Lizzie Armitstead took the opening stage victory in the Aviva Women’s Tour, for a shortlived race lead, as a post finish line crash sent her tumbling out of the tour.
Having produced a withering burst of speed to win the stage, which started on Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds, the Olympic silver medallist was celebrating one of her most impressive victories in a closely-fought bunch finish when she veered left, clipping the edge of a group of official photographers gathered at the side of the road beyond the finish line, sending her tumbling to cut her triumph short.
The 26-year-old was ferried to hospital in an air ambulance, before being examined and walking out of the hospital unaided and re-joining her Boels Dolmans team at their hotel. But although her injuries were not as severe as first feared, Armistead has opted to withdraw from the tour with one eye on the upcoming National Championships.
Until its hotly contested sprint finish, the 113km stage between Bury St Edmunds and Aldeburgh on Wednesday had been fairly uneventful, although the race had been ridden at a fair pace as riders strained at the leash at the start of the five stage race.
Proceedings were animated midway through when a quality six-rider break finally got away. Great Britain team pursuiter Kaite Archibald, who had suffered a tumble earlier in the race, and Elinor Barker, who rode strongly while in the group with Marta Tagliaferro, Heather Fischer, of the USA team and two riders from the UnitedHealthcare team — Katie Hall and Coryn Rivera.
Fischer crashed out but the break, 50 seconds to the good, then profited from a railway barrier coming down just outside Melton. They made it through safely but the peloton was delayed and in no time the lead had gone out to two minutes before the bunch started to ride hard again to close down the danger.
With the race heading into a headwind, the days of the break were numbered as they turned south into Aldeburgh along the coast and in the end Armistead outkicked all the specialist sprinters to take the stage before her nasty crash.
In Armitstead’s absence the Boel Dolmans cycling team were invited onto the podium to accept the stage award and jerseys she had garnered.
In second place was Germany’s World Time Trial champion Lisa Brennauer, who rides for the Velocio SRAM team with Italy’s Tagliaferro in third place.
Emma Johansson, of Orica AIS, another major General Classification (GC) contender, was in fourth place and will now wear the Chain Reaction Cycles Points jersey with the absence of Armitstead giving Brennauer the race lead.