Evelyn Stevens from the USA national team takes NZCT Women's tour title
GreenEdge Kiwi solos to stage success as tour title is decided by 1sec Linda Villumsen soloed to stage victory 2min ahead of the peloton on the fifth and final day of the NZCT Women's Tour of NZ where the GC was won by just 1sec.
The silver World Championship and Commonwealth Games medalist used her time trial skills off the front of the peloton on the undulating course between Palmerston North and Ashhurst and back.
She finished 1m55s ahead of the rest of the field for her first win of the season, in her first event with new team GreenEdge.
"It couldn't be any better. I'm happy with that," the Kiwi said after her win.
Back in the bunch, Villumsen's GreenEdge teammate Shara Gillow finished 3rd in the field sprint. The accompanying time bonus, 4sec for 3rd place, left Gillow one second down on race overall winner Evelyn Stevens (Team USA).
If Gillow placed 2nd and Stevens finished 4th or less, the overall tour victory would have gone to Gillow.
At the end of the day Stevens took the overall title after an intelligent week of racing by Team USA.
"I am absolutely thrilled. Team USA rode strong like bulls, it was incredible," said Stevens who admitted she was very nervous going into the final sprint where she could have lost the lead. "I get to wear the jersey but Team USA were absolutely unbelievable. It's been a great race."
GreenEdge turned on the pressure. With so much at stake today, GreenEdge had a few plans on how to disrupt the race lead. Having Villumsen solo to victory was not one of them.
We've been second all the race and we've tried to change that everyday," Villumsen told RoadCycling.co.nz. "We've raced aggressively, all the team together and one by one.
"Today the tactics were to try and isolate the Americans by taking Judith [Arndt, GreenEdge] and Kristin [Armstrong, Team USA] up the road early. But whatever we tried in the back never really worked out, so I tried to bridge to Judith and see if we could go for the stage win and that's what we ended up doing."
She bridged up to the five rider lead group after the first of two KOM's, then Villumsen attacked the break and slowly but confidently built up her advantage.
"Time trial practise," she laughed of her long solo run. She was having trouble hearing the official's time checks and kept looking behind her half expecting to see the bunch, but it never arrived. "It was hard out there, an up and down course."
10km from the finish, she had solidified a 2min gap and kept it for a fantastic solo victory.
"I am really happy, the team has done really well this week. Without them I probably would not have got away today," she said.
With the stage win settled, all eyes were on the bunch sprint for 2nd.
"While we said the ultimate goal was the overall win, I can definitely leave this race happy," said Gillow after placing 3rd behind Team Italy rider sprinter Monia Baccaille in the sprint , 2nd overall. "The way we worked as a team today - during the whole race, really - was amazing."
NZCT Yellow - STEVENS, Evelyn, USA National Team
NZCT U23 - ALLEN, Jessica, VIS Women team
Eleven QOM - BOYD, Kaytee, NZ Team
Lithoprint Sprint - ROWNEY, Loren, VIS Women team
Team - GreenEdge