Linda Villumsen gave GreenEDGE-AIS a second stage win at the NZCT Women’s Tour of New Zealand. The Kiwi soloed to stage victory two minutes ahead of the peloton on the fifth and final day of racing. Back in the bunch, Shara Gillow managed third in the field sprint. The accompanying time bonus, four seconds for third place, left Gillow one second down on race winner Evelyn Stevens (USA).
“While we said the ultimate goal was the overall win, I can definitely leave this race happy,” said Shara Gillow. “The way we worked as a team today – during the whole race, really – was amazing.”
GreenEDGE-AIS planned to send Judith Arndt up the road during the first half of the race, hoping to bait Kristin Armstrong (USA) to follow.
“Armstrong went up the road with Judith, and they formed a lead group of five riders,” explained Gillow. “This isolated Evelyn a bit. In the end, Armstrong was told to drop back to help with the chase. That’s when Linda launched her attack.”
With five riders up the road, Villumsen bridged to the break with Carla Ryan (Jayco-AIS) and Huang Dong Yan (China Chongming Island Giant Pro Cycling). The trio made contact with the leaders as did a second chase group of four. Villumsen attacked the break and slowly but confidently built up her advantage.
Ten kilometres from the finish, Villumsen had solidified a two minute gap. With the stage win seemingly settled, the overall would be decided with the field sprint.
At the stage start, Stevens led Gillow on the general classification by five seconds. The overall was within reach if Gillow could win the bunch sprint for second and Stevens did not finish in the top three. The six seconds on offer for second place would propel Gillow to the overall win by one second.
“Gracie Elvin (Jayco-AIS) managed to get away towards the finish,” explained Gillow. “Jessie and Judith took turns on the front to first bring her back and then keep me in a good position. They gave me an incredible leadout. I trusted them completely. When Judith told me to stay on her wheel, I did my best to hold on. Monia [Baccille] (Italy) is a pure sprinter. I couldn’t come around her to take second, and I ended up in third. I lost the overall by one second.”
Gillow expressed satisfaction with the final result.
“I’m impressed with the way the team came together,” said Gillow. “It was really an amazing collective effort. Sure, we wanted the overall, but I can’t complain. We fully committed ourselves to a plan and a goal, and we did everything we could to make it happen. Plus, we got the stage win. It’s a good way to end things here.”