British rider recorded her third consecutive runners-up spot to stretch gap at the top of the overall standings
Lizzie Armitstead increased her lead in the World Cup by with her third consecutive second-placed finish in La Flèche Wallonne Féminine on Wednesday.
The Otley-born rider continued her excellent early season form ahead of an eagerly anticipated showdown next month with Marianne Vos, the Dutchwoman who beat Armitstead to gold in the Olympic road race in London, at the inaugural Women’s Tour, a five-day stage race on British roads.
Vos, who was racing for the first time this season, did not show her full hand, riding in support of race winner Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Rabo-Liv), who took the biggest result of her career, timing her sprint up the Mur de Huy to perfection to beat Armitstead by a couple of bike lengths.
Fellow Briton Emma Pooley, who was also riding in her first race of the year, finished seventh in a race she won in 2010. Armitstead, who has now finished first, second, second, second in her four World Cup races this year, increased her overall lead over Sweden’s Emma Johansson to 160 points.
“With 150 metres to go, when you’re in that much pain you think right, let’s go,” she told Cycling Weekly of the final sprint. “Pauline was on my wheel the whole time and it was difficult to hold her off.”
Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish’s sprint rival Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) has described some of the roads on the Tour de France route through Yorkshire as “very dangerous”. Speaking after recce-ing the route this week, the German said that the “very narrow” roads bordered by stone walls would challenge a “nervous peloton”.
Organisers said the route had been designed to provide a “technical challenge” for the world’s best riders.
Former Team Sky rider Michael Rogers will face no further action over a positive test for clenbuterol at a race in Japan last October. The 34-year-old, now with Alberto Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo squad, was provisionally suspended after testing positive for the steroid.
The International Cycling Union said in a statement that it accepted that the Australian ingested the substance via contaminated meat at the preceding Tour of Beijing.
Rogers, who received a number of messages of support from other riders in the peloton, issued a statement of his own following the UCI’s announcement, expressing his relief.
“Over the past four months, my family and I have endured a very difficult time,” he said. “The UCI’s decision means I can return to racing immediately, and I am looking forward to getting back to work, competing in the sport I love.
“I wish to take this opportunity to thank my family, friends, team-mates, colleagues, medical experts and fans who have showed continued support and understanding. Further, I wish to show my gratitude to the board of Tinkoff-Saxo for the professional manner with which this ambiguous ordeal has been handled. Thank you for having the perception of what is right, rather than following the path of least resistance.”
Contador tested positive for clenbuterol in July 2010. His explanation that he had eaten contaminated meat was initially accepted but he was later banned for two years by the court of arbitration for sport, and stripped of his 2010 Tour de France win. Contador made his return to the Tour last summer, with Rogers as his chief lieutenant on the road.
In the 2012 Tour, Rogers rode for Team Sky and served as a key tactician as Sir Bradley Wiggins triumphed. Rogers joined Tinkoff-Saxo before the start of last season.
La Flèche Wallonne Féminine details
Huy, 127km: 1. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Fra – Rabo Liv Women) three hours 26 minutes 43 seconds, 2. Lizzie Armitstead (GB – Boels Dolmans) 1sec, 3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita – Hitec Products) 4sec, 4. Evelyn Stevens (US – Specialized-Lululemon) 7sec, 5. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (SA – Hitec Products) 11sec, 6. Mariann Vos (Hol – Rabo Liv Women) 13sec, 7. Emma Pooley (GB – Lotto-Belisol) s.t., 8. Linda Villumsen (NZ – Wiggle Honda) 21sec, 9. Claudia Hausler (Ger – Giant-Shimano) 24sec, 10. Ellen Van Dijk (Hol – Boels-Dolmans) 28sec.