The women’s Tour de Suisse wrapped up on Tuesday with an exciting fourth and final stage, marked by the customary dominance of SD Worx, which took its 36th and 37th wins of the season. With Niamh Fisher-Black snatching her first WorldTour victory from under the nose of Kasia Niewiadoma, nine of SD Worx’s 16-rider roster have now won a race this season.
On one level, Suisse was yet another demonstration of SD Worx’s mastery; no one has managed to find a reliable way to beat them. But Niewiadoma’s aggressiveness might point out the only realistic option.
Niewiadoma and Fisher-Black spent much of the stage out front after they bridged to a breakaway of two and kept the momentum going to continue their move off the front of the race. Behind, Reusser had only one teammate left in Demi Vollering, and with no other teams contributing to the chase, Reusser went solo to try and chase down Niewiadoma. It was a rare moment of near-isolation for a team that always has the numbers, especially in the closing kilometres of a race.
Going into the race SD Worx was on an 18-race winning streak that continued when Blanka Vas and Reusser won the first and second stages, respectively, and it looked like the wins would keep coming.
Trying to catch SD Worx unawares could definitely be a tactic, or even just getting in front of them like we saw Alison Jackson do at Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift. Stage 3 was non-stop action, with Niewiadoma again putting pressure on a reduced SD Worx. Even with lone leader Urška Žigart off the front until the final 50 meters, the action never stopped.
In that situation, the action may have helped SD Worx more than hurt it. So many teams were attacking that Vollering only a few times had to accelerate to chase. In the end, Žigart was brought back mostly because the pace in the group behind was so fast from Niewiadoma and Team DSM trying to get away from Reusser, not so much because SD Worx had control of the bunch.
Still, Eleonora Gasparrini, the 21-year-old from UAE Team ADQ, interrupted the slightly ridiculous streak, and Žigart’s assertive racing pointed to a window of opportunity. When Niewiadoma gained two and a half minutes on the fourth stage, moving into the virtual lead, it looked as though SD Worx were about to be properly unseated.
The gutsy attack by the Polish rider, unfortunately, came to nought, with Reusser taking matters into her own hands and soloing back the time she needed to hold onto the overall victory.
“It was not a good situation because Kasia was riding full gas in the front and Trek [-Segafredo] was not helping and it was just Demi [Vollering] and me left, and Demi was riding from the front without getting any help so I thought best to go on the offensive,” Reusser said of the day’s tactics. “It happened in that moment somehow and I was really happy with the situation.”
Niewiadoma was not in the best situation herself: with Fisher-Black’s teammate and race leader behind, the New Zealander had no reason to assist Niewiadoma, and spent much of the day sitting on the Canyon-SRAM rider. And while hilly terrain in the first part of the stage helped Niewiadoma hold the gap on the chase, as the road flattened out and Reusser went solo in pursuit, the Swiss rider took back over a minute on the two leaders.
Although she didn’t win the stage, Niewiadoma proved her form is on the up. “I did really enjoy racing here,” she said at the finish. “After the ITT I felt kind of disappointed because I knew I had good legs and I just had a bad day that day, so I was happy I was able to come around and play a nice role in the race. I felt good all the time so I was just waiting for the right moment to go.”
That aggressiveness almost paid off, and while Niewiadoma acknowledged it wasn’t a high-probability move, she knows it beats letting SD Worx dictate the action. “To be honest having Marlen and Demi behind like huge engines I knew I would really have to be lucky,” she said. “I was hoping their legs would blow up. It was hot today and I felt like I was cramping so maybe others as well.”
Niewiadoma may have exposed some cracks in the juggernaut that is SD Worx ahead of the nine-day Giro Donne, set to kick off in Chianciano on the 30th of June. SD Worx continues to be the team to beat, and while it may not be possible to fully unseat them (this season, at least), her and Žigart’s aggressiveness point to the best way to do it.
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