Ruth Edwards wins Thüringen Ladies Tour

Getting in the groove again

Human Powered Health’s Ruth Edwards secured one of the biggest stage race wins of her career at the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour in central Germany. Facing a strong field and six difficult stages over undulating territory, Edwards and her teammates focused on getting the most out of themselves and their materials to finish as high on the general classification as possible. Taking the overall victory shows just how well they worked together for a top result.

Photo credit: Human Powered Health Cycling

Taking on the race from the front

Ruth Edwards didn’t waste any time to lay her claim to success in Germany. On the difficult first stage around the beautiful Thüringen town of Jena, Edwards initiated the day’s break by attacking the stage’s first QOM, the Großbockedra. Only one other rider could follow her wheel, and the pair went on a 60-kilometer raid that netted them first and second for the stage with a 2:34 advantage.

Though there may have been a little disappointment when Edwards took second on the stage, it meant that she was just four seconds off the overall lead, without the responsibility of controlling the race in the coming stages. Her attack over the top of the climb initially was just intended to check how good her legs felt, but now she could focus on aiming for that top step.

“I put myself up there on the first QOM. I took third over the top and strung it up, and I pushed again and suddenly I was alone until (Margot) Vanpachtenbeke bridged,” she said. “Cycling is a brutal sport, so this feels special to come back and show everybody that I’m strong and I can do it.”

Photo credit: Human Powered Health Cycling

Sprint stages ahead, but hardly easy

With a 31 km individual time trial scheduled for the penultimate stage, the days that would come in between offered challenging routes that would nevertheless likely end in bunch sprints. Stage 2 and 3 proved this expectation to be true. In spite of stage 2 around Gera offering up nearly 1400 meters elevation gain, and stage 3 around Thüringen’s capital Erfurt presenting the riders with a still stiff 838 meters climbing, both stages finished with large bunches.

For Ruth Edwards and Human Powered Health, the main objective for those stages was to stay safe and near the front of the peloton to avoid any mishaps or splits in the group. Stage 4 around Mühlhausen with over 1500 meters of climbing presented a greater challenge. The lumpy stage with four categorized climbs was tough enough to give GC hopefuls a chance to pull back some of the two-minute advantage Edwards had.

Photo credit: Human Powered Health Cycling

However, since the finish line came around 18 km from the top of the final climb, no one was able to stay away, and a reduced bunch sprint in which Edwards finished 6th on the same time as the stage winner meant that everything would come down to the stage 5 time trial.

Ruth time trials into the lead

Edwards has a very strong time trial and so had every reason to be confident. But at 31 km, the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour time trial is among the longest of the year that the women have to race. And with nearly 300 meters elevation gain, notably with a section that averages 7% for nearly a kilometer, this time trial around Altenburg would be for real specialists who still had the legs after four very tough days.

“I used a lot of matches in stage 1, but I’m feeling strong and fit so there’s no reason not to try and set the bar pretty high,” Edwards said. She succeeded by taking 4th on the stage, giving up just 24 seconds of her 2:30 lead.

“We planned to take the yellow jersey today and Ruth executed it flawlessly,” Team Director Clark Sheehan said. “This is a performance with countless hours of work, training, dedication, and a support team on the ground behind it.”

Photo credit: Getty Sport

No time to celebrate

The hard work was not over yet. The 6th and final stage would prove to be an extremely challenging day, not only because the parcours around Schmalkalden featured another hilly day with over 1400 meters climbing, but the day was beset by heavy rains. No one likes riding in the rain, but keeping mentally strong in adverse conditions is key.

“Racing is mostly a mindset, you have to be strong physically,” Edwards explained. “But, while the rain can be a challenge. I just told myself something I learned from the Boulder juniors back home, “I love these conditions,” and if you just keep telling yourself that. Slowly it becomes true.”

Photo credit: Getty Sport

Edwards finished the day in 7th place to secure her overall victory with the help of her teammates. “The team has been excellent this week,” she said. “Winning here is a bit of proof to myself to continue to back myself and believe that I can be there.”

With the women’s Giro d’Italia next on the schedule, Edwards has proved that she is back at the top of her game and can be a threat to take the Giro’s pink jersey again, having won a stage and worn it in the 2018 edition of the race.“The Giro is always a good race, hard in many ways, and special to me personally. I’ll look forward to the challenge.”

What Ruth rode

The Factor OSTRO VAM with the special Human Powered Health colorway proved to be the perfect weapon for Edwards and the rest of the team on the extremely hilly sections of the race, but also because strong winds also typify the riding condition in this part of Germany.

Extremely aerodynamic as well as super lightweight, the OSTRO VAM handles all conditions equally efficiently. And the fact that the team can run up to 32 mm tires help to smooth out the sometimes rough forest roads in eastern Germany.

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