Christine Majerus sprinted to second place in Derbyshire on Saturday to jump up to second overall on the OVO Energy Women’s Tour general classification. The Luxembourgish champion was part of two key breakaways on stage four – the second of which stayed away until the finish line. Sarah Roy (ORICA-SCOTT) edged out Majerus for stage honours.
“The plan today was to go for the stage win,” explained Majerus. “Everyone was free to go in the breakaway. The course was really hard with constant up and down.”
The penultimate stage of the Women’s Tour covered 125 kilometres through the Peak District National Park. While shorter than the three stages that preceded it, the route was no less challenging. The peloton set off in heavy rain that lightened as the stage unfolded.
“The team did a good job staying in the front,” noted Majerus. “I was in a little break until the first GPM. It all came together after that. I had a puncture after the first intermediate sprint, and I think Lizzie [Deignan] must have attacked while I was away because when I came back to the bunch she was gone.
“It was a good move, especially as the climbers attacked hard at the bottom of the second climb,” Majerus added. “I couldn’t follow them, but they picked up Lizzie on the way, so that was good. A little bit after the GPM, the group reformed.”
Twenty-five riders had made the main bunch. Boels-Dolmans had four in the elite selection.
“There were still three girls out front and as the group wasn’t rolling, I thought I would try to bridge by attacking,” said Majerus.
Deignan shared Majerus’ idea. The defending champion attacked but was deemed too dangerous to allow up the road. When the reduced bunch brought her back, Majerus countered to bridge across solo.
Forty five kilometres from the finish, Majerus, Roy, Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb) and Shara Gillow (FDJ) had nearly a minute on their chasers. Majerus was best-placed amongst the escapees overall, having started the stage in seventh place at 1:55, and assumed the majority of the responsibility for the pace-making.
“I did a lot of work, yes, but that’s not an excuse I would give for missing the stage victory,” Majerus said. “The group needed some fresh legs, and that’s what I did.”
Majerus won the second intermediate sprint, picking up three bonus seconds and maximum points for her effort. The gap ballooned out to 2:20 shortly after the second sprint with 20 kilometres still to race.
“At that point, I felt good and confident about saving energy,” said Majerus. “But the gap got small again in the last 10 kilometres, so that’s why I went a little bit deeper again. I wanted us to stay away and have as much time as possible.”
Majerus launched two distinct attacks in the run-in to the sprint.
“The first attack was to get rid of Gillow, who really wasn’t working anymore,” said Majerus. “That was successful. The second attack with 2.5 kilometres was to try to get away solo. That one didn’t work, and Roy could hold my wheel.”
The stage came down to a two-up sprint between Majerus and Roy.
“I messed up the sprint,” admitted Majerus. “I thought I closed enough on my left side, but obviously I didn’t, and Roy managed to sneak through. Of course I’m disappointed not to win, but she also deserves this result. She was working all the way until the end. I can only blame myself for losing.”
But all was not lost. Majerus saw major gains on the general classification, jumping up five spots. She heads into the final stage in second overall, 1:25 behind Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Energie), and newly atop the points classification.
“The general classification changes and the points jersey are nice, but above all, I was really happy with my shape today,” said Majerus. “I felt really good and was really happy to be in break giving a stage win a try.”
The OVO Energy Women’s Tour concludes tomorrow with a 62-kilometre circuit race in London.