World champion: "It's nice to put bad memories to bed"
World champion Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) became the first Brit to win the Women’s Tour as she continued her Olympics preparation by banishing the memory of her horror crash 12 months ago.
Armitstead won the first stage of last year’s race but crashed into photographers after the finish line – her injuries ruling her out of the rest of the race.
But having recovered to go on to become world champion, the Yorkshirewoman has been in superb form in 2016 and added a stage win and the yellow jersey to her five one-day victories already recorded this season.
And the 27-year-old – who reserved special praise for her team-mates’ efforts during the week – was pleased to have proved her climbing form with victory on the hilly stage three, which put her into the yellow jersey.
“The main thing I wanted to take away from this is that my climbing legs are good,” Armitstead said. “On the previous two stages [stages three and four], I found out they were. I’m very happy.
“This time last year I was in bed watching [the race]. It’s nice to put bad memories to bed. It’s been a really good and valuable experience all week.
“The biggest thing I’ve taken away from it is how strong of a team we are, how much of a unit we are. If we put our minds to it, we really can achieve results with anyone on the team, and I’m very proud of everybody for that.”
Having claimed the leaders’ jersey from long-time rival Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv) on stage three, Armitstead started the final stage 15 seconds clear of the Dutchwoman, who won stage four.
Cervelo-Bigla’s Ashleigh Moolman at eight seconds and Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) at ten seconds were also a threat on the final stage with 16 bonus seconds up for grabs.
But Armitstead negated Vos’ threat by bagging the first three bonus seconds, before a breakaway was allowed to go clear up the road to claim the next three.
It meant the only threat to Armitstead’s lead would then be a late attack, but with her Boels-Dolmans team-mates in full control, the Otley-born ace’s seventh victory of the season was duly delivered.
“The tactic was that I was going to win the first bonus sprint,” she explained. “Then I would have three seconds, and we were effectively safe from Marianne’s threat.
“We did that perfectly. It was a perfect lead-out. Chantal [Blaak] even took two seconds behind me. I think she almost had to brake to let me pass her. She’s phenomenally fast.
“I was delighted that we had done that. Then it was just a case of letting people go up the road and controlling it so that anyone on the GC was within a minute.”
And while admitting she had been a little nervous about the break, with fellow Brit Molly Weaver up the road and a potential threat at only 1.28 behind overall, Armitstead believes the team was always in control.
“It was a hard day but probably one of the easier days of the tour compared to the previous stages,” she added. “We could control it and bring it to a sprint, which was what we wanted.”
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