Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda) sprinted to victory in the RideLondon Grand Prix on The Mall, beating Marianne Vos (Rabobank Liv Women) in a photo finish.
In a furiously fast race around St. James Park, Bronzini profited from some great team work to beat Vos and Commonwealth Games champion Lizzie Armitstead in a thrilling finish.
It means a second consecutive win in the race for Wiggle-Honda, after Laura Trott won the inaugural edition last year, and Bronzini was quick to pay tribute to the team.
“I knew I would be able to win today when, in the middle of the race,” she explained post-race. “I asked my team-mates to make it a good race, and put in lots of attacks.
“I knew then we could stick with Armitstead and Vos, and I knew I would be able to do my sprint.
“It was really hard to sprint against Marianne. She is really strong and she pushed me hard but today it was my day.”
The race was characterised by attacks, with elite riders including Armitstead, Vos and British criterium champion Eileen Roe all present in the front group, which was rapidly whittled down.
Armitstead was one of the first riders to earn a small gap, but Vos was never far from her back wheel in the early laps.
However, while Armitstead and Vos continued to mark each other’s moves, Wiggle-Honda did a great deal of pace-setting with Swedish rider Emilia Fahlin hitting the front with regularity.
Riders made great use of the wide open roads behind St James Park too, lining out on both sides as the attacking continued – defending champion Trott also finding herself near the front half-way through the race.
After repeatedly marking Fahlin’s moves, Vos and Armitstead could not be shaken from the front group, however.
Specialized-Lululemon also brought riders forward, with Tiffany Cromwell bidding to build a solo advantage, but with an elite chasing group formed, they didn’t receive the leeway to stay ahead.
Roe and Cyclo-cross ace Nikki Harris (Telenet-Fidea) were also active in the front group, with the leading names all still together as they took the bell.
With a bunch sprint looming, however, Welsh rider Amy Roberts (Wiggle-Honda) burst off the front on the final lap, earning 15 metres on the bunch.
Roberts – a winner in Redditch at the Matrix Fitness Grand Prix Series – continued to lead as they rounded the final bend onto The Mall, forcing Vos to chase her down as she launched her sprint.
And though Roberts could not stay out, the move had the desired effect as Vos was forced to launch a long one – Bronzini in her wheels.
Vos beat Bronzini at the Sparkassen Giro, the most recent round of the World Cup, but the Italian ace would not be denied this time.
Riding neck-and-neck into the final 100 metres, Bronzini passed the Dutch wonder woman, edging a thrilling photo finish by a quarter of a wheel.
And the Rabobank Liv Women rider conceded the two-time former world champion had simply been too good.
“I tried my best, but today Bronzini was faster on the line,” she said post-race. “I know she is tough to beat. With Giorgia racing, I can’t make any mistakes but she was just faster today.
“It’s so amazing to race here in London again. It was a great crit, with lots of attacks and then a great sprint at the end.
“I felt quite good, but you never know. I think Bronzini is just very fast. I saw her in my wheels and I knew, with trying to go for 200 metres, it is really far.”
Behind, an equally close race for third ensued – Armitstead edging it to take yet another podium place this season, with Roe having to settle for fourth ahead of Trott.
The event was the second of the RideLondon weekend, following the morning’s free cycle which saw thousands enjoy a closed roads ride around central London.
The weekend will now conclude with the Handcycle Classic, RideLondon-Surrey 100 sportive and the UCI Europe Tour one-day race, the RideLondon-Surrey Classic.
RideLondon Grand Prix
1) Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda)
2) Marianne Vos (Rabobank Liv Women)
3) Lizzie Armitstead (Wiggle-Honda)
4) Eileen Roe (Starley Primal)
5) Laura Trott (Wiggle-Honda)
6) Hannah Barnes (UnitedHealthCare)
7) Tiffany Cromwell (Specialized-lululemon)
8) Grace Garner (RST Racing Team)
9) Nicola Juniper (Team Echelon-ROTOR)
10) Abbie Dentus (De Ver Cycles)