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Tour de Romandie Féminin: Arlenis Sierra sprints to stage 1 victory

Cuban racer scores first WorldTour win of season in reduced bunch kick.

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Arlenis Sierra (Movistar) took her first Women’s WorldTour win of the season Friday after outsprinting a reduced group on stage 1 of the Tour de Romandie Féminin.

The Cuban beat Liane Lippert (Team DSM) on the line, while Demi Vollering (SD Worx) took third.

Despite repeated attacks on the stage’s climbs and in the flat finish, none of the moves stuck, and the race came together for a reduced bunch sprint from an elite group in Lausanne.

Also read: Arlenis Sierra taking strides forward with Movistar

Katia Ragusa (UAE Team ADQ) and later Elena Hartmann (Switzerland) were away in the middle part of the stage, but were brought back with 45km remaining.

How it happened

Starting and finishing in Lausanne, stage 1 offered up a tough start to the three-day tour. The road was up and down all day, featuring five Cat. 3 climbs for a total of 2,280m of climbing on the 134km route. With 24km of descent then flat road from the top of the last climb to the finish line, it was a stage to suit the fastest rider who could hold on over the hills.

Before the stage started, there were some last-minute changes to the startlist, with notably Kasia Niewiadoma and Pauliena Rooijakkers both not starting for Canyon-SRAM.

The climbing started as soon as the official start was given, with the peloton heading out to the hills north of Lake Geneva.

The first categorized climb to Chexbres came after 7km, and was won by Elise Uijen (Team DSM) ahead of Georgia Williams (BikeExchange-Jayco). The peloton stayed together for much of the early part of the stage, allowing Williams to take maximum points on the second Queen of the Mountains, beating Uijen into second.

After a short-lived attempt from Swiss rider Linda Zanetti (UAE Team ADQ), Ragusa put in an acceleration and managed to get a gap on the bunch after 40km of racing. Despite being solo, the Italian rider soon pulled out an advantage of over a minute, which had grown to two and a half minutes by the third QoM of the day, which Ragusa won. Uijen took second behind, with Williams in third.

Soon after the climb, it was again a Swiss rider on the attack, as Hartmann, riding for the national team, set off in pursuit of Ragusa. With 63km to go, Hartmann caught Ragusa, and the duo had just over two minutes on the peloton.

After Hartmann made the catch, though, the gap began to fall, and the leading pair were only a minute ahead with 54km remaining. At this point, the action picked up in the stretched-out peloton as Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) upped the pace on the front, closely followed by Juliette Labous (Team DSM). This effort put pressure on the peloton, but no significant gaps formed.

On the fourth QoM climb, the two leaders were in the peloton’s sights and Elise Uijen attacked and overtook them in her hunt for mountains points. Uijen soloed to the top of the climb, whilst Hartmann and Ragusa were caught with 45km to go.

The peloton again started racing aggressively towards and over the top of the climb, with Ashleigh Moolman Pasio and Vollering both making it hard for SD Worx and bringing back Uijen. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope) briefly attacked solo, but it was hard to stay ahead of the aggressive peloton.

After a brief calming on the flat, Vollering restarted the attacks with 30km at the base of the final categorized climb as several SD Worx riders tried to make the climb difficult but again couldn’t get away. Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) also put in a big effort, but at the top of the climb it was Lippert who crossed the line first.

There was another small rise after the categorized climb finished, which Uttrup Ludwig again tried to use to go clear from the bunch, but she was soon brought back. The acceleration saw seven riders break off the front of the group, but Team DSM closed the gap going into the last 25km. The peloton remained grouped together on the descent, and began looking at each other going into the 17km flat run-in to the finish.

Floortje Mackaij (Team DSM) was the first to attack on the flat, and several subsequent attacks cycled through heading towards the last 10km, but none stuck. With Sierra likely the best sprinter in the group, there were a lot of riders trying to get away rather than wait for a sprint finish. In the last 3km, Ane Santesteban (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Moolman Pasio launched what looked to be a dangerous move, but yet again they were brought back as everything came together for a reduced bunch finish.

With the numbers in the group, Team DSM organized to lead out the sprint going into the last kilometer, but it was the Cuban racer Sierra who effectively surfed the wheels to bring herself to the front of the group and launch her sprint. It was Sierra versus Lippert to the line, with the Movistar rider holding off the German to the line to take her first WorldTour win of the year.

Vollering edged out Soraya Paladin to take third, with the rest of the group finishing on the same time as the winner.

Uijen’s efforts on the climbs earnt her the climber’s jersey, whilst Lippert’s second place places her atop the young riders’ standings. Sierra leads both the general classification and the points classification.

With the 26 leading riders finishing two minutes ahead of the second group, the GC is already shaping up ahead of stage 2, though most of the pre-race favorites – the likes of Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), Longo Borghini, Vollering and Labous – all finished in the front group and are level on time after the first stage.

Saturday’s stage sees the climbing ramp up significantly with a 13.8km climb acting as a precursor to the Thyon 2000 finale, which will see the peloton climb for over 17km at 6.6% and finish at 2,089m above sea level.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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