Welsh stages of the Women’s Tour offer ‘true test’ to world’s best cyclists
Two stages of Britain’s biggest women’s road cycling race took place in Wales this week, with over 100 of the world’s top cyclists taking part.
The Women’s Tour saw competitors race through the heart of mid Wales on stage four on Thursday, before a second Welsh stage culminated in a gruelling uphill finish at Black Mountain in Carmarthenshire a day later on Friday.
Stage four started in Wrexham on Chester Street before skirting the Welsh border, passing through Ruabon and travelling alongside the Chirk Aqueduct and close to Chirk Castle, before entering Powys at Rhydycroesau.
The 143.5-kilometre (89-mile) looped the Lake Vyrnwy reservoir near Llanwddyn as it headed towards the finish line close to the River Severn in Welshpool’s Broad Street. Considered the toughest stage of the race, the route involves an elevation of 2,108m.
On Thursday, Australian Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) moved into the Women’s Tour race lead with two days remaining after sprinting to victory in Welshpool.
Brown edged out 2017 champion Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM Racing) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek – Segafredo) to claim the stage four win.
Powys has hosted a stage finish of the Women’s Tour at Builth Wells once before in 2019, while the men’s Tour of Britain has visited the county on six occasions between 2010 and 2016.
It was the first time that Wrexham and Welshpool featured in the UK’s most prestigious women’s race, with support in part from the Welsh Government, which has twice before backed stages of the race in 2018 and 2019.
Wrexham last hosted elite cycling when the opening stage of the men’s Tour of Britain finished in the town in 2015, with this year’s stage set to play a part in supporting Wrexham’s bid to be crowned UK City of Culture 2025.
Dr Caroline Turner, Powys County Council chief executive, said: “The return of the Women’s Tour of Britain is wonderful news for the county. The event provides Powys with a fantastic opportunity to showcase the county with a national and international television audience.”
Black mountain finish
Carmarthenshire then became host for stage five of the Women’s Tour as the riders, including Carmarthen cyclist Jess Roberts, raced through the countryside with the encouragement of spectators who had lined the route to cheer them on.
Stage five features the second most elevation gain of any stage in this year’s race (2,067m), coming in just 104.5 kilometres (65 miles) of racing, finishing atop Black Mountain in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Carmarthenshire previously hosted the Grand Départ of the Tour of Britain as well as the overall finish of the Women’s Tour in 2019 – again at Pembrey Country Park – and the Tour of Britain team trial in 2021.
Riders started at sea level at Pembrey Country Park, before heading north to Llandovery via Pontyberem, Nantgaredig and Brechfa.
Hundreds of schoolchildren and plenty of cycling enthusiasts and sporting fans gathered at Pembrey Country Park to watch the start of the race which included 97 riders from 17 teams battling it out along a tough 106.4-kilometre (66.3-mile) route finishing on the top of the Black Mountain – the second hill-top finish in Women’s Tour history.
Reigning Italian road-race champion Elisa Longo Borghini won the queen stage outsprinting Kasia Niewiadoma and race leader Grace Brown in a thrilling finale at the end of the 7.2km climb.
Council Leader Cllr Darren Price said: “It is now the fourth time we have hosted either the Tour of Britain or the Women’s Tour proving that Carmarthenshire is the top location for cycling in Wales.
“And we are reaping the rewards of that, everyone benefits, our growing tourism industry, local businesses and local communities.
🚨 3KM TO GO 🚨@ellenvdijk’s pacesetting has significantly shrunk the peloton. Race leader @GLBrown321 and the GC favourites are all still in the group. #WomensTour #UCIWWT pic.twitter.com/hB982uLy5f
— The Women's Tour (@thewomenstour) June 10, 2022
Mick Bennett, Women’s Tour race director, said: “The Welsh stages in this year’s Women’s Tour are going to play a key role in determining our next champion.
“Both will offer a true test for the world’s best riders, with the thrilling racing set to be played out in front of some of the most spectacular scenery the United Kingdom has to offer.
“We thank all our stakeholders, including the Welsh Government, for their continued support of the Women’s Tour.”
The Women’s Tour features all 14 of the top division UCI Women’s WorldTeams this year, with 18 teams and 108 riders competing in the race, marking the biggest field in the eight-year history of the race.
This year’s Women’s Tour began with a Grand Départ in Colchester and Bury St Edmunds on Monday 6 June before a first visit to Gloucestershire for stage three, on Wednesday 8 June, travelling through the Forest of Dean between Tewkesbury and Gloucester.
The race will concludes in Oxfordshire today on Saturday 11 June with a stage between picturesque Chipping Norton, in the Cotswolds, and the heart of historic Oxford.
Highlights of the race are available on demand via the ITV Hub.
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