The opening stage of this year’s RideLondon Classique saw pre-race favourite Charlotte Kool take the win in Colchester. It didn’t play out as a simple bunch sprint finish however a late charge from a group of 15 riders saw them reach the finish ahead of the bunch. Earlier in the day, there were plenty of crashes as the bunch got used to the British road furniture. Elisa Balsamo, many people’s GC favourite this weekend, crashed out and she was joined later by the likes of Arianna Fidanza, Alison Avoine and Gladys Verhulst.
The early break saw Hannah Johansson of Torelli and Francesca Morgans-Slader of AWOL O’Shea go clear, later to be joined by Danni Shrosbree of DAS-Handsling. They managed to take most of the early QoM and intermediate sprint points available, with Johansson set to wear the QoM jersey for Stage 2. They were able to stay out of trouble as behind them the bunch crashed several times. Balsamo, Fidanza and Verhulst were the biggest names to not finish the stage but they certainly weren’t alone. Sammie Stuart of DAS-Handsling was seen on the coverage missing a lot of skin from her hip and shoulder but managed to make the finish and hopes to ride tomorrow.
Later on, Trek Segafredo confirmed that Balsamo had fractured her scaphoid as well as both her left and right mandibles. Apparently, this crash was into her own team car whilst coming back from a natural break, although this remains unconfirmed by the team and rider.
We moved into a phase of the race that saw plenty of attacks as Trek Segafredo in particular was keen to lead through some of the countryside lanes Britain has to offer. Sand-strewn surfaces nearly saw Lucinda Brand crash and whilst she was able to hold up the wobble, Jeanne Korevaar of Liv Racing behind was not so lucky. She was able to continue, however. Another move through the lanes by Lizzie Deignan saw the peloton split, with 13 riders going clear. Canyon SRAM sensed the danger and sent Chloe Dygert up to bridge Maike van der Duin to the front group. It was a strong effort as Dygert had been involved in the crash that saw Fidanza abandon earlier.
The gap held steady at around 20-30 seconds for most of the run-in but it became clear that there wasn’t enough firepower in the bunch prepared to work to catch the front group and the sprint looked to be between the front 15 riders. Heading into Colchester, Soraya Paladin was doing the bulk of the work but Pfeiffer Georgi came through to set up Charlotte Kool in the best position.
An off-set in the line of barriers allowed Clara Copponi to come through though and that initiated the sprint. Despite Copponi being a fast finisher, Charlotte Kool showed why she is one of the best in the women’s peloton at the moment and simply dropped the watts to win comfortably. Behind her, Lizzie Deignan had used her positioning skills on Kool’s wheel to get a good launch that saw her finish 3rd, whilst the Canyon SRAM lead out between Dygert and Van der Duin was messy throughout and didn’t help the Dutch rider get further than 4th place.
“It was an easy day from the beginning and then in the final, they went full racing. We had to adapt a bit, but we were with the right girls in front. We then had to finish it off. Pfeiffer did a perfect lead-out, so [it was a] dream start. For us, actually, it was not really a problem if the rest came back, to be honest. But I think it was nice to race a bit. It was a really nice final to race.”Charlotte Kool
2023 RideLondon Classique Stage 1 result
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Photo credits: Adam Warner & Bob Martin for London Marathon Events