Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling's Jolien D'hoore finished the Aviva Women's Tour in second place overall, with Elisa Longo Borghini the most aggressive rider of the five-day race, at the end of the fifth and final stage between Marlow, Buckinghamshire and Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. For a second day in succession a black and orange rider was denied a stage victory in the final metres, as French puncheur Audrey Cordon-Ragot was caught with around 300 metres to go after escaping in the final 20km.
Belgian Champion D'hoore was narrowly beaten to the line at the finish of the 102km stage by young British sprinter Hannah Barnes (UnitedHealthcare), with Italian Simona Frapporti (Alé-Cipollini) in third. The six-second time bonus on the line meant that D'hoore climbed one place to second overall in the final General Classification, just six seconds behind World Time Trial Champion Lisa Brennauer (Velocio-SRAM).
"This week was a team effort, and the girls helped me so much," D'hoore said. "They did an amazing job. Giorgia [Bronzini] was the team captain, and she helped all of us, and that made a difference in the end.
"In the end it was pretty close, it was just a matter of a few seconds, but if it comes down to seconds you keep thinking 'where did I lose the seconds.' But I'm just happy with second, because Lisa Brennauer was just too strong this week; she was stronger than me, I can honestly say that, so congrats to her."
After a series of attacks from herself and teammate Longo Borghini, Cordon-Ragot set off in pursuit of lone attacker Claudia Lichtenberg (Liv-Plantur). The two riders managed to hold off the peloton over the rolling roads into Hemel Hempstead, but the final, uphill two kilometres proved just too much for them to make it to the finish.
"It was definitely for the win," Cordon-Ragot said of her attack. "We had to be aggressive, and we had to play the card of Elisa or me today, because it was a hard stage and we didn't know if Jolien and Gio were able to go to the finish. We attacked one by one, with Elisa, and my attack was the decisive one, and 300 metres to go I am caught. That's so, so bad; it's so disappointing…"
"It was the perfect plan," Cordon-Ragot added, referring to Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling's aggressive tactics. "Yesterday and today we stuck to the plan, and I think we were so close to the win. If you don't try you never win, you never have a chance to do something. I've been aggressive, and I think the wheel will turn for me, and I think I will win a big race one day!"
Thanks to her long attack through the rain of stage four, and her constant attacking throughout the Aviva Women's Tour, Longo Borghini was awarded the prize for the most aggressive rider in the entire race. The 23-year-old Italian Tour of Flanders winner spent most of the week working for her teammates, with her persistent attacks putting pressure on the other teams of the race, but came oh-so close to taking a victory for herself.
"It's been a good week, and we tried our best," Long Borghini said. "I tried to be aggressive and to work for the team. I tried also to have a chance yesterday, and I tried also today. In the end it didn't work out, but I think we can be satisfied because we worked really well as a team; and I'm proud of my teammates and all the staff, because we really did what we scheduled.
"I'm feeling really well, and I'm positive for the upcoming races."
The irony that Cordon-Ragot suffered a similar finishing straight defeat as herself she herself had done the day before wasn't lost on Longo Borghini; particularly as their similar styles often see the two of them mistaken for one another in the bunch. Longo Borghini even began the stage with "I am not Audrey" written on her arm, in the spot where Cordon-Ragot has her "Amor Vincit Omnia" tattoo.
"Me and Audrey are just the same person actually!" Longo Borghini joked. "Because we look so the same on the bike, and we are racing aggressively in the same way. We had a bit of bad luck, but I'm so sure that everything will turn, and the odds will be with us."
Result Stage 5
1. Hannah Barnes (UnitedHealthcare)
2. Jolien D'hoore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
3. Simona Frapporti (Alé-Cipollini)
Final General Classification
1. Lisa Brennauer (Velocio-SRAM)
2. Jolien D'hoore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
3. Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans)
Courtois Straight Through to the Semis
– Pauline Courtois leads after first day