Report: Success for Squadra Donne in Malta

A British women’s team, Squadra Donne, competed in Malta last weekend with Iona Sewell finishing in 3rd place overall and Steph Magri winning the first Maltese rider competition. Here is their story which can you can see in full on the team’s Blog

Stage 1 – from Jon Miles
This stage took us along the familiar Coast Road – four laps, 25 km in total. The women riders were first off and there was a slight increase in wind speed but this was not a major problem on the hillier sections of the course.
Whilst all of the team rode really well, Iona set the fastest time for the whole race – 42 min 34s. However, the Chief Timekeeper took a different view and gave first place to a rider who had not completed the whole circuit!

Stage 2
In the blazing sunshine and scorching heat, today’s stage took us six times around the St Martin circuit. The first climb saw the field scattered and Iona, riding on the leader’s wheel, soon found herself in the break. Steph and Alice formed a chasing group with one member of the Dutch team and another Maltese rider. It was a tough course – made even tougher by the heat but all four girls worked really hard. Iona again made it onto the podium (in third place) with Alice and Steph taking 4th and 5th.

Stage 3
We were up at the crack of dawn. All the bikes were loaded onto two removal vans and we piled onto the coach – rather bleary-eyed… Most of us hadn’t managed our usual caffeine fix (except Jon and Steve, of course, who always come prepared with their enormous flask of tea!)

At around 7:30am, we wheeled our bikes onto the ferry and set off for Gozo. It was another beautifully sunny day with clear blue sky, although there was a strong breeze. There was a hilly ride to the start of the race course – a new course for 2011. Most of us were pleased to discover that the climb wasn’t half as long or as hard as the previous day’s! We were also rather happy when it was announced that we would only be riding six laps of the course, rather than 8!

After a neutralised lap (to familiarise ourselves with the circuit), we had a 30s break before the race started. The Polish and Italian riders (lying first and second in GC) flew up the climb. Alice, Iona and one of the Dutch riders put in a good chase. Iona managed to stay away for over a lap while Sarah and Steph found themselves safely in the bunch (well… what was left of the bunch – several riders had lost contact with the bunch on the first climb.)

The Dutch girls attacked a number of times but never managed to stay away.

The men’s race merged with the ladies’ on the fourth lap – only for a short stretch of the course – but enough time for Alice to shout at Andrew (her boyfriend) and give him some encouragement. Sarah then pinged off the back of the bunch when she found herself last around the corner at the dead turn (at one end of the course) and following a dodgy wheel. Despite a good chase, she wasn’t able to catch the bunch before the climb. After hurtling down the descent, she worked hard with a Dutch girl to chase back on and successfully caught the bunch again but after all this chasing, found herself off the back of the bunch again on the final climb.

With the Italian and Polish girls safely in 1st and 2nd places, third place was to be decided after a bunch sprint. Alice was first across the line, securing another place on the podium for Squadra Donne.

Stage 4
We had another early start but we were all relieved that we’d only be racing for 12 km! This was another individual time trial: three laps of a great, fast stretch of dual carriageway. The course started with a fantastic downhill section, where you couldn’t help but pick up some speed. After a dead turn at a roundabout, we found ourselves slogging back up the same drag that we had just flown down! Iona had a fantastic ride and took third place. (Further results will appear on the blog when we know them!)

After a gentle ride back to Sliema, it was time for the prize presentation. Iona Sewell took 3rd place in the overall competition with Steph Magri winning the first Maltese rider competition. Fantastic results for Squadra Donne!

Andrew Griffiths (Twenty3C-Orbea) rode a cracking time trial to reclaim the leader’s jersey and win the overall tour (by just over one second!) And of course, none of this could have happened without the constant and never-failing support and encouragement of Steve and Jon… massages, food, bottles, water, mechanical assistance, spare parts etc. etc. the list goes on. We couldn’t have asked for anything more from our wonderful Team Manager and Soigneur.

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