Erinne Willock (Webcor) and Linda Melanie Villumsen (HTC-Columbia) survived a long two-woman breakaway to capture the stage win and the overall jersey, respectively, on the hilly stage 5 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix.
After the peloton had fractured a few times, Willock attacked out of a smaller group after the final Queen of the Hill climb. Villumsen had been on the wrong end of a field split just before Willock went.
“I was actually dropped,” said Villumsen, a 25-year-old Dane. “As soon as I came back I saw her go and I was like, ‘okay, this is my chance.’”
“There was a little climb, and I was too far back in the peloton and it snapped and I was in the back part of it,” Villumsen said. “It was come back, go.”
And go they did.
“Our goal this morning was to move up on GC,” Willock said. “Linda was obviously going to move into the jersey, so we were just working hard together to gain as much time as possible.”
Behind, race leader Shelley Evans had her Peanut Butter & Co.2012 teammates chasing hard, but they couldn’t catch the break.
“We had absolutely no help whatsoever, as usual,” said Evans. “Everybody else wants to race for second, I guess. We had five or six girls trying to rotate. Never all at the same time, but they helped when they could.”
The breakaway duo went came into the finishing circuits with a 40-second advantage. As the four final laps ticked off, Peanut Butter riders began to tail off, spent from the chase. With one lap to go, Evans only had teammate Lauren Tamayo at the front, and TIBCO pushed forward to set up Miller.
In the uphill sprint, Willock jumped first and held off Villumsen, who sat back down and coasted across the line, content in knowing she had captured the race lead.
TIBCO’s Brooke Miller took the field sprint for third.
“The climbs were really hard today, especially that first one,” Miller said. “At 1K to go to the first KOM it was just this wall.”
Miller kept enough in reserves to punch her way to the front of the field sprint, however, after teammate Meredith Miller guided her through the last corner.
The Nature Valley Grand Prix concludes Sunday with a criterium that features an 18-percent climb before the finish. Evans took the jersey earlier in the stage race via intermediate time bonuses. There are none on tap Sunday, so Evans and anyone else who wants to overtake Villumsen will have to do so by dropping her over the hill.
Evans’ plan for the criterium is simple: “take the jersey back.” Villumsen, of course, has no interest in a final-day wardrobe change. “I have a really strong team,” said the HTC-Columbia rider. “We will do everything to defend.”