Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Giorgia Bronzini edged closer to a stage victory in the inaugural women’s Tour as the former two-time road World Champion took second place in the 87.8km fourth stage over the Hertfordshire roads between Cheshunt and Welwyn Garden City.
Bronzini was the only rider able to compete with current rainbow jersey Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv), but was unable to prevent the Dutchwoman from taking her second victory in as many days. Third place was taken by Lucy Garner (Great Britain).
A six-second time bonus - along with a small split in the peloton behind her - saw Bronzini move up one place to fifth overall, just 31 seconds behind Vos.
“It was good to get onto the podium again today,’ Bronzini smiled. “It was a hard day today, because the roads were more rolling that yesterday, the climb was a little bit longer, and there were some parts with some crosswinds.”
After numerous early attacks, a dangerous break of six riders got away, and was 50 seconds clear with 30km to go. Steadily, however, Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling riders - along with those of Astana-Be Pink and Rabobank-Liv - closed the gap and, as the race was neutralised to get around a road traffic accident unconnected with the event, the six riders were back in the peloton.
“In the middle of the race there was a breakaway without us, but I told the girls not to worry, just to keep control,” Bronzini explained. “When it was around 20km to go I told the girls to go on the front and chase with the other teams. We caught the breakaway when there was about 10km to go, and then the girls worked to position me for the sprint."
“The last one was Peta [Mullens], and she brought me to Vos’ wheel in the final kilometre," Bronzini continued. "I was in a perfect position, but in the last roundabout there was a motorbike in the middle and I had to go around it.
“I didn’t lose much energy though, and I came back to my position on the last corner and I was on the perfect wheel. I tried to go out with 100 metres to go, and I was in line with her, but she shifted down and went again. She was really strong, and I could do nothing to resist in that position.
“I’m really happy for that, because every day I feel a bit better, and I believe in myself more. Anyway, she’s not World Champion for nothing!” Bronzini laughed.
Vos and Bronzini crossed the line several lengths clear of former two-time junior World Champion Garner, partly thanks to the two riders’ speed, but also thanks to the way that they hit the finishing straight.
“The last corner was a bit dangerous, but we went into it with a really high speed,” Bronzini said. “We took a risk today, but that’s the work of a sprinter. I took a risk today to try to win.”
Having almost completely recovered from the head cold that affected the first two stages, Bronzini has taken third and second places on stages three and four. The Italian is ever hopeful that she can complete the set and take a victory in tomorrow’s final stage.
“We never know!” she laughed. “We don’t give up, and sure we’ll try again to find a way to get a win.”
Today’s stage was an emotional one for one Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling rider, as it started in double Olympic Champion Laura Trott’s hometown, and finished in the one where her cycle racing career began. Trott, along with elder sister Emma - who rides for the Boels-Dolmans team and was actually born in Welwyn Garden City - led the peloton away from the start in Cheshunt on the roads that the pair of them know so well.
“It was pretty amazing,” said Trott. “There were so many people out. the race was literally down roads where I trained on as a kid, so it was pretty weird, but it was really, really good.
“There were so many people out. I know it was Saturday, but it seemed like there were lots more people than there has been. It was amazing and it was a really, really great atmosphere.”
Local knowledge isn’t always an advantage, however, as Trott’s experience of the Hertfordshire roads meant that she was also aware of all the potential hazards along the way.
“In a way I kind of wish I didn’t know the roads, because I knew some of the descents and some of the corners, and I knew how scary that can be,” she laughed. “For the first 20km I was backing out of the bunch a bit because; firstly, I didn’t want to crash again after yesterday; but I also knew how dangerous some of the corners were. So I guess, in that way, it wasn’t so much a home advantage as a negative!
“But I really did love it. There were so many people out on the course that I knew.”
The atmosphere experienced on the “Trott Stage” certainly vindicated the 22-year-old’s decision to ride through the pain after her crash on stage three.
“I would never have not got back on,” she explained. “The doctor would have to say to me that I wasn’t physically well enough to carry on. I hate starting these things and not finishing them. I’d much prefer to finish 20 minutes down - or how ever many minutes I finished down - than quit the thing completely.”
1. Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv)
2. Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
3. Lucy Garner (Great Britain)
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse