Lorena Wiebes produced a stunning sprint to win the opening stage of the Asda Tour de Yorkshire Women’s Race in Bedale.
The 20-year-old Dutch woman was thrust into position brilliantly by her Parkhotel Valkenburg team-mates in the closing stages and then opened up her sprint early as the riders raced along Market Place. Despite facing some stiff opposition as the finish line beckoned, Wiebes held on and took her third victory of the season with a few bike lengths to spare.
Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv), Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) and Yorkshire’s own Lizzie Deignan (Trek Segafredo) were just some of the star names who were given a rousing reception in Barnsley at the start of the stage, and the peloton continued to be cheered along vociferously as they took on their 132km trek to Bedale.
The first intermediate sprint in Pontefract had already been contested before the first breakaway riders moved clear, with Lizzie Banks (Bigla) outclimbing Leah Dixon (Brother Tifosi p/b OnForm) on the Cote de Lindley to earn herself a spell in the best climber’s jersey sponsored by LNER.
Another four riders would join that duo as they entered the same Harrogate circuit that will feature on the UCI Road World Championships in September, with Lauren Kitchen (FDJ Nouvelle – Aquitaine Futuroscope) winning the second intermediate sprint on Parliament Street.
Dixon’s efforts in the breakaway were rewarded with her being voted into the most active rider jersey sponsored by Dimension Data as the peloton stepped up their chase.
Everything came back together inside the last 5km and that was when the sprinters worked their way to the fore. Wiebes sat on the wheel of Christine Majerus (Boels Dolmans) as the action entered Bedale and then passed the Luxembourg champion on the closing straight to wrap up a well-timed and well-executed success.
That victory meant that Wiebes took control of the blue leader’s jersey sponsored by Yorkshire Bank and bonus seconds accrued at the line saw her open a three-second lead at the top of the general classification over second-placed Majerus.
Wiebes also tops the points classification but Majerus will wear the green jersey sponsored by Asda on Saturday as she also sits second in that competition.
Kitchen, meanwhile, received her height in beer once she’d crossed the finish line as it was she who outsprinted Maria Confalonieri (Valcar Cylance Cycling) on the Black Sheep Straight in North Stainley.
Stage winner and race leader Lorena Wiebes said: “It was a hard stage but when the breakaway came back my team did an amazing job to put me in a good position and I felt confident that I could win. To finish it off was really nice and this is right up there with the biggest wins of my career.
“I like riding in Yorkshire. I rode this race last year and it’s really good to be back. It was nice to see the Harrogate circuit because I hope to be back for the World Championships later in the year. It was nice and technical and I like those kinds of circuits.
“I am not sure I will be able to keep the jersey tomorrow, but hopefully we can keep it in my team and we will work hard to do that.”