Le Col-Wahoo at the Women’s Tour 2022

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

The eighth edition of the UK’s most prestigious women’s stage race ended in huge success for Le Col-Wahoo. Maike Van der Duin secured the team’s first-ever win in a World Tour race classification. Read on to find out how she made history aboard the Endurance SL R Disc, and for a stage-by-stage breakdown of the race.

Stage 6 Chipping Norton > Oxford – Dist: 142.9km

The 2022 Women’s Tour drew to a close in historic fashion for Le Col-Wahoo. In winning the red sprint classification jersey, Maike van der Duin secured the team’s first-ever World Tour race classification victory.

The final stage of this year’s tour was always likely to be a showdown between three GC 3 GC protagonists who were split by just two seconds. The opening phase of the stage was conducted in an almost leisurely fashion. It only erupted into life on the second QOM climb in Burford, whereupon Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) attacked with Lorena Wiebes (DSM), Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SD Worx) and Grace Brown (BikeExchange-Jayco) for company.

Trek-Segafredo, however, had other ideas, and it was their combined efforts that quickly closed the attack down before the intermediate sprint in Carterton. Trek-Segafredo gave Longo Borghini the perfect sprint lead out only for her to inexplicably launch her sprint too late. Grace Brown full advantage to plunder the maximum points on offer, extending her GC lead into the bargain.

So began a succession of attacks as riders sought to break the monopoly of the GC teams, in the vain hope of spoiling the fast finishers party. None of these was to prove successful, but they may have played a huge factor in the overall outcome of the race. When a trio of riders scooped the last of the bonus seconds available at the final intermediate sprint, it left only the bonus seconds at the finish line to fight for.

In the run-in to Oxford, the sprint trains had to negotiate a technical finish with plenty of road furniture to contend with. Two kilometres out from the line, FDJ was pulling at the front, but crucially, they had lost Grace Brown. Marooned halfway done the peloton, she was forced to try and make her own way to the front with no teammates for support.

As the bunch rode under the flamme rouge, Longo Borghini accelerated out of the right-hand bend, causing a split behind. With Brown out of contention, Clara Copponi was first onto the finishing straight but soon found herself being passed by the irrepressible Lorena Wiebes, Tereza Neumanová (Liv Racing Xstra) and Longo Borghini.

With Brown failing to secure any bonus seconds and Borghini picking up four for third place, the race belonged to the Italian National Champion. Maike crossed the line seventh to notch up another highly impressive top-10 finish for Le Col-Wahoo.

Stage 5 Pembrey > The Black Mountain – Dist: 106.6km

The penultimate and Queen stage was only the second time that the tour had featured a hill-top finish in its history. Whilst the riders rolled out of the start at sea level, the finish atop Black Mountain was anything but. In point of fact, it’s a bit of a killer. The peloton was faced with a long, hard slog of climb – 7.2km distance at an average gradient of 5.3% and maxing out at 21% in places.

This was in addition to the two first-category climbs of Pontyates Hill and Crwbin, both of which were tackled within the opening 25km. An early attack of 11 riders reached the ascent of Pontyates first, Christine Majerus won the QOM to reduce the lead of Elise Chabbey by one point.

The group was caught shortly afterwards, and upon reaching the Crwbin climb it was ex Drops-Le Col rider Joss Lowden to take full QOM points ahead of a reduced peloton. A further group of 11 riders set off in pursuit of Lowden and caught her shortly after the first intermediate sprint. With the riders from the group taking all of the sprint points, Maike’s lead in the competition remained unaffected.

A peloton led by FDJ was now pushing the pace to bring the break back and they succeeded with just 23km to go. Clara Copponi took the second intermediate sprint ahead of Maike to score three and two points respectively. Maike’s seven-point lead means that she has only to finish the race tomorrow to secure Le Col-Wahoo’s first-ever World Tour jersey.

After the final sprint, there was only the small matter of Black Mountain to deal with. The difficulty factor was further exacerbated by a troublesome headwind which also contributed to the lack of attacking intent from the GC contenders. Jesse worked well for Lizzie on the lower slopes but when Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo)split the group Lizzie found herself in the second group on the road.

From hereon in, survival was the name of the game, and Lizzie hung in to cross the line 22nd. The result meant that she protected her top-25 placing on GC heading into the final day.

Stage 4 Wrexham > Welshpool – Dist: 144.7km

The longest stage of the tour started in Wrexham before heading south into the Welsh heartland. After a race that had so far been dominated by the sprinters, the lumpy terrain of stage 4 looked promising for a real GC shakeup. Maike held a commanding lead in the sprints competition at the start of the day, seven points clear of her nearest rival.

