Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies closed out England’s inaugural Women’s Tour in style today, winning the overall team classification prize. The 5-woman squad successfully defended a minute 4 second lead on team standings they had gained one day earlier. The defense came on the fifth and final day of racing, a 67 mile trip from Harwich to Burt St. Edmunds.
“We knew we had to work as a unit and stay near the front of the race in what figured would be a chaotic finish in Bury St. Edmunds if we hoped to win best team, and the women executed perfectly,” said Performance Director Kevin Field. “I have been impressed by the depth and cohesiveness of our team all season long, and they showed that to the world today at a very historic event.”
The team celebrated in a pristine closing ceremony in Bury St. Edmunds, signed autographs (and Union Jacks), and posing for photos as they made there way through the massive crowds. It was an excellently produced week of racing at England’s first ever women’s UCI ranked stage race, sponsored by Friend’s Life. It was a shining example of the popularity and viability of women’s racing on an international scale, with nightly primetime television coverage and millions of spectators on the five beautiful race courses in southeast England.
“I overheard a rider say that this was bigger than the Olympics,” said Lauren Hall, who claimed two top ten finishes in the race. “I feel like the race was really bringing in the communities and engaging with fans, especially all of the young girls we met on the tour who look up to us. It’s was great opportunity to represent Optum internationally – I actually heard people yelling “Optum” from the side of the road!”
The day of racing also saw Hall launch into a dangerous four-woman breakaway that looked like it could make it to the finish line. An unfortunate flat for Emma Poole (Lotto-Belisol) caused her to drop out the break, perhaps taking away the horsepower it needed to make it to the finish line alone. Reabsorbed with 10 kilometers to go, the stage was set for another field sprint, won for the third time by world champion Marianne Vos.
When asked how she felt after the day of hard work, Hall replied, “I’m hungry.”
The team will enjoy a brief break before gearing up for US Nationals in Chattanooga, TN on Memorial Day weekend, where Jade Wilcoxson will attempt to defend her road race championship.
Celebrate the team’s win by checking out photo essays from the week of racing.
Friends Life Women’s Tour Roster