 30km but was caught by the charging peloton in the final kilometer.

“It was a pretty chaotic finish,” Wiebes said at the finish. “Because Anna Henderson was still in front, so the speed was really high in the last lap. We lost each other in the sprint train, but I stayed with Charlotte [Kool] and she put me in the wheel of Balsamo, so actually it was perfect. Then I started my sprint out of the corner, so I’m happy to take this win after good team work.

“I like it when it goes a bit uphill,” she said of the small climb before the finishing straight. “It was super hard, but I like it.”

How it happened: Letting intentions being known

The 113-rider peloton rolled out of a sunny and warm Maldon on Friday morning, with 136.5km to race before an expected bunch finish back in Maldon.

What should have been a typical day for a breakaway was disrupted by the fact the two intermediate sprints and two Queen of the Mountains points were back-loaded in the last 40km of the stage, meaning there was little incentive to attack from kilometer zero.

As a result, the day started calmly in the peloton, the bunch staying together on the rolling roads of the Essex countryside. Approaching the more exposed sections on the first of two laps around the Abberton Reservoir, Valcar Travel & Service took up position at the front of the peloton but still no one was able to get away.

A crash in the bunch saw three AG Insurance-NXTG riders on the ground, including their promising sprinter Ally Wollaston, plus Rebecca Koerner (Uno-X) and Emily Meakin (AWOL O’Shea). The NXTG trio quickly rejoined the peloton, but Koerner pulled out of the race injured. Team Co-op Hitec Products’ Nicole Steigenga was also an early drop out on stage 1.

The peloton remained compact through the whole second lap of the reservoir, and passed the 80km completed mark with no attacks to speak of, but heading towards the first intermediate sprint point of the day the pace did begin to increase. Though overall a relatively flat loop, the finishing circuit in Maldon featured some tight corners and some short, sharp climbs. The result was a tense peloton, forcing some small crashes in the entrance to the circuit: Francesca Morgans-Slader (AWOL O’Shea) and Tanja Wrath (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) went down in one, and Mia Griffin (IBCT) and Anastasia Carbonari (Valcar Travel & Service) in another.

Staying out of the way of any trouble, Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) showed her intentions by winning the first intermediate sprint and three bonus seconds, ahead of Kopecky (SD Worx) and Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo). With the pace high and the group strung out, Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) attacked and quickly established a gap that grew to over a minute. Henderson swept up both Queen of the Mountains points, as well as the second intermediate sprint as she held her lead well into the second finishing lap.

At the 3km to go mark, Henderson held an advantage of 30 seconds, but with the sprinters’ teams leading the charge in the peloton, it wasn’t enough to hold on for a solo victory. As the road rose towards the finish, the peloton powered past Henderson and it was Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) who sprinted to victory in Maldon. Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) took second and Emma Noragaard (Movistar) third, whilst Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) settled for fourth.

Henderson’s escape earnt her the Queen of the Mountains jersey, whilst 5th placed Vittoria Guazzini (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope) leads the young rider classification. Winner Wiebes takes the sprint jersey, and also leads the overall by 11 seconds, owing to bonus seconds given at the line and the intermediate sprint.

It’s another tough but relatively flat stage tomorrow, and another chance for the sprinters to battle it out.