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Lorena Wiebes outkicks stellar field to take first stage of RideLondon Classique
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Lorena Wiebes outkicks stellar field to take first stage of RideLondon Classique

The Tour de France Femmes stage winner Lorena Wiebes of the SDWorx Pro-Time team won the opening stage of the Ford RideLondon Classique, outsprinting Letizia Paternoster of Liv AlUla Jayco in Colchester.

Wiebes was expertly shepherded to the uphill finish by her teammate, the world road race champion, Lotte Kopecky. Her explosive acceleration proved far too much for her rivals as the Dutch rider, winner of the points classification and general classification in RideLondon in 2022, emphasised her superiority.

The rolling, twisting terrain between Saffron Walden and Colchester was suited to a breakaway attack and so it proved with two riders, Rebecca Koerner of Uno-X Mobility and Lea Lin Teutenberg, moving ahead of the peloton.

But the inevitable catch with 16 kilometres to go played perfectly into Wiebes’ interests on the approach to the line.

“I had to finish the team work off because the girls were chasing all day and controlling the breakaway,” Wiebes said after her eighth win of the season. “It was a good situation for us. The girls did really well to lift me at the right point so I could open my sprint at a good moment.”

The three-day race, now well-established in the women’s World Tour, is growing in status and falling a little over two months before the Olympic Games road race at Paris 2024.

It has attracted a stellar field including Kopecky, Wiebes, her compatriot Charlotte Kool, the former world champion Lizzie Deignan and the British national champion, Pfeiffer Georgi.

Deignan, silver medallist in the women’s road race in London 2012, made an unexpectedly quick return to racing last month in the women’s Tour of Spain after breaking her arm in the Tour of Flanders in March.

“It’s my first real race where I’ll be sprinting and using it a lot, but I think it’s OK,” she said of her participation in RideLondon, in which she is hoping to make up for lost race time.

“This is one of the longest races we have on the calendar. Also, they’ve put the bonus seconds on the climbs and not the sprints, so that will make it more interesting.”

The celebratory atmosphere of the Essex-based race, now rivalling the Tour of Britain in terms of prestige, came only 24 hours after British Cycling announced a new five-year partnership worth about £20m with Lloyds.

The agreement was described by the British Cycling CEO, Jon Dutton, as “gamechanging” and “one of the biggest deals in British sport in the last two years”.

The investment secures the short-term future of the men’s and women’s Tours of Britain, which were plunged into uncertainty after British Cycling severed ties with the former promoter Sweetspot last autumn after a financial dispute.

British Cycling has also had a controversial partnership with Shell since 2022 which is scheduled to end in 2030.

“This takes the pressure off the whole of the organisation, but it doesn’t mean to say we are taking our foot off the gas,” Dutton said of the new relationship with Lloyds.

Stage two of RideLondon is a 142km loop east of Chelmsford through the short, sharp hills north of Blackwater river, starting and finishing on the climb to Maldon High Street. Another Wiebes sprint win looks highly likely.

Source: theguardian.com