Kessler seals Women's Tour sprint jersey
October 9, 2021
Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank's Dutch speedster, Nina Kessler showcased her sprinting chops at The Women's Tour this week by claiming the coveted red sprinter's jersey on the first day of the competition and clinching the title in the seaside town of Felixstowe after an exciting finale.
Kessler celebrates after claiming the Eisberg points classification at the 2021 AJ Bell Women's Tour. Photo/Twila Muzzi
"Overall, it was a pretty hectic race, and I also felt my legs from Paris-Roubaix," Kessler said. "I'm happy I could do well to win the sprint jersey. I couldn't have done it without my team, who gave me perfect lead-outs to help position me to sprint for the intermediate sprints during the race."
The action started on day one. Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank lined up in Bicester for 147.7km of racing through Oxfordshire, before the inevitable sprint finish in Banbury.
It was a day of mixed fortunes for the team. Unfortunately, Tanja Erath crashed out of the race and sustained multiple broken bones, including her collarbone. Erath received hospital treatment and returned home to Cologne yesterday.
The threat of rain was ever-present as the team kept their eye on Kessler. Photo/Twila Muzzi
"The first stage was a day with some wind and a number of crashes, and unfortunately, Tanja was caught up in one and couldn't continue the race," team director Rachel Hedderman said. "However, I'm super happy that Nina was able to get the sprint jersey and the team did a great job helping her defend it."
Despite the unlucky turn of events for Erath, Nina Kessler dominated the intermediate sprints on stage 1 and claimed the sprint jersey in Banbury. The bonus seconds, which were offered along with sprint points, boosted her into third place on the general classification.
The 16km individual time trial on stage 3 offered the GC riders and TT specialists a chance to boost their overall standings, as the road stages were predominantly suited for sprinters. Veronica Ewers and Abi Smith took advantage of the opportunity and rocketed into the top 10 on the stage.
"It was a great experience being able to race at my first Women's Tour, and particularly special (and surprising) to get my first ‘big result’ in a World Tour race with seventh in the ITT," said Smith, who moved into 12th overall after her TT effort. "I wasn’t sure what to expect, but felt really up for it the day before, and thought that there’s no harm in giving it everything. This was the main GC day for time gaps, and as I’ve never done a TT at this level it would be good to see where the benchmark is that I’m aiming for. I had optimistically aimed for a top 10 but didn’t really think I would get it."
Abi Smith competes in the stage 3 time trial of the Women's Tour. Photo Twila/Muzzi
"Going into the ITT I didn’t have too many expectations for myself," Ewers said. "I wanted to go into it trying my best to see what I was capable of. I rode the course once prior and noticed it was quite technical which made me nervous, as I’d not been on the TT bike much before. I’d talked to Lolly (Lauren Stephens) the night before about the course and how to attack it while also talking with my coaches on how to best pace myself. I was definitely surprised to make the top 10 in my first world tour ITT. It makes me excited knowing that I could do even better after more time on the TT bike."
Stage by stage, Kessler and the team played their cards right to keep the red sprint jersey safe in the blue camp. On the final day, Ewers spent the majority of the race in the breakaway after bridging across to the solo leader with a few others.
"We managed to stay away for about 80km when we were caught at 14km to go," Ewers said. "I’d made one last attempt to get away, but I was soon swallowed into the peloton going full gas into the last 10km for a sprint finish. It was nice to get a mental break from the peloton on the last day. It is much easier for me to physically work harder than it is to navigate the peloton constantly. With that said, I felt that I learned a lot this last week at the women’s tour and feel I’ve improved navigating the peloton though I still have so much to learn. It’s very exciting!"
After six stages, the squad celebrated together on the final day in Felixstowe when Kessler secured the Eisberg sprint jersey and Abi Smith finished 16th overall on GC.
Nina Kessler pulls on her new sprint jersey after claiming the top spot in the points classification on the first day of The Women's Tour. Photo/Twila Muzzi