Reigning Italian road race champion Elisa Longo Borghini won the queen stage of this year’s Women’s Tour atop the Black Mountain in Carmarthenshire on Friday to set up a thrilling finale in the battle to be crowned this year’s overall champion.
Longo Borghini (Trek – Segafredo) outsprinted Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM Racing) and race leader Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine) at the end of the 7.2-kilometre climb on the edge of the Brecon Beacons.
As a result of the bonus seconds available on the line, Australian rider Brown retained her overall lead for another day, but she goes into Saturday’s final stage level on time with Longo Borghini. Niewiadoma, the 2017 champion, sits just two seconds back.
A maximum of 16 bonus seconds will be available during the Women’s Tour’s concluding stage between Chipping Norton and Oxford.
“I feel like I won already a stage when we won in 2019 with Lizzie [Deignan] so it’s a very nice feeling,” said Longo Borghini following the stage.
“It was very windy up the climb and mostly a head wind so really hard to make the selection. In the end, I just trusted my sprint and I went at 150 to go full gas. I just wanted to win because I wanted to pay off all the teamwork that my team did. We were really committed from the very beginning of the race.
“At the moment I want to relax and enjoy the victory, and then tomorrow is tomorrow. We think about it tomorrow.”
A Trek – Segafredo led peloton, with Ellen van Dijk in particular, putting in a great deal of work to keep the pace high and thin out the peloton approaching the foot of the Black Mountain.
Joss Lowden (Uno-X Pro Cycling) was the first to attack on the climb but couldn’t gain much of an advantage, though the foray combined with attacks on the second ŠKODA Queen of the Mountain earned her the Adyen Combativity Award.
Longo Borghini had several attempts to get away, with Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (Team SD Worx) and Kristen Faulkner (Team BikeExchange – Jayco) also putting in attacks in the final two kilometres, but the windy conditions prevented anyone from establishing a significant advantage.
Only six riders had a chance of taking the stage victory when Longo Borghini launched her sprint. Niewiadoma was initially the only rider who could follow, while Brown managed to pass compatriot Alex Manly (Team BikeExchange – Jayco) in sight of the line to pick up what could prove to be four race-winning bonus second
“It was quite a race into the bottom of it, all the GC riders had the lead outs from their teams. My team had done a lot of work all day so we were down to one rider in the end, but I managed to stay at the front. Then the wind neutralised the climb a little bit from too many attacks but it was still hard, really hard in the last kilometre,” said Brown.
“There was a bit of doubt because I knew that if I wanted to stay ahead in time then I needed to come second on Elisa’s wheel with no gap, but then it worked out that if I came third we were equal. I didn’t know how it worked in terms of countback, but I retained the jersey.
“It will be really cool, the Cotswolds are almost a second home, because my husband’s family are from the area, so I’m going to have a lot of support out on the road and it will be special to be in the leader’s jersey for tomorrow’s race.
“I’m not quite sure how we are going to approach tomorrow yet, whether we go for the sprint bonuses. I also have a really strong sprinter teammate in Clara [Copponi], who won the first stage, so she might be able to take the sprint bonuses for me, which takes a little bit of stress off my shoulders.”
Third overall at two seconds back is Niewiadoma, who finished as runner up to Lizzie Deignan in 2019 having gone into the final stage level on time. The Canyon//SRAM Racing rider won the Women’s Tour’s last summit finish in Warwickshire three years ago.
“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,” smiled Niewiadoma.
Her team-mate Elise Chabbey is also champion-elect of the ŠKODA Queen of the Mountains classification for a second year.
“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.
Likewise the Pillar Sprints jersey is destined for Maike van der Duin (Le Col – Wahoo), who has worn the red jersey backed by cycling training app Pillar since stage one, and holds a seven point lead.
Top Brit on stage five was CAMS – Basso rider Becky Storrie, who finished ninth on the Black Mountain at 21 seconds, and as a result moves up to 15th overall and the best British rider in the Women’s Tour.
For full results and standings, powered by Brother UK, please click here.
Highlights of the fifth stage of the Women’s Tour will be on ITV4 at 8pm on Friday 10 June and available on demand via the ITV Hub.
The final stage of the Women’s Tour takes place in Oxfordshire with a 142.9-kilometre route (88.9-mile) between Chipping Norton and Oxford city centre.
Stage six is expected to finish in Oxford on St Giles’ at approximately 3pm, with live coverage on Eurosport Player and the GCN+ app from 10.55am.