Megan Guarnier was crowned the winner of the inaugural UCI Women’s WorldTour in Madrid on Sunday. While the American locked up the series overall following the road race in Vårgårda, Sweden last month, Boels-Dolmans lined up for La Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta hungry to add to their UCI Women’s WorldTour tally - 10 out of 16 rounds before the finale, for anyone that's counting.
“When we pin on numbers, we’re racing to win,” said Guarnier. “It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve won before or that I already had the series in the bag four weeks ago. The course today didn’t suit our strengths perfectly but that was never going to stop us.”
The women’s peloton closed out the 17-round UCI Women’s WorldTour in the city centre of Madrid, racing 15 laps around a 5.8-kilometre circuit that took in El Prado, Palacio de Cibeles and Gran Via. The race ended in a bunch sprint last year. The course - flat, fast and with wide, sweeping roads - and the distance (only 87 kilometres) lends itself to a sprint.
“We wanted an aggressive race,” said Guarnier. “We had options for a sprint, but we weren’t just going to sit back and wait for it.”
Following a string of unsuccessful attacks, Chantal Blaak went up the road in a group of around eight riders. Blaak and company held off the peloton for nearly a lap, and when they were caught, Guarnier put in a dig that resulted in a solo escape.
“That wasn’t exactly the plan,” said Guarnier. “It was hot and hard out there alone. I had hoped for company, but I just put my head down and set a steady tempo.”
That steady tempo did serious damage to the back of the peloton. Nearly a quarter of the field lost contact and would never rejoin the race. Three riders bridged across to Guarnier with nine laps done, but the peloton, led by Alé Cipollini, overtook the quartet before the tenth passage of the finish line.
Many attacks, all neutralised, and a fight for the points classification dominated the next few laps. With four laps remaining, Claudia Lichtenberg (Lotto Soudal Ladies) and Simona Frapporti (Hitec Products) slipped away. The duo gained a maximum advantage of 36-seconds on the penultimate lap. They were caught with 3.6 kilometres still to race.
It was Guarnier, in her white, blue, pink and orange UCI Women’s WorldTour leader’s jersey, who was setting a blistering fast pace on the front of the peloton when the leading duo were overtaken. Part of the Boels-Dolmans lead-out train, Guarnier pulled off around the one kilometre mark and Karol-Ann Canuel took over.
“We were sprinting for Chantal, but we didn’t set her up perfectly” said Guarnier. “To be honest, I think we all wish we had finished things off a bit better.”
Wiggle-High5’s Jolien d’Hoore bested teammate Chloe Hosking for the win. Marta Bastianelli (Alé Cipollini) rounded out the podium. Blaak was best of the rest in fourth place.
“We were here for more than a victory lap, but it's a huge honour to win the series," said Guarnier. "The team classification win makes it clear that this jersey is a team effort. This has been a season to remember."