Amy Pieters won the second stage of AJ Bell Women’s Tour, taking the victory from a group of 10 after a relentless day of attacking racing.
The Dutch champion found herself in a small group of 10 women who entered the final five kilometres of the race in Walsall with a lead of 50 seconds. With around 1500m to go Brit Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM) made a solo move and seemed to be on her way to victory, however, Pieters had team mate Demi Vollering in the group to close the gap.
Though she was forced to open her sprint early Pieters held to cross the line ahead of Clara Copponi and Sheyla Gutiérrez (Movistar).
Copponi is having a stellar week so far. Stage one’s third place was her best WorldTour finish, and this second place bettered that and propelled here into the overall lead ahead of Wednesday’s stage three time trial.
It’s the first time in the race’s eight year history the Women’s Tour has hosted a time trial, and organisers have stuck with the classic British format of a 10-mile test, providing the peloton with 16.6km around the Warwickshire town of Atherstone, a regular race host.
How it happened
For stage two the race headed to Walsall for a kermesse style 102.2km stage, which started and finished in the town centre but took on nine full laps of a lumpy 10km circuit in the countryside to the east.
Unlike stage one the race was active from the off, with a number of teams trying send riders up the road, though none were able to get a gap.
Despite repeated attempts only after 42km was any group able to get any sort of gap, with six women getting away, however, not al of them were contributing and they were caught by an angry peloton, stretched out behind them.
On each alternate lap after the fourth the race tackled an intermediate sprint and classified climb, and while different riders were targeting different classifications, none were allowed any space, competing at each prime before a stretched peloton would bring them back.
This made for fast and very aggressive racing, with a number of women being dropped or even abandoning the race as the rain fell and wind roared across on the West Midlands.
On the penultimate lap a group of 16 women, including the defending champion Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) got a gap of 25 seconds on the shattered peloton, however, not even they were able to build a conclusive lead and they were caught as the final lap began.
It was shortly after that, on the final lap, with 10km remaining that another group, this time of 10 women managed to g et a gap, and after hours of full gas racing they built a small lead.
Maaike Boogaard (Alé-BTC Ljubljana),Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo), Clara Copponi (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope), Demi Vollering and Amy Pieters (both SDWorx), Aude Biannic and Sheyla Gutiérrez (both Movistar), and Juliette Labous and Pfeiffer Georgi (both DSM) worked well to gain a lead of 50 seconds on the bunch, which, with so many teams represented, became unassailable.
Pfeiffer Georgi’s late attack looked to be bringing her a first WorldTour win, but she was caught with 150m to go.
AJ Bell Women’s Tour, stage 2: Walsall – Walsall Race, (102.2km)
1. Amy Pieters (Ned) SDWorx in 2-38-03
2. Clara Copponi (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope)
3. Sheyla Gutiérrez (Esp) Movstar
4. Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Fra) Trek-Segafredo
5. Pfeiffer Georgi (Gbr) DSM
6. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon-SRAM
7. Maaike Boogaard (Ned) Alé-BTC Ljubljana
8. Aude Biannic (Fra) Movistar
9. Juliette Labous (Fra) DSM
10. Demi Vollering (Ned) SDWorx all at same time
General classification after stage two
1. Clara Copponi (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) in 6-22-34
2. Amy Pieters (Ned) SDWorx at same time
3. Sheyla Gutiérrez (Esp) Movistar at 06 sec
4. Demi Vollering (Ned) SDWorx at 09 sec
5. Juliette Labous (Fra) DSM at 10 sec
6. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon-SRAM
7. Aude Biannic (Fra) Movistar
8. Pfeiffer Georgi (Gbr) DSM all at same time
9. Nina Kessler (Ned) Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank at 38 sec
10. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Alé-BTC Ljubljana at 40 sec