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Lotte Kopecky wins gruelling opener at Tour of Britain Women in photo-finish
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Lotte Kopecky wins gruelling opener at Tour of Britain Women in photo-finish

The world road race champion, Lotte Kopecky, had to endure a 20-minute wait to learn that she had won the gruelling opening stage of the relaunched Tour of Britain Women after her Italian rival Letizia Paternoster initially appeared to outsprint her in Llandudno.

Kopecky, leader of the dominant SD Worx-Protime team and the pre-race favourite, does not lose often, but her success over Paternoster, of Liv AlUla Jayco, was by the narrowest of margins after the pair were separated only by a photo-finish.

“I made a couple of mistakes in the sprint myself, but then we came to the line and Letizia raised her hand,” Kopecky said. “I was like: ‘I’m not sure that I won, but I’m also not sure that you won.’ It took quite a while to find out.”

Kopecky, now perfectly placed to follow her teammate Lorena Wiebes’s recent success in the three-day RideLondon Classique, was part of a quality nine rider breakaway that included the London 2012 silver medallist, Lizzie Deignan. Towards the top of the final categorised climb, Ty’n y Llidiart, the durable Anna Henderson, racing with Deignan for Team GB, set a high pace on to the open Welsh moorland, taking a select group, including Deignan and Kopecky, in her wake.

Six more riders moved clear with them, including Paternoster and the British national champion Pfeiffer Georgi, riding for Team DSM-Firmenich PostNL. By the time the group swung on to the Llandudno promenade, almost 40km later, their lead was nearing four minutes.

The breakaway passing Conwy Castle.View image in fullscreen

Deignan’s fourth-place finish in the sprint showed that the 35-year-old has recovered from the fractured arm sustained this spring and is on target for a competitive performance at Paris 2024. “We had two in the front group, but unfortunately neither of us was going to be the fastest,” she said. “We just had to do what we could in the sprint.”

In France, a mass crash during the Criterium du Dauphiné led to a neutralisation of the fifth stage from Amplepuis to Saint-Priest after multiple riders, including race leader, Remco Evenepoel, of Soudal Quick Step, and fellow Tour de France contender, Primoz Roglic, came down on the wet descent of the Côte de Bel-Air.

The high-speed stack-up came two months after a horror crash in April’s Tour of the Basque Country left the Tour de France champion, Jonas Vingegaard, in hospital and put his title defence in July in doubt.

Despite the crash, Evenepoel remains in the overall race lead. “I crashed on my right side and on my head,” he said. “My helmet saved me today. There are guys in a worse situation than I am.

“Everybody was fighting for position on the descent. Some guys started to slide just in front of me. A bike came under my bike and I just went over my head, as it took my back wheel. I think I am OK, but I will know more tomorrow morning.”

Vingegaard’s key Visma-Lease a Bike teammates, Steven Kruijswijk and Dylan van Baarle, were among those forced to abandon the race. “It’s a hard pill to swallow, but we have to show resilience,” the Dutch team’s sports director, Grischa Niermann, said.

Friday’s second stage of the Tour of Britain Women starts and finishes in Wrexham and features more of the short, sharp climbs of north Wales, including the Horseshoe Pass, outside Llangollen, just 26 kilometres from the finish.

Source: theguardian.com