Italian Rossella Ratto outsprinted compatriot Susanna Zorzi on Bedford’s Embankment to win the second stage of the Friends Life Women’s Tour, jumping into the lead of the race following her victory.

The Italian duo out foxed the sprinters into Bedford, holding off the Marianne Vos led bunch by six seconds to remain clear after Ratto had broken clear after 65-kilometres of racing.

Having instigated the move heading towards the second Strava Queen of the Mountains at Brixworth, Ratto was later joined by Zorzi, building a gap of two minutes approaching 20-kilometres to go.

With Lizzie Armitstead’s Boels Dolmans taking up the chase the deficit was halved, but Ratto and Zorzi remained clear, although only just with the peloton in sight behind the duo on the 400-metre long finishing straight.

Having outsprinted Zorzi, Estado de Mexico Faren rider Ratto said afterwards;

“I originally attacked to get the points for the Queen of the Mountains but I continued because I felt good – I am training for the time-trial at present – so I thought why not? I was on the point of giving up when Susanna came across to me from the peloton. Two is always better than one so we started to ride hard again. The gap started going up and we thought maybe we could do it.

“I was still afraid the peloton would get back to us in the final 4km but Susanna, who is a good friend, helped me a lot and we were able to ride all the way to the finish it was a dream.”

Behind the Italians Vos led home compatriot Amy Pieters and Lucy Garner, followed by Giorgia Bronzini and Lizzie Armitstead.

“We almost caught Rossella but not quite,” said Armitstead afterwards. “From our point of view it was really our team's responsibility to lead the chase, we didn’t have the yellow jersey to defend and possibly GreenEdge made a slight mistake.

“In terms of the GC we are still in the hunt if the stages are challenging enough but realistically we need some wins to make it more interesting. I've been going for all the intermediate sprints so far, I have been in stage races before when it comes down to second so if it does get close on Sunday I don’t want to look back on any lost opportunity.”

Armitstead moves up to fifth overall and pulls on the Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research Best British Rider jersey, while Ratto added the Matrix Fitness Best Young Rider jersey to her Bedfordshire haul.

In the Friends Life Overall Classification Ratto now leads Zorzi by five seconds, with Vos, who leads the YodelDirect Points Classification a further second in arrears.  Day One winner Emma Johansson drops to fourth overall, having come home eleventh, with Hannah Barnes and Lucy Garner joining Armitstead as Brits in the top ten.

UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s Sharon Laws retains the Strava Queen of the Mountains jersey after enjoying a competitive battle with Switzerland’s mountain bike champion Jolanda Neff, that saw the two competing for the points available at each of the day’s two Strava climbs.

Friday sees the Friends Life Women’s Tour head to Suffolk and Tendring, for Stage Three from Felixstowe to Clacton.

Highlights of Stage Two are on ITV4 in the UK at 9pm this evening, with a repeat on Friday morning at 8am.

Full results can be found here.