How the race finished
Arlenis Sierra (Movistar) won the first stage of the inaugural Tour de Romandie Féminin, leading a small bunch across the finish line after an attacking day. Lianne Lippert (Team DSM) sprinted to second, with Demi Vollering crossing the line in third (Team SD Worx).
How it happened
The Tour de Romandie Féminin started with a 134km loop through the cantons of Vaud and Fribourg, starting and finishing in the lakeside city of Lausanne. In perfect autumn conditions, the peloton attacked the rolling course from start to finish, making for an attritional day to start the three day tour.
With two opportunities to take points in the mountains classification coming within the first 16km of the stage, the racing got off to a fast start. While no break was allowed to form, both opportunities were contested by a small handful of riders, with Georgia Williams (Team Bike Exchange Jayco), Elise Uijen (Team DSM), Katia Ragua (Liv Xstra Racing), Soraya Paladin (Canyon/Sram Racing) and Sophie Wright (UAE Team ADQ) launching out of the peloton. After the second climb, Georgia Williams and Elise Uijen were tied on 8 points each in the mountains classification.
Eventually Katja Ragusa (Liv) managed to slip away from the peloton, riding off to a solo lead over over 2 minutes. With 56km to go, Ragusa was joined by Elena Hartmann (Swiss Cycling), the red and white jersey showing the national team are keen to animate their home race. However, the peloton kept the pair in check, with the gap hovering at around one minute.
Once the riders hit the homeward bound part of the loop, Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) kicked off a flurry of attacks. The peloton was almost immediately completely strung out, with small groups forming and coming back together. Vollering was the first of the major GC contenders to make herself visible, pushing the power over a small rise. As SD Worx looked to reduce the bunch further, the other teams scrambled to keep their moves in check.
With the increased pace behind, Ragusa and Hartmann were within sight of the peloton as they hit the base of the 3rd category climb to Vulliens. Seeing her opportunity, Elise Uijen bridged across to them and then pushed on, keen to claim the QOM points with the hopes of wearing the Mountain’s Jersey going into Stage 2.
Movistar set to work managing the pace in the already reduced peloton. On the next little rise to offer itself up, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Team SD Worx) attacked and created a small gap. When it was closed, Vollering attacked over the top to lead onto the descent, being countered again by her teammate Marlen Reusser with Ellen van Dijk (Trek Segafredo) in tow.
With each attack, riders were being dropped, and Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) was doing a lot of work on the front to steadily close down the dangerous moves. On a rolling descent, Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Suez Futuroscope) was allowed a small gap, but it was short lived. There was a short period of relative calm before the last climb of the day, where Demi Vollering again unleashed a huge attack from halfway down the bunch. Trailed by Julie van de Velde (Plantur-Pura), the pair were countered by Anna Shackley (Team SD Worx). Then, with 30km remaining to race, Ashleigh again let her legs unleash on the steepest part of the climb, with Elise Longo Borghini (Trek Segafredo) pushing on over the top. But once again, they were not allowed any room to play.
As the now much smaller bunch descended through the vineyards of the Lavaux region back towards Lac Leman, attacks were launched by Bike Exchange, DSM and Team UAE. Van Vleuten in her world champion’s stripes was looking after fast finisher Arlenis Sierra (Movistar), carefully piloting her through and closing moves where necessary. Despite the final being flat, the aggression was relentless. As the leading bunch followed the lake edge back towards Lausanne, DSM tried again and again to get a rider clear, with Francesca Barale almost sticking a solo move. Then, inside 3km to go, a dangerous group of five instigated by Ane Santesteban (Team Bike Exchange Jayco) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio snuck off the front and looked for a moment like they could have the winning move. But the power of Ellen van Dijk brought it all back together again.
In the finishing straight, the three DSM riders lined up to lead out Lippert, with Arlenis Sierra tucked on the tail of their train. Set on a straight tree-lined avenue, it was a clean sprint for the line – with Sierra coming off the wheel and storming straight down the centre to the win. Lippert’s sprint was strong enough for second, with Vollering getting up for third, just ahead of Soraya Paladin (Canyon//Sram Racing), Elisa Longo Borhini and Elise Chabbey (Canyon//Sram Racing).