Whilst on paper the first intermediate sprint in Chirk looked to offer a good opportunity to gain some more invaluable points, an early break took the first two spots. Maike managed to escape the clutches of the peloton to take a solitary point and further extend her lead in the competition.

Once the first breakaway was brought back into the fold a further group of four riders formed and built up an advantage of up to a minute and a half. But with the climb of Hirnant Bank within reach they were swept up by what remained of the peloton. After a flurry of attacks, a group of six riders crested the climb together.

It was a break of some significance as the group contained; Elise Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), Katarzyna Niewiadoma, Elise Chabbey (both Canyon-SRAM), Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco), Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SD-Worx) and veronica Ewers (EF Education). They were then joined by Grace Brown (FDJ), Ellen Van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), Alexandra manly (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Rijanne Markus (Jumbo-Visma).

With so much firepower at their disposal, this group posed a serious threat to race leader Lorena Wiebes and her DSM team. On the rolling terrain, DSM expended everything they had to bring the group of 10 back but to no avail. Just before the 5km to go mark Van Dijk suffered a mechanical and brown launched her attack.

Only Niewiadoma and Borghini were able to take upon the chase and with 2.5km to go the one was suddenly three. As they approached the line Borghini launched her sprint at 210m out but was passed first by Brown and then Niewiadoma and had to settle for third. Some solid teamwork from her teammates ensured that Lizzie finished safely within the first big group behind the race winner Brown.

Heading into the penultimate stage Maike still holds a commanding 7-point lead in the race for the red jersey. Unfortunately, after succumbing to the effects of a knee injury, April Tacey did not finish the stage and won’t line up for the start of the final two stages.

Stage 3 Tewkesbury > Gloucester – Dist: 107.9km

Gladys Verhulst moved up to 11th on GC after a fighting effort on the hardest day of the tour so far. Stage 3 from Tewkesbury to Gloucester crisscrossed the Forest Dean and was littered with the short, punchy climbs that are typical of the UK. It was not a route that suited a sprinter like Maike and it was Gladys that was most active throughout.

Riejanne Markus (Team Jumbo-Visma) attacked early and held a lead of up to 1:40 on the peloton. However, by the time Markus crested the first QOM of Worral Hill this had shrunk to just 30 seconds. Embroiled in a fight for the green jersey, it was Christine Marjerus (Team SD Worx) and Gladys who made the next move. Both jumped clear to contest the QOM and quickly joined Markus halfway through the stage.

By the time the trio reached the climb of Speech House they held a 45-second lead. But it was Gladys who faded first, leaving Markus and Marjerus to continue onwards. Their days, however, were also numbered and they were caught on an uncategorised climb through Cinderford. It was here that the race fell apart when a group of 17 riders counter-attacked.

This group never held more than a 22second advantage and lacked the cohesion required to stay away. Just after the 10km to go mark, a second group containing Gladys made contact and the race split briefly again. Despite further breakaway attempts, it was the sprint trains of Team BikeExchange-Jayco and Team DSM who seized control.

Once again Lorena Wiebes showed that she was a class apart in the final sprint, comfortably riding to her second consecutive victory. Gladys crossed the line 11th, she now sits just outside the top-10 on GC and is the highest placed rider from outside the World Tour teams. Maike retains her sprints jersey and will wear the jersey for at least another day.

Stage 2 Harlow > Harlow – Dist: 92.1km

With all-out sprint battles, heroic breakaways and a top 5 finish, stage 2 had it all. Majo van’t Geloof left it late to power to fourth place in the sprint finale. Maike extended her lead in the sprints competition to 7 points. Thereby, ensuring another day in the red intermediate sprints jersey and Gladys closed the gap in the fight for the Green Skoda QOM jersey.

The shortest stage of the tour was a 91km circular route with the start and finish line situated in Harlow, Essex. It was also a celebration of the town’s 75th birthday. The mainly flat route featured two intermediate sprints in the opening 50km and two QOM sprints late in the day.

Le Col-Wahoo started the day with an ambitious three-pronged approach. Majo was the protected rider for the final sprint, while Maike and Gladys had carte blanche to contest the intermediate and QOM sprints. The plan worked perfectly. Maike launched her trademark sprint earlier than her rivals to take the first intermediate sprint at a canter but was narrowly edged out by Clara Copponi at the second.

