Radio Tower splinters both pelotons to pieces with Stephens and Bernard timing their sprints to perfection
On the second stage of the Virtual Tour de France riders faced their first mountain climb of the race. The Radio Tower climb posed 9.4km of ascent with an average gradient of 3.9% that lulled both women’s and men’s peloton into racing it at full-gas but then saw both races splinter into small groups as the last kilometre ramped up 13.7%. Those who managed to hang on to the front groups as the pelotons split had to use the descent to recover and hoped they could make it to the line without being caught by the chasing groups behind.
The women’s peloton saw a strong group of riders go on the climb with Cecilie Uttrup-Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) and Erica Magnaldi (Ceratizit - WNT Pro Cycling Team) attacking just before the top with Magnaldi taking the QOM points. As the peloton neared the finish line, a lone group of three at the front were joined by the chase group of four riders behind, making it a seven woman sprint to the finish line with Lauren Stephens (Team Tibco-Silicon Valley bank) timing her aero power up to perfection and taking the win.
The men’s race saw equal attempts of attacks on the climb leaving the peloton splintered over the top. With 10km to go a lead group of four were trying to keep their chasers at bay but were caught with 6km to go. A photo finish sprint saw Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo) narrowly taking the win over Freddy Ovett (Israel Start-Up Nation).
The most combative riders of the day were Cecilie Uttrup-Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) and Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos).
“It was definitely brutal, it was my second time racing up Radio Tower and it is never easy. At the end being in a group of four you know not to think that it’s race over, especially on Zwift, things come back together pretty quickly and we knew that we would be quicker on the downhill than the lead group, and that’s where we really closed that time gap.
“Once I hit Radio Tower for me it was just about sticking with that group as much as I could. There’s no pacing on Radio Tower it’s just a flat out effort and prior to that it had felt relatively calm, I think everyone was waiting for that moment.
“Over Radio Tower my teammate Kristen (Faulkner) was actually in between my group and the lead group and we told her to chase onto the front group and once she made it on we knew that we could wait in the group behind. Then luckily some girls in my group decided to push and our group made it across to the lead group. Then I made sure I timed that aero power up at just the right time for the win.”
“I think it was really, really close I didn’t realise that I had won, I was thinking that Freddy (Ovett) was in front of me, so when I realised I had won I was really happy because I started to sprint really late and in the last few meters I just managed to pass him.
“It was a really fast start and when we arrived to the mountain I was really on the limit, I think I passed in the second group at the top and then I was with the group of four on the downhill and that’s when I knew that I had to try and recover and save something for the sprint because I know that it’s really hard on Zwift to attack and go alone, so I knew that I just had to save the energy and in the end it was a success.
“Winning means a lot because we haven’t had races now for a long time and to win whenever is a good thing, now we are looking forward to coming back to real racing on the road and looking forward to winning there too.”
Full results here