Treacherous conditions take toll in Women’s Tour of Scotland

The peloton heads south after crossing the Tay Bridge from Dundee on the curtailed first stage of the Women's Tour of  Scotland. Picture:
The peloton heads south after crossing the Tay Bridge from Dundee on the curtailed first stage of the Women's Tour of Scotland. Picture:
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The opening stage of the inaugural Women’s Tour of Scotland was abandoned yesterday as organisers feared it would turn into an open-water swimming contest.

Rain lashed down as the 16-team peloton made their historic departure from Dundee, and the downpour proved unrelenting as they tackled more than 80km of the 103km route. But with conditions worsening, the organisers, in consultation with Police Scotland and the teams, chose to abandon the stage with around 20km of the 103km route to Dunfermline remaining.

“There was a lot of standing water,” explained race director Alan Rushton. “As we entered into the real storm there was a lot of debris coming out of trees, the water was getting deeper and deeper, and in places it was a few feet deep and rising.

“It was mainly on the descending of the Cleish Hill climb that it was just too dangerous: you could get arms and collar bones broken too easily. We decided that today might have been better for an open-water race and sadly we’ve had to abandon the stage, but we have still decided to award sprint and queen-of-the-mountain points.”

By that stage there had been three sprints, at Cupar, Falkland, and Leslie, and the first of the two main major ascents over Grange of Lindores. BTC City Ljubljana sprinter Eugenia Bujak dominated the former to claim the Motorola Queen of Sprints jersey, while Bigla rider and one of the race favourites Cecilie Ludwig showed her strength in winning the polka dot Event Scotland Queen of the Mountains jersey, making the descent ahead of the field.

The 23-year-old three-time Danish National Time Trial champion said she had fancied her chances of another bullish climb on Cleish Hill and was relishing the steep run in to the finish line at Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline.

“It is a pity that the race was cancelled but safety comes first,” said Ludwig, pictured left, who had been presented with her jersey in front of a decent Dunfermline crowd, despite the premature end to the race. “I think it would have been really exciting and this finish would have been pretty cool. There would have been a lot of spectators to cheer us on. I would have loved to have such a great atmosphere. But this is the way it is. There are still two more days so we have not given up yet.

“I have seen a little film of some of the course for stage two and it looks beautiful so I am excited. There will be climbs but I think it will be a bit more flattish towards the finish so we will have to be more creative and see how it goes.

“We want to go for the best result possible. Today would have been really great for us, with a nice, nice finish uphill. We don’t have any super sprinters with us here so that makes it harder and that is why we have to be a bit more creative. We know that coming home in a sprint would be tricky because there are some pretty good sprinters in the other teams.”

Among them are Slovenian rider Bujak, who positioned herself well as she shone in the stage-one sprints despite the extreme conditions.

“There really was a lot of water on the road but we were going really smart and a little bit slower because the last time [in London] there were a lot of crashes so the decision was taken for our safety.”

But she said that fortune had favoured the brave. “If you want to fight to be the best then you have to go all or nothing. I did a lot of analysing of today’s stage and I came here to fight to be the best. I really like the Scottish roads and the weather. I like the wet weather and the hard conditions.”

More adverse weather is forecast for today’s stage, which leaves from George Square, Glasgow at 11:15am and finishes 140km later in Perth, but organisers are hopeful of completing the route safely.

“It’s not a decision we take lightly, not a kneejerk reaction,” insisted Darren Clayton, managing director of the Women’s Tour of Scotland, of yesterday’s abandonment. “It took a lot for us to pull the race. Water was coming off the fields, it was horrific. It was bad out there, just not safe.

“Safety is paramount. But it is live sport, you have to roll with the weather in outdoor events, and we’ve still got two days, so we are excited. We move on and let’s hope we get big crowds in Glasgow, Perth and Edinburgh [on Sunday] to cheer these ladies home.”