Dutchwoman Amy Pieters (SD Worx) claimed the fourth AJ Bell Women’s Tour stage victory of her career in Walsall on Tuesday, as debutante Clara Copponi moved into the race lead after a dramatic finale.

Pieters won from a 10-rider group who broke clear inside the final 10 kilometres of racing, and took advantage of support from team-mate Demi Vollering to out-sprint Copponi (FDJ Nouvelle – Aquitaine Futuroscope). Movistar Team’s Sheyla Gutierrez took third.

Overnight race leader Marta Bastianelli (Alé BTC Ljubljana) finished within the peloton, 46 seconds behind the leaders, and conceded the AJ Bell blue jersey to Copponi, who is making her debut in the race in 2021.

Copponi and Pieters are level on time, while only six others are within 10 seconds of the race lead going into Wednesday’s individual time trial in Atherstone, North Warwickshire.

“It was a hectic final”, said Pieters after claiming her fourth career win in the AJ Bell Women’s Tour. “I think the whole day was pretty hectic.  There was still a small gap after the last corner but I thought I just need to start to sprint. It was an urgent sprint but it went well at the end. 

“The whole day was really aggressive, I think that we were the only ones attacking. We kept attacking with the team and at the end we went away and it was a really good group and luckily we made it.”

After setting off from Walsall’s Victorian Arboretum in wet conditions the peloton tackled 10 laps of a 10-kilometre circuit featuring the climb of Barr Beacon each time around.

The penultimate lap brought multiple attacks, with the race-winning move going clear and building a lead of half a minute on the run back to the finish in Walsall town centre.

British rider Pfeiffer Georgi (Team DSM) went clear in the last kilometre, leading through the final turn on to the Lichfield Street finishing straight, but with only a handful of metres’ of advantage over the fast-charging Pieters and Copponi.  Georgi held on to take fifth and top Brit on the day, moving her up to eighth overall, just 10 seconds off the overall lead. Behind the leading 10, Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) led in the main field.

The Sigma Sports points jersey also changed shoulders, going from Bastianelli to Copponi, while Elise Chabbey (Canyon SRAM Racing) took the lead in the ŠKODA Queen of the Mountains competition.  Team TIBCO – Silicon Valley Bank’s Nina Kessler retains the Eisberg sprints jersey having won two of the day’s intermediate sprints at Barr Common.

Full details of the AJ Bell Women’s Tour can be found at womenstour.co.uk.