Wiebes wins Classique after dramatic finish
3 Aug 2019, 7:50 p.m.
Lorena Wiebes was crowned the Prudential RideLondon Classique champion on Saturday but only after the most dramatic finish in the race’s history ended with a mass crash and with the original winner, Kirsten Wild, denied victory by the race commissaires.
The 20-year-old Dutch sensation Wiebes had been pipped to the line after a hectic sprint at the end of the 68km race by her experienced compatriot and defending champion Wild, who thought she had landed an unprecedented third Classique title as she swept past three riders on the inside to claim the narrowest of victories.
Yet behind the 36-year-old, there had been carnage in the thrilling mass finish and little did Wild realise that she had been judged responsible for the crash as she had swerved late from her sprinter’s line to get the best road position on the inside of Wiebes for the denouement, only to clip the wheel of Chloe Hosking, who simply had nowhere to go.
The Australian sprinter, another of the race favourites, took a bad fall, and her tumble set off a chain reaction with other fast-finishing riders falling like dominoes across the width of the finish on the Mall, sending about a dozen to the tarmac too, including sprints classification winner, Susanne Andersen.
Mick Bennett, the race director, reported the good news that although “a number of riders crashed during the final sprint, initial reports confirm that there were no serious injuries”.
Wild originally believed she had taken the triumph and called it “the best feeling to beat the best sprinters in the world” but she was originally disqualified for being “judged to have deviated from her chosen line and endangered other riders.”
Then, on further lengthy review, the original disqualification was overturned but Wild was still relegated to the last place in her group, in 37th position.
The victory and 25,000 Euro first prize was instead awarded to Wiebes, the new Dutch champion, who is considered one of the great new talents in the sport but was left somewhat amazed to hear that the verdict had been reversed after she thought her long sprint for home had fallen just short.
“I didn't have a very good position over the last five kilometres so I had to go to the front and start my sprint really early. It was a surprise win at the end. Kirsten came over in the last 50m but she was disqualified so it was really surprising. It's just crazy,” she smiled.
It had been the Parkhotel Valkenburg rider’s first race in London and she reckoned she had been inspired by the big crowds lining the route.
“The rest of the season I hope to take as many as wins as possible,” added the youngster, who has shot to number three in the world this season with 11 race victories.
It had been an extraordinary and unfortunate finish to a race which had always looked as if it would be a sprinters’ dream, with the strongest of the 16 teams setting a ferocious pace around the 20 3.4km laps of the picturesque central London course that weaved round St James’s Park, past Buckingham Palace and up and down Constitution Hill.
The first 19 laps on the largely flat circuit were a mere prelude to a super-charged finish to the richest one-day race in women’s cycling as the powerful teams with the best sprinters kept the pace high to discourage breakaway attempts.
But, alas, for the British road race and time trial champion Alice Barnes, her race was ended just before the start of the final lap as Sunweb's Leah Kirchmann fell and her handlebars caught the back wheel of the Canyon/SRAM rider’s bike.
“It was pretty disappointing, I really wanted to be contesting the finish but one of the bikes behind caught me and there was nothing I could do then,” sighed Barnes.
As the field gathered for a mass final sprint, Wild, of the WNT-Rotor Pro Cycling Team, found herself a little isolated without teammates to lead her out. She found herself squeezed for room and was forced to duck inside.
Her finish though was still powerful enough to see her overtake the Italian Elisa Balsamo (Valcar Cylance Cycling), who was promoted to runner-up, and third-placed American Coryn Rivera, Team Sunweb’s 2017 winner. The great Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) finished sixth.
Norway’s promising 21-year-old Andersen dominated the Continental Tyres Sprints Competition, easing to three of the four intermediate sprints and finishing runner-up in the other to take the 3,000 Euro first prize as her Team Sunweb concentrated their efforts there while also working out the best way to help their top sprinter Rivera.
Sadly for Andersen, her big day ended with her getting caught up in the big crash after doing the leg work for Rivera. “I dropped Coryn off and I went out to the right. I managed to dodge the crash twice but the third time I had nowhere to go. Luckily, I had managed to break quite hard before I went down but I took a tumble.
“It was a really big crash, involving around 20 girls. My elbow is swollen and my head hurts but we did good. I’m very happy.”
In a race where there were few attempts to split the peloton, Maelle Grossetete, the 21-year-old rider from French team FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, lifted the Combativity Award, presented by SRAM, largely because of the way she battled back to the peloton after she had to change her bike due to a mechanical problem. “I think I was rewarded for my courage in catching up,” she said.
Ultimately, Rivera summed up what a remarkable day it had been in the Classique. “It’s a super-cool race, amazing to be racing in front of Buckingham Palace. It’s cool to have these roads closed and buzzing with people supporting us,” said the American.
“And it’s really motivating to be taking part in a race where the prize money is the same as in the men’s race.”