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Women’s Tour: Grace Brown wins hilly stage 4 in Welshpool

Australian beats Kasia Niewiadoma and Elisa Longo Borghini after trio breakaway in final kilometers.

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Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) sprinted to victory in Welshpool as stage 4 of the Women’s Tour ended in a three-up sprint.

Brown held off Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) to win a tough stage in Wales.

After a group of 10 riders got away on the climbs between Wrexham and Welshpool, Brown, Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma attacked in the final six kilometers to contest the finish and deny a bunch finish.

“The gap kept growing and coming back, we didn’t quite know if we would make it to the end,” Brown said at the finish. “But in the last five kilometers, I decided to attack. At first, I was solo and then Elisa Longo Borghini and Kasia Niewiadoma joined me and we rode to the line and had a little sprint, and I was lucky enough to win.

“I knew that on paper I had a better sprint than the other two, but coming into the final 500m I was left on the front, so it’s never the best place to be for a sprint, especially when it’s a small group. But I think I played it alright and I was able to come around in the end to win.

“It’s my first win this year and I feel like it’s been coming for a while. It’s a relief but it’s also really fun for the team. It’s my first win for FDJ, apart from the time trial in the nationals in January, so it’s really good.”

Brown’s winning margin was enough to put her in the overall race lead, four seconds ahead of Niewiadoma. Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM), who started the day in the overall lead, kept the points jersey but slips to seventh on GC.

How it happened

It was another cold and wet morning in Wrexham as the Women’s Tour peloton lined up for the first of a doubleheader of tough, hilly stages in Wales. Though Friday’s summit finish is touted as the race’s queen stage, Thursday’s ride featured more climbing with over 2,000m of elevation gain.

Several teams tried and failed to drop the sprinters on stage 3, but stage 4’s difficult parcours looked like an opportunity for someone other than Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) to take a win. As a result, the fight to get in the breakaway was fierce with several moves going before anything stuck.

Jumbo-Visma’s Teuntje Beekhuis was one of the day’s early attackers, getting away in the first 12km. She was joined by Lily Williams (Human Powered Health), Maike van der Duin (Le Col-Wahoo), and former race leader Clara Copponi (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) after taking maximum points at the first intermediate sprint. However, their lead was only slim and the quartet was caught after just 25km of racing.

Keen to be in the day’s breakaway, Beekhuis joined the next move, which included Mikayla Harvey (Canyon-SRAM), Elena Cecchini (SD Worx), and Maaike Boogard (UAE Team ADQ). With better WorldTour representation and no threats to any of the jerseys, this four-rider group was let go and had a 1:05 advantage after 35km.

There were two notable abandons in the early part of stage 4, as Movistar’s general classification rider Sara Martín climbed into the team car, as did Marlen Reusser (SD Worx). After Chantal van den Broek-Blaak didn’t start the stage, Reusser’s abandon took the SD Worx squad to just four riders for the second half of the race.

In the peloton, it was Trek-Segafredo controlling things as they looked to support Longo Borghini, who was just 20 seconds down on GC. Due to Trek’s effort as the road began to rise to the first categorized climb of the day, the leaders’ advantage came down quickly and they were caught after 60km of racing.

With four kilometers still to go to the top of the climb, the attacks from the peloton began. A group of 10 riders emerged over the first climb, led by Longo Borghini. She was joined by teammate Ellen van Dijk, Elise Chabbey and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), Alex Manly and Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco), Grace Brown (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope), Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB), Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SD Worx), and Riejanne Markus (Jumbo-Visma).

This group was still together and away as the race hit the base of the second categorized climb to Bryn-y-Fedwen. With 50km to go the leaders had 30 seconds over the chasing peloton, which was being driven by Team DSM.

At the top of the climb, Chabbey sprinted across the line first, securing enough points to put her in the lead of the mountains classification. Team DSM continued to put in the bulk of the work on the front of the peloton, but the strong leading group was not coming back quickly.

With 15km to go, the gap was 22 seconds. The chase in the peloton faltered when Team DSM drifted from the front, having used up several riders and it was down to just Pfeiffer Georgi and Wiebes to try to close the gap. Movistar began to help in support of Guarischi, but the gap went out to over 40 seconds. Van Dijk was dropped from the front group, but the remaining riders pressed on.

The attacks from the lead group began inside the final six kilometers, with Brown the first to try to go solo. Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma joined Brown, and the trio worked well together to pull out a lead. Despite the best efforts of Georgi in the peloton, it would come down to the breakaway to contest the finish.

It was Longo Borghini who launched her sprint first with 200m to go, but Brown was able to come around the Italian in the last 20m to take the victory. Niewiadoma came up fast from behind to beat Longo Borghini into second place. The remainder of the breakaway stayed away to take the top nine places, with former race leader Wiebes settling for 10th by winning the sprint from the bunch.

The hard Welsh section of this year’s Women’s Tour continues on stage 5, with the race’s first ever major summit finish atop the 6km Black Mountain climb in Carmarthenshire.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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