Christine Majerus sprinted to fifth place in Royal Leamington Spa on Friday. The Luxembourgish champion was Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team’s ‘Plan B’ after Amy Pieters was involved in a late race crash. Chloe Hosking (Alé Cipollini) took the stage win ahead of Alice Barnes (Drops) and Ellen van Dijk (Sunweb).
“The sprint was dangerous,” noted Majerus. “Chantal helped me with positioning in the last two kilometres and from the last corner I cruised around somehow. I don’t understand why you have to make a road of six metres wide down to four meters with 300m to go. That’s when a crash happened on the left. Fortunately I was on the right and I escaped.
“From that moment the sprint was really on and it was long way to the finish, too long for me,” Majerus added. “But for Plan B I think I did the best of it.”
The 151-kilometre stage was the longest of the five-day British stage race. Despite plenty of early escape attempts, the peloton largely stayed together until the mid-point of the race. The intermediate sprints were hotly contested by those chasing bonus seconds and the sprint jersey. Pieters won the second intermediate sprint and picked up three seconds towards her general classification ambitions.
Just beyond the mid-point of the stage, Cecille Uttrup Ludwig (Cervélo Bigla) attacked. The young Dane gained 20-seconds on the peloton before she was joined by Australian Gracie Elvin (ORICA-SCOTT). Shara Gillow (FDJ), Malgorzata Jasinska (Cylance) and Martina Ritter (Drops) eventually bridged across. The five rider breakaway gained a maximum advantage of around 1:45 with 40 kilometres left to race.
“Before all of the crashes, we decided to go for Amy in the sprint because of bonus seconds on the finish line,” said Majerus. “When Sunweb started to chase, I put myself in to show goodwill. When the group was within 20-seconds, I stopped chasing. Not too long after, Amy crashed.”
Pieters’ crash was one of several crashes that marred the stage three action.
“The girls did a good job to bring Amy back so that she wouldn’t lose any time in the general classification,” noted Majerus. “She was a little shaken up after the crash, so she wasn’t confident enough to take risks in the final sprint. I can understand that.
“That’s when I become Plan B,” Majerus added. “I tried to recover as best as I could from the chase work before the sprint.”
Majerus heads into the penultimate stage as the best-placed Boels-Dolmans rider overall. She sits in eighth place on general classification, 1:55 behind race leader Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Energie), who retains a 1:43 advantage over Van Dijk in second. Racing continues with a lumpy 133-kilometre stage between Chesterfield and Derbyshire on Saturday.