In just four years the Ovo Energy Women’s Tour has established itself as the one of the most important stage races on the calendar, arguably second only in prestige to the Giro Rosa. Its slot in early June means that the Women’s Tour marks the transition from Spring’s one-day classics to the summer stage races.
The organisers have applied all their experience from the men’s Tour of Britain, particularly in course design. Such is the popularity of cycling in Britain now that a race doesn’t need to drag itself through the snarled up traffic systems of Manchester or Birmingham. Stage finishes in smaller towns are easier to manage, still attract big crowds, and the towns are doubtless grateful for the tourism boost. Another wise strategic decision was to base the race in the heart of the country. British cycle racing has a history of sending its major races to the seaside, perhaps organisers of the past thought that everyone freezing on the beach would trudge up to the roadside to watch. But staying in the centre of the country means the route is compact, on quiet roads, taking in a variety of terrain.
The rolling countryside of southern Britain can be deceptively hard, and Polish prodigy Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) took advantage, attacking with almost 50 kilometres to go of stage one. Heading towards Kettering she built up a lead of three and a half minutes, and by the time Boels Dolmans got the chase together, Niewiadoma was gone. She won alone by nearly two minutes. For Niewiadoma and her team the rest of the week became a nerve-jangling defence of the leader’s jersey. Christine Majerus (Boels Dolmans) came closest to taking it from her, finishing second to Orica Scott’s Sarah Roy on the queen stage into Chesterfield, but after at one point being virtual leader on the road, Majerus only grabbed back twenty seconds at the finish.
Sunday’s final stage in London was taken by Jolien D’hoore, denying British champion Hannah Barnes the stage win she’d been chasing all week, and Niewiadoma finished safely in the peloton to take overall victory.
While British politics descends into chaos, it’s reassuring that at least someone is making sensible decisions.