Katarzyna Niewadoma stormed to victory in the opening stage of the OVO Energy Women's Tour, taking the win in Daventry, Northamptonshire by 1-minute and 42-seconds over teammate Marianne Vos.
The 23-year-old Polish Champion, on her first visit to the UK, put in an impeccable display of riding, breaking away with 47-kilometres remaining, to claim her first ever UCI Women's WorldTour win of 2017.
"When I attacked I wasn't really thinking. I just chose the moment” said Niewadoma speaking afterwards. "It can be a good opportunity to go away. I expected somebody to join me, unfortunately I was alone and I was thinking 'Oh no, there's 50km to go, there's a lot of wind, there are hills!' I wasn't sure if I could gain a lot of seconds but I was really motivated to keep pushing.”
Niewadoma built a three-minute lead at one point, but Boels Dolmans worked hard to reduce the deficit, but such was the WM3 rider's spirit that she stayed away to celebrate a memorable solo win, gesturing to the pink ribbon in her hair as she crossed the Kettering finish line.
"A lot of the time I was thinking about the girl who wrote my Breast Cancer Care pink ribbon; somehow I felt a lot of energy from her. I felt that we could do it. It's so crazy; normally races like this end up in a bunch sprint, and I knew that there are a lot of teams here like Ale Cipollini and Sunweb who want a bunch sprint, so I thought they would chase me hard. When I saw the 15-kilometre to go sign I knew I had to go full and see what happened. I'm so happy that I could win here.”
Niewadoma now wears the OVO Energy Green Jersey heading to Stoke-on-Trent for Stage Two and leads by 1-minute and 46-seconds over Vos, with Christine Majerus a further two seconds in arrears before 15-riders sit at 1-minute 52-seconds.
The WM3 Pro Cycling rider also takes the Wiggle Points Jersey following the opening stage, while Wiggle HIGH5 rider Audrey Cordon Ragot claimed maximum points at both SKODA Queen of the Mountains climb to take that jersey after day one.
Lisa Klein of Cervelo Bigla took the Eisberg Sprints jersey on countback, being tied at the top of the standings with Jolien D'hoore.
Alice Barnes, in seventh, was the top Brit, donning the Adnams Best British Rider Jersey in her home county.
"I've not raced a WorldTour event for about a month now,” said Barnes speaking afterwards. "I've done a lot of training for this race and a top 10 would have been a really nice target, so I'm happy with how it went.
"The wind wasn't as much of a factor as I thought it would be. It started off with a tailwind but we were always pretty bunched up. Up the climbs we raced really hard. Niewiadoma went away and we didn't chase as much as I thought we would. All the big teams were looking at each other. With it being a five-day race over long stages, I don't think anybody wanted to show their hand too early. She's a strong rider so she got her gap pretty quickly.”
For full results and standings, please click here.
Highlights of the opening stage of the OVO Energy Women's Tour are on ITV4 at 23:00 on Wednesday 7 June, with a repeat at 09:55 the following morning on the same channel. The highlights will also be available on demand via the ITV Hub catch-up service.
Stage Two starts and finishes in the city of Stoke-on-Trent, taking in Stone, Stafford, Uttoxeter, Cheadle and Leek, plus two Category One SKODA Queen of the Mountains climbs at Ipstones and Gun Hill.
The race begins in the city centre at 11:00 and is due to finish outside Hanley Town Hall at around 15:00.
Photos by Simon Wilkinson.