Crowd favourite Sammie Stuart (Cams Basso) then launched a solo attack that lasted until just short of 20km to go. Gladys sprinted clear of the field on Toot Hill to secure maximum points in the QOM competition. She was quickly joined by Lily Williams (Human Powered Health) and seizing upon the opportunity the pair worked well to build a gap back to the peloton.

Gladys was first on Stonards Hill too, but with Christine Margerus (Team SD-Worx) finishing third in both sprints the Luxembourger held onto the green jersey by a solitary point. With the catch looking to be inevitable, a major crash in the peloton briefly interrupted the chase as riders were catapulted into hedgerows and ditches. The resultant blockage split the peloton and gave the breakaway a brief respite.

It was never to be anything but a temporary reprieve, however. With Team DSM looking to right the wrongs of yesterday, the catch was made with just over 2km to go. Thankfully Le Col-Wahoo still had three of their contingent at the front, including Majo. With the line in sight, Majo launched her sprint and crossed the line fourth behind the flying Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM).

Stage 1 Colchester > Bury St Edmunds – Dist: 142.1km

One stage down and 5 to go, and what a stage of racing it was. Maike van der Duin will wear the sprinter’s jersey for stage two by virtue of her domination of the day’s two intermediate sprints. Gladys Verhulst is also within touching distance of the SKODA QOM jersey after amassing a valuable haul of points on both of the categorised climbs.

The setting for this year’s grand depart was the historic town of Colchester. The first major city and capital of Roman Britain, it is claimed by some to be the oldest town in Britain. From Colchester, the relatively flat route crossed the border into neighbouring Suffolk on a day that looked to be tailor-made for the sprinter’s teams.

The fact that Maike and Gladys were able to be competitive in both the sprint and QOM competitions was thanks in no small part due to the outstanding efforts of their teammates. Rarely did we see the turquoise helmets absent from the front of the race.

Once the points and QOM competitions were out of the way, the race burst into life and it was Dani Shrosbree of Cams-Basso who lit the blue touchpaper. She timed her attack from midway down the pack perfectly, seemingly taking Team DSM by surprise to surge clear of the bunch.

Hunkered down on the drops, her gutsy gamble seemed to bear fruit as the lead quickly extended to just shy of 2 minutes. Though the peloton was not immediately stung into action, the counter had to come. Eventually, it did, in the shape of Team DSM. As they wound up the pace at the front of the bunch the hard-won gap that Shrosbee had built began to tumble.

However, it was at this point that the wheels came off, for the entire race! With barely 35km to race, the referees pulled alongside Shrosbee to shepherd her to a complete halt. While the same process was taking place in the peloton behind. With no sign of how long the delay would last, riders sought whatever comfort they could from the bitterly cold conditions.

We were then treated to the novel sight of riders huddled in team cars (even in the boot) wrapped in puffer jackets or riding up and down the road to stay warm. Team Coop, however, went with another approach entirely. The riders were observed dancing along to Lizzo’s ‘about damn time’ in full team kit.

Now in the cold light of day, the reason for the delay has been revealed. One of the police motorcycle outriders was involved in a collision. The delay was to allow emergency services to attend the scene. Thankfully the injuries were not too severe; “the motorcyclist sustained a leg and shoulder injury and was taken to hospital for treatment and has since been discharged” a tour spokesperson said afterwards.

The racing resumed at 3:10pm, albeit with certain adjustments to the finish. Many in the peloton had aired their dissatisfaction with the run into the finish. As it transpired their fears looked to be well-founded. With only a handful of km left to race, the valiant Shrosbee was reeled back in and so began the battle for the front of the race.

With riders seeming to miss parked cars by the scantest of inches, the peloton rocketed through the narrow streets of Bury St Edmunds. What ensued was perhaps one the hairiest finishes to a World Tour race we’ve ever been treated to. With the peloton at times split asunder by the tight, twisting turns, riders were continually forced to close the gap after losing ground.

Amidst all of the chaos, a crash seemed inevitable and it duly came on the penultimate corner. Ride London winner and hot favourite Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) looked to go down on a damp corner and collect approximately half a dozen other frontrunners. This left a much-reduced group to contest the sprint. Clara Copponi (Team FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) emerged from the remnants of the bunch to take the win.

With so much disruption, it was little surprise to see that Maike was left to surf the wheels having been separated from her teammates. But a late surge for the line earned her a superb 10th place finish, a result that sees her start stage two in 3rd place overall. In addition to her sprints competition jersey, it has been a very fruitful first day for Le Col-Wahoo.

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