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Women’s Tour: Clara Copponi wins crash-affected sprint on stage 1

Wiebes crashes in final kilometre, Bertizzolo and Cecchini complete podium.

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Clara Copponi (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope) sprinted to victory on stage 1 of the Women’s Tour after a crash in the finale took out several top sprinters.

On fast and technical finish in Bury St Edmunds, Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) crashed on the penultimate corner and allowed a reduced sprinting group to contest the finish, with Copponi coming out on top. Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ) and Elena Cecchini (SD Worx) finished second and third.

After an incident ahead of the race, the peloton was stopped for almost an hour in the final 40km of road, but resumed and came back together for the expected sprint finish after lone leader Danielle Shrosbree (CAMS-Basso) was caught.

How it happened

It was a cold and wet morning in Colchester as the 97-rider peloton lined up for the first stage of the 2022 Women’s Tour on Monday. With a relatively flat 142km ahead before the finish line in Bury St Edmunds, the opening day of the six-stage race looked set to culminate in a bunch sprint.

There were plenty of incentives for potential breakways on the stage – two intermediate sprints and two climbs within the first 80km – but when the flag dropped, no early attacks came. Human Powered Health, Liv Racing Xstra and Jumbo-Visma were among the teams showing themselves on the front, but ultimately there were no real attempts to get away and the peloton stayed all together for the first hour of racing.

Approaching the first Queen of the Mountains point of the race, Canyon//SRAM’s Tiffany Cromwell led the peloton into the climb in support of last year’s classification winner Elise Chabbey, but it was a powerful sprint from Christine Majerus (SD Worx) that secured the maximum points.

Not long after the climb came the first intermediate sprint point. Ceratizit-WNT and Liv Racing Xstra organised themselves on the front of the peloton to lead out the sprint, but Maike van der Duin (Le Col-Wahoo) surfed their wheels and pipped Confalonieri (Ceratizit-WNT) and Jackson (Liv Racing Xstra) on the line. Despite there being points and bonus seconds available, Lorena Wiebes and her DSM team did not figure in the intermediate sprint.

After 50km of racing, some attacking began and strung out the previously compact peloton, but it proved difficult for any riders to get away. Ane Iversen (Team Coop-Hitec Products) made a move, but Alison Jackson and Georgia Williams (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) shut it down as the teams looked keen to keep things together for the next intermediate sprint.

Heading towards the second sprint in Hadleigh, it was again Le Col-Wahoo and Liv Racing Xstra who were leading the peloton, and Van der Duin repeated her earlier efforts to again take maximum points, beating Jackson into second.

At the base of the second categorised climb of the day, Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM) set the tempo, again in support of Chabbey, but again it was Majerus who put in an effort that no one could follow to claim the maximum points and secure the climbers’ jersey at the finish.

Over the top of the climb, Danielle Shrosbree (CAMS-Basso) launched an attack and with no one following the British rider, she pressed on solo and quickly established an advantage of 58 seconds.At the 93km completed mark, Shrosbree’s lead had gone out to over a minute and 40 seconds, prompting Team DSM to take control on the front of the peloton to limit the gap.

With around 35km to go, the race was stopped to allow emergency vehicles to attend an incident ahead of the race. The stoppage lasted for almost an hour, and saw riders climb into team cars to keep warm in the cold English weather. After over 50 minutes off their bikes, the race was restarted with a 1.5km neutralised roll out as Shrosbree’s gap was re-established. Heading towards an expected sprint finish, Shrosbree was steadily reeled in and caught with 13km remaining.

In the final 10km of racing, the sprint trains of Liv Racing Xstra, Trek-Segafredo and DSM began to up the pace in the run-in to Bury St Edmunds. In the final kilometre, the organised trains were disrupted by the tight and technical roads to the finish. Lorena Wiebes looked well-placed at the front, but slid out on the penultimate corner, taking Coryn Labecki (Jumbo-Visma), Barbara Guarischi (Movistar) and teammate Charlotte Kool down with her. From the reduced group of sprinters, Clara Copponi (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine) came round Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ) in the closing metres to take the first stage win of the race.

General classification times were taken at the 3km to go mark, so Wiebes did not lose time, but bonus seconds were still available at the line and put Copponi in the leader’s jersey ahead of Bertizzolo, with Van der Duin in third after the bonus seconds she collected during the stage. Van der Duin leads the sprints classification, whilst Copponi took the points jersey after her win. Christine Majerus wears the green climbers’ jersey.

Tomorrow’s 96km loop starting and finishing in Harlow should present another opportunity for the sprinters, as RideLondon winner Wiebes looks to recover from her fall today.