Great Britain’s Lucy Garner remains in tenth position on general classification after finishing eigth in the bunch sprint on stage three of the Friends Life Women’s Tour from Felixstowe to Clacton-on-Sea.
Stage victory went to world champion Marianne Vos of Rabobank Liv, who was combative all day in the sprints and keen to grab stage victory after narrowly missing out on stage one. Emma Johannson was second with Giorgio Bronzini third, while Lizzie Armistead was best placed Brit in fourth.
World and Olympic champion Laura Trott (Wiggle Honda) crashed and was taken to hospital for x-rays on a suspected broken elbow. The rider finished stage three and @WiggleHonda later reported that the x-ray was clear and though badly bruised, Trott would start Saturday's stage four.
The windy conditions and exposed terrain made the going difficult for everyone, with splits forming throughout the stage. Great Britain Cycling Team’s Katie Archibald, in only her second stage race described what it was like inside the peloton.
“Today's stage was very hard,” said the team pursuit world champion. “The last 90-kilometres have been impossibly hard but we made it.
“There were quite a few sections where it was quite narrow, quite stretched out. You just had to commit and say 'If I try hard now I won't have to try hard later' and if you say that to yourself at 90k you make it to the end."
Darren Tudor, head coach for Welsh Cycling, who is managing the Great Britain team summed up the experience of his young squad as the race passed the halfway stage.
"Lucy is clearly going well," said Tudor. "Every day she's getting up there in the bunch sprints, which we always expected. Being based out in the Netherlands she's getting this kind of racing all the time, which clearly shows.
"She's gaining stacks of experience so for a 19-year-old she's consistently performing which is great.
"For the younger riders it's definitely been a bit of an eye-opener; today really hurt a lot of people. Third day in, yesterday was horrible for them anyway, weather conditions. It really bit today.
"Emily crashed yesterday and did bash herself up. In the hospital until late last night, was unsure whether she would or wouldn't ride.
"A we'll see what the doctor says but I don't think she'll be riding tomorrow.
"It is about experience," Tudor continued. "It is about learning and understanding what it's like to be riding stage races.
"Katie has been riding really well - she's had a couple of tumbles today but still shows the quality of bike rider she is. She's getting back up and she finished in the main bunch - there was less than 50 left in the front group at the end so she finished in there after having to chase a couple of times.
"They're going to go away from it on Sunday afternoon having learnt a hell of a lot.
"We've got two days to go and no doubt Lucy will be chipping away at the stage finishes again."
Stage three saw a move from the East Midlands to East Anglia with the start at the port town of Felixstowe in Suffolk. The race headed inland to pass through Ipswich city centre before making its way back to the coast for the finish at the seaside resort of Clacton-on-Sea.
On the way there were two sprints at Kesgrave and Thorpe le Soken and two QoMs at Freston and Holbrook.
From the start Lizzie Armitstead’s Boels Dolmans team was forcing the pace at the front in windy, changeable conditions, keen to not allow an escape to get away as happened on the previous day.
With the race potentially decided by time bonuses, all the general classification contenders were fighting for the sprint points, with Armistead taking top points at the first sprint in Kesgrave 19-kilometres in, ahead of Marianne Vos and stage one winner Emma Johansson.
The race headed through the centre of Ipswich and onto the first Strava QoM of the day at Freston, where Britain’s Sharon Laws (United Healthcare Pro Cycling) consolidated her lead in the competition, taking maximum points ahead of Ellen Van Dyjk (Boels Dolmans) and Jolanda Neff (Switzerland).
Laws had to play second fiddle to Neff at the next QoM at Holbrook but the British rider had done enough to secure the polka-dot jersey for another day. However the action moved back to the battle for stage and general classification honours as Trixi Worrack (Specialized Lulelmon) , Roxane Knetemann (Rabobank Liv), Elena Cecchini (Estado de Mexico Faren), Isabelle Becker (Lotto Belisol) and Melon Pawlowska (Boels Dolmans) went on the attack.
It was soon back together but the attacks were coming thick and fast. The second sprint at Thorpe le Soken came and this time Vos took top points and the maximum time bonus ahead of Armitstead, with Johansson once more in third.
The trio persisted with the effort before eventually capitulating but it wasn’t long before Worrack attacked again with Linda Villumsen (Wiggle Honda) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Rabobank Liv). Yet again the efforts of Armitstead’s Boels Dolmans squad brought things back together as the race approached the coast for the Clacton-on-Sea finish.
A last ditch lone attack from Tiffany Cromwell (Specialized Lulelmon) looked to upset the plans of the big teams but Rabobank Liv chased hard to set Marianne Vos up for the stage win. Emma Johannson was second for Orica AIS while Giorgio Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) took third.
Vos’ win means that she now leads the general classification by eight seconds from Johannson, with Thursday’s leader Rosella Ratto a further second behind in third.
Lizzie Armistead is the best placed rider on general classification, her fifth place also netting her the Best British jersey for another day.
Armistead is also third in the points competition, behind Vos and Johannson, after her first and second in today’s sprints.
The race moves on to Hertfordshire for Saturday’s stage four; 87.8-kilometres from Cheshunt to Welwyn Garden City.
Great Britain Cycling Team's Emily Kay has withdrawn from the Friends Life Women's Tour after crashing heavily on stage two of the event.
Darren Tudor, team manager, said: "Emily crashed twice during Thursday's stage and sustained a couple of injuries. After being checked by medical staff on the race and at the local hospital, she was given the all clear and chose to race Friday's stage. However it was evident that her injuries were causing too much pain for her to continue with the race and as such she has decided to withdraw."