Reigning World & Olympic Champion Marianne Vos sprinted to victory for the second successive day, winning Stage Four of the Friends Life Women’s Tour in Welwyn Garden City.

The Rabo Liv rider out sprinted Giorgia Bronzini and Britain’s Lucy Garner along Welwyn Garden City’s Parkgate to extend her lead of the Friends Life Women’s Tour to 19-seconds over Emma Johansson, who finished fourth.

Armitstead’s chances of victory were spoilt by a puncture for the second successive day, this time a puncture in the final four kilometres that necessitated a swift change of bikes, leaving her tenth at the finish, but up to fourth overall after Susanna Zorzi lost time.

Vos now enjoys a lead in excess of the time bonus available on Sunday’s fifth and final stage, from Harwich to Bury St Edmunds, meaning her rivals now have to drop her if they are to win the Friends Life Yellow Jersey.
Vos also enjoys an unsurmountable lead in the YodelDirect Points classification, 22 points ahead of Johansson.

Much of the stage was defined by a breakaway move, led by Emma Pooley, but also containing riders from Rabo Liv, Orica AIS and Boels Dolmans, the teams of Vos, Johansson and Armitstead.

The group gained a maximum of 50 seconds advantage, and were gradually being reeled in to set up a thrilling finish when a road traffic accident ahead on the course caused a brief neutralisation to the race.  With the break’s lead less than 30 seconds, when racing resumed their lead was annulled, setting up a 15-kilometre dash to the line.

Clad in the Friends Life Yellow Jersey it was Vos who finished clear of Bronzini, herself clear of Garner and the pursuing pack, including Armistead.

“This is a new race but a very important one it gets a lot of attention all the big teams are here trying to win a stage, so for me this is an important race,” said stage winner Marianne Vos afterwards.

“The organisation is really good and with the crowds as well, I definitely think it can be one of the biggest stage races in the world and the women’s calendar.  So far I think this is the biggest one if you look to the attention it gets”

Local sisters Laura and Emma enjoyed differing days, double Olympic Champion Laura made the start despite injury and illness, finishing inside the top 30, while Emma, who was the first to attack on the stage, crossed the line further back, alongside Combativity Award winner Pooley, and then announced her retirement from the sport after Sunday’s final stage in Bury St Edmunds.

Below – Laura and Emma Trott ride ahead of the pack through Cheshunt

Emma’s Boels Dolmans teammate Lizzie Armitstead keeps the Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research Best British Rider jersey, while Sharon Laws keeps the Strava Queen of the Mountains jersey with a three point advantage and Rossella Ratto maintains her lead in the Under-23 Matrix Fitness Best Young Rider classification.

The Friends Life Women’s Tour’s final stage takes place on Sunday, from Harwich to Bury St Edmunds over 108.3 kilometres.

Highlights of Stage Four in Herfordshire will be on ITV4 at 9pm on Saturday evening, with a repeat on Sunday morning at 9.55am.

For full results click here