Armitstead wins stage 3 and takes the lead in the Aviva Women’s Tour

After yesterday’s very wet stage, Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) had to hand over both the Aviva yellow jersey and the points jersey to Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv). It was a small comfort that she could take to the start line in the colourful Chain Reaction Cycles points jersey today, as she stood second in that classification and…

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After yesterday’s very wet stage, Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) had to hand over both the Aviva yellow jersey and the points jersey to Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv). It was a small comfort that she could take to the start line in the colourful Chain Reaction Cycles points jersey today, as she stood second in that classification and Vos obviously wore the yellow leader’s jersey in the stage.

“It was a bit dangerous,” Majerus described the finish sprint of stage 2 on the team website. “I had to brake at 300 meters and that made my gap. All I could do was fifth.” With the bonus seconds Vos collected throughout the stage and a third place at the finish, she was crowned leader with a 3 second advantage to Majerus and 7 seconds to stage 2 winner Amy Pieters (Wiggle-High5).

Watch the highlights of Aviva Women’s Tour stage 2 on the Aviva Women’s Tour website.

Although Vos already won a Women’s WorldTour race in stage 3 of the Amgen women’s Tour of California, she won’t be satisfied until she has a stage win in the Women’s Tour as well – this is evident from the frustration she showed after finishing second and third in the first two stages of this race. She is keen to cross the line first in one (or more!) of the remaining stages.

Although Vos did win the sprint in the peloton today, four women had already crossed the finish line before her. Vos missed out on the break and also didn’t react when Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans), Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) bridged the gap towards the leaders. Armitstead took the stage win and Vos lost the leader’s jersey to her.

The time differences have become bigger now, but not unbridgeable, and I cannot wait to see what the two remaining stages will bring. Vos and Rabo-Liv will not be content with today’s events and will surely do everything they can to get the leader’s jersey back.

The stage

Two-thousand climbing meters in today’s stage makes it the Queen’s stage of the 2016 Women’s Tour. The first intermediate sprint came after an elevation gain of 300 meters already. There were only two QOM’s in the stage, but many more smaller and bigger climbs had to be covered in the 109.6 kilometers that were on the program for today.

2016 Aviva Women's Tour stage 3 profile
From the start in Ashbourne, the route went north straight into the Peak District National Park, which is a beautiful area and the first national park established in the United Kingdom in 1951.

How the race unfolded

With a stage full of climbs ahead, the Canyon-SRAM riders all had different feelings about the stage coming up.

Armitstead in the best British rider jersey led the peloton, along with the other jersey wearers, as the riders set off from Ashbourne at 10:30 a.m. GMT. 

The Women’s Tour is characterized by school children lining the streets, supporting their favourite riders. And it’s not just the British riders they are chearing for. The 2015 Women’s Tour winner Lisa Brennauer, who climbed to fourth place in the GC after stage 2, has some fans in the Derbyshire county too.

As the peloton sped towards the first intermediate sprint, Sarah Roy (Orica-AIS) decided to abandon the race as she was not feeling well. She would be followed by Annalisa Cucinotta (Ale Cipollini) later in the stage. It looks like yesterday’s weather has been taking its toll on some of the riders.

At the intermediate sprint, Vos increased her lead in the GC with 3 bonus seconds, while Leah Kirchmann (Liv-Plantur) took 2 seconds and Majerus 1. 

Where I was waiting for Emma Pooley (Team GB) to try something in yesterday’s stage, she tried to initiate a break today on the descent following the climb out of Buxton. Maybe it was a conscious choice to stay in the peloton and lose several minutes yesterday, so she would be given the go ahead by the GC contenders to attack today or in the stages still to come. 

The break wasn’t long lived though, as the peloton chased Pooley and her seven breakaway companions back in no time.

2016 Aviva Women's Tour stage 3 - 5

A new lead group was created in the descent after the feed zone, consisting of Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM), Rosella Ratto (Cylance Pro Cycling), Jolien D’Hoore (Wiggle-High5), Strava QOM jersey wearer Katie Hall (United Healthcare), Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS), Clara Koppenburg (Cervélo-Bigla) and Dutchies Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans), Rozanne Slik (Liv-Plantur), Janneke Ensing (Parkhotel Valkenburg), Lucinda Brand and Roxane Knetemann (both of Rabo-Liv).

Even though today was a workday, the first QOM at 4.5 kilometers in length was packed with people. It continues to amaze me how much spectators this race attracts and it’s great for the organisers of this race. The Women’s Tour must be the women’s race with the largest numbers of spectators out on the road.

Hall increased her lead in the Strava QOM classification at both QOM’s, while the second intermediate sprint was won by Knetemann, followed by Barnes and Slik.

An advantage of over a minute and a half spurred on three of the GC riders in the peloton to take some action, as Spratt and Hall were only 17 seconds behind Vos in the GC ahead of stage 3. Armitstead (eighth in the GC), Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5, twelfth) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla, 27th) escaped the peloton. Interestingly, Vos either couldn’t or didn’t join them.

The chasers reached the lead group 25 kilometers from the finish line and Sarah Connelly suggested a team plan by Boels-Dolmans to get Armitstead in the leader’s jersey today.

At the same time, Brand got dropped from the break, presumably to help her Rabo-Liv teammates in the chase. The stage culminated in an exciting battle between Boels-Dolmans and Rabo-Liv.

Armitstead was obviously well aware of the hard work Rabo-Liv put in to get the leaders back, so when the advantage dropped to 40 seconds at the 15 kilometer mark, she jumped away from the others. Moolman-Pasio, Longo Borghini and Spratt joined her.

It was the correct decision, because the peloton caught the initial breakaway a couple of kilometers before the finish.

The one to beat, Armitstead delivered and won the stage, beating Moolman-Pasio and Longo Borghini to it.

2016 Aviva Women's Tour, stage 3 - 4

Armitstead is the new leader in the Women’s Tour as well, with a 5 second advantage on the number 2, Moolman-Pasio.

Someone very special was in Chesterfield to witness Armitstead winning the stage and taking the yellow jersey.

The standings

Stage 3 results
1. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)
2. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla)
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5)
4. Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS)
5. Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv)


The Women’s Tour standings after stage 3

General classification
1. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) – 9:55:59
2. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) + 0:05
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) + 0:07
4. Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS) + 0:14
5. Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) + 0:27

Stoke-on-Trent young rider jersey
Floortje Mackaij (Liv-Plantur)

Chain Reactions Cycles points jersey
Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv)

Strava QOM jersey
Katie Hall (United Healthcare)

Adnams best British rider
Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)


Stage 4

More climbing in stage 4! The climbs start after around 50 kilometers into the stage and the peloton will tackle most of the 1,500 altitude meters in the final 30 kilometers of the stage.

The peloton arrives in the city centre of Stoke-on-Trent after 119.2 kilometers. Stoke-on-Trent holds the status of European City of Sport in 2016 and is the young rider jersey title sponsor.

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