Charlotte Kool of Team DSM claims victory on the first day of this year's race
Dutch Team DSM continued its Ford RideLondon Classique winning ways with Charlotte Kool taking victory in Colchester on Friday.
The Dutch rider was part of a 15-woman breakaway, which formed late in the 146.4km opening stage and worked well on the roads into Colchester city centre.
She was joined in the group by teammate and former British champion Pfeiffer Georgi, who chased down several counter attacks and, in the uphill finish, positioned her perfectly for the closing sprint.
Frenchwoman Clara Copponi (FDJ-SUEZ) finished second, while the top British rider was Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) in third place.
Team DSM has been the dominant squad in the recent editions of the RideLondon Classique, with sprinter Lorena Wiebes winning in 2019 and in 2022, when the race was first held over three days. Last year Kool helped guide Wiebes to success, but with her compatriot now at another team, it was her turn to shine.
“Pfeiffer did perfect in countering attacks and she did an amazing lead out, the only thing I had to do was finish it off actually, so I’m really proud of her and the rest of the team,” she explained at the finish in Colchester.
“I was actually quite confident,” she said of the uphill finish. “Of course, it is a bit uphill, but it’s not a long climb, it’s just a drag and I’ve been training to sprint up hill, but of course it’s harder because you come in with a higher heart rate, but I was quite confident, especially after the lead out of Pfeiffer, that I could finish it off.”
Bonus seconds ensure Kool will start Saturday’s second stage with a six-second lead over Copponi and eight on Deignan in the general classification, so what can we expect from the Dutch rider tomorrow?
“I think the same as today,” said Kool. “I had some really good legs today and for sure tomorrow I think we can go for it again and keep the GC close to us.”
For Deignan the stage was her best result since returning to the peloton after maternity leave in mid-April, and the result was unexpected, especially as her Trek-Segafredo team lost their designated sprinter, Elisa Balsamo, after a crash.
“I’m very happy, pretty unexpected to be honest,” she explained afterwards. “Our plan at the beginning of the day was to go for a sprint for Elisa Balsamo, but unfortunately she crashed out, so I’m just proud of the team that we made the best of a bad situation and got a podium place.
“Ina Teutenberg, our director, is very good at making sure everybody has that little moment to take a breather, because it’s hard to hear that your teammate has crashed out, it takes a minute to regroup. She allowed us that time and then said, ‘right girls time to refocus and it’s about attacking this race.’”
After the peloton rolled out of the start in Saffron Walden, two women attacked the moment Race Director Scott Sunderland dropped the flag. Francesca Morgans-Slader (AWOL-O’Shea) and Hanna Johansson (Torelli) quickly gained a lead of around one minute before Scarlett Souren (Parkhotel Valkenburg) set off in pursuit, but she was left stranded in no-woman’s land as the race turned back towards the first intermediate sprint, back in Saffron Walden.
Morgans-Slader won that sprint, with Johansson second and Souren, still alone in third. Johansson and Morgans-Slader swapped places for the Queen of the Mountains spot at Sewards End, and while Souren hung on for third, more than a minute behind, she was soon joined by Danni Shrosbree (DAS-Handsling Bikes).
By now the chasers were over one minute behind the leading duo, the bunch a further minute back, however, the 19-year-old Dutch rider was soon dropped, Shrosbree eventually catching the leaders.
Over the next 50km the peloton held the leading trio on a tight leash allowing the lead to hover around the two-minute mark before reeling them back in with 47km to go.
From then on the race was spectacularly aggressive with numerous attacks being launched off the front and being brought back, until, with 25km remaining, the winning move was made. Even then riders tried to join the front group, but as the peloton tried in vain the leaders came into Colchester with an advantage approaching 30 seconds.
Saturday’s second stage starts and finishes in the Essex coastal town of Maldon, with the bunch tackling a 131.1km course which concludes with three tough circuits where the result is sure to be decided.