The first stage of the Simac Ladies Tour may have been almost completely flat, but that didn’t mean it was an easy day – on the contrary. The threat of crosswinds made for a nervous peloton which led to several crashes and seven riders being forced to abandon the race altogether.
The biggest crash at 80km from the finish split the race, and only 21 riders were not held up and increased their advantage in the crosswinds, laying the groundwork for staying away to the finish where Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) took the stage 1 victory.
“There was a bit of panic in the bunch, we hit the next wind section, and there was a huge crash. It was pretty awful actually, Teniel [Campbell] and Jessica [Allen] went down, and I think I was one of the first people to get through. Luckily, everyone in our team is ok, but it split because of that crash,” Team BikeExchange-Jayco’s Ruby Roseman-Gannon described what happened. The Australian finished sixth behind Wiebes on the day.
Hardest hit in the mass crash were 2019 overall winner Christine Majerus (Team SD Worx), Femke Markus (Parkhotel Valkenburg), Shari Bossuyt (Canyon-SRAM), and Léa Stern (Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad); all four had to abandon the race.
Bossuyt was taken to hospital for further assessment that revealed a concussion. Markus had broken a tooth, requiring dentistry work. Her sister, Dutch champion Riejanne Markus (Team Jumbo-Visma), also went down in the crash but could continue the race.
Earlier crashes had already forced Coryn Labecki (Team Jumbo-Visma), Rotem Gafinovitz (Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad), and Anna Trevisi (UAE Team ADQ) to abandon the race, meaning that the peloton is down from 94 starters to 87 riders after stage 1.
The crash-induced split can also become important for the general classification as the peloton lost 49 seconds on the front group, a time deficit that could become crucial over the six stages of the Dutch race.
During the stage, several teams even debated whether they should press on, including Wiebes’ Team DSM who had their designated GC card Pfeiffer Georgi in the second group.
Trek-Segafredo had no such scruples as four of their five riders were in the front group, and when Chloe Hosking dropped back because of a puncture, the decision was made to maximise the time gain for Audrey Cordon Ragot.
“At that point we thought to get in the game for GC as looking to the next stages and TT, it could be a good option for me and the team. We worked to keep the gap to the rest of the peloton as big as possible. Elynor Bäckstedt and Lauretta Hanson worked so hard, they were great! I did my best in the sprint to take a time bonus,” the French road race champion recounted the final.
Cordon Ragot is now third overall, five seconds behind yellow jersey Wiebes and three seconds behind Karlijn Swinkels (Team Jumbo-Visma). As she also is the reigning French time trial champion and placed fourth in the European ITT Championships earlier this month, she is one of the favourites for overall victory now. However, Swinkels and her teammate Anna Henderson, Liv Racing Xstra’s Jeanne Korevaar, and Lonneke Uneken (Team SD Worx) will be sure to give her a hard fight.