With two stage wins, multiple solo breakaways, and a crash; it was definitely an emotional tour for LIV – Epic riders, Jess Roberts and Lauren Dolan. Taking a dominant win in the prologue, a 3.4km time trial, Roberts was off to a great start.
“Last year I was 6th overall, so for me this year I really wanted to try and get on the top step! The first stage was a prologue, so I wanted to get on the podium there to set me up well for the rest of the stages.” – said Roberts
Meanwhile Dolan, after taking a respectable 12th place in the prologue, was now riding to help protect and defend Roberts’ lead. The next stage however, saw Roberts caught out in a crash. Now left to take up the lead of the team, Dolan was without support in the leadout to the finish. In what was a messy stage, marred by multiple crashes, she sprinted to an admirable 6th place, and now the highest placed rider from Great Britain overall in 9th.
“As soon as the flag dropped, the race exploded. Gaps opened and grouped formed immediately. My priority was to get to the front at the start and stay there. In the echelon in the front group is the safest place to be in the bike race, and thats where I got myself.” – remarked Dolan
“I was happy with this after feeling like I was going to get popped after my last attempt of a solo breakaway a couple minutes beforehand.”
Stage three, as with the previous stage, was looking to have another bunch sprint on the cards. This time however with Dolan being the lead sprinter for the team. Per contra, with the overall classification off the table, it was Roberts who dictated the race. In the run into the finish, breaking away with another rider, and holding off the bunch to take an impressive stage win. Dolan, impaired by a crash and chasing back on, restrained from aiding the speeding peloton in their hunt for Roberts, and crossed the line with another fine 6th place, 4th in the bunch sprint.
“I was devastated when I crashed [yesterday], especially as I was in the leaders jersey. I knew the overall win was out of the question after my crash, so my aim for the next two stages was to try and help the team as much as possible, and maybe even try and get a stage win! I guess not being in yellow and not having to defend it gave me the freedom to try new things. In the last 6k I saw the opportunity to go, I went for it and it worked so I was really pleased!” – enthused Roberts.
The fourth and final stage, and the last opportunity for Dolan to claim the overall lead. Now sitting in 7th position in the overall classification, it was ‘all or nothing’. With strong winds, and weary riders in her wake, Lauren forced the race, attacking solo with 23km of racing left. Now with a 21 second advantage, she was the virtual leader on the road (with an additional 10 second time bonus across the line) and caused the peloton to fragment behind in the chase. After 14km of gritted teeth and aero tuck however, Dolan was gradually reeled back in…but it wasn’t over yet.
“I fought as hard as I possibly could, but it wasn’t enough to match the 50kph chase that was happening behind me. I was caught with just under 10km to go.” – she explained
“They were hurting and I was hurting, it was perfect opportunity for a last ditch attempt at a stage win. I attacked again, hard out of the saddle. I opened up a small gap. There was 2.5km remaining. I didn’t look back and drilled it through the final town where the finish line was waiting. I went under the 1km to go banner. My legs were growing in lactate. With 600m to go, I was swamped by the giant Norwegian girls as they executed their lead out. I was absolutely gutted it didn’t work; yet again so close.”
Dolan was awarded the pink jersey for the ‘Most Combative Rider’ – a well earned recognition of her efforts over the course of the race. Lauren finished in 9th position overall on GC.
Next week, Dolan and Roberts will be heading back out to the Netherlands for the final round of the UCI Junior Womens Nations Cup series, Omloop Van Borsele; comprising of 3 stages, a 13.4km TT on the first day, followed by 2 days of road racing.