An aggressive final stage of the OVO Energy Women's Tour ended in a sprint finish, with Pieters taking out the win ahead of Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb) and Roxane Fournier (Movistar).
Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb), Anna Christian (Drops), Grace Brown (Mitchelton-Scott), Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans), Romy Kasper (Alé Cipollini), Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM), Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), Leah Thomas (Bigla), Pauliena Rooijakkers (CCC-Liv), Eugénie Duval (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), and Janneke Ensing (WNT-Rotor) were the early aggressors on the day, with the race going over the key point of Black Mountain with the race in control from the perspective of tour leaders Trek-Segafredo.
Australian Brown was on the attack again late after the breakaway had been brought back, and was only captured within the final two kilometres after her attack with Nadia Quagliotto (Alé Cipollini) seemed like it might go on to contest the win.
With the catch made, Deignan just needed to stay ahead of Niewiadoma in the final and finish safely to secure her second overall victory of the OVO Women's Tour.
"I was not bluffing; I did not expect this,” said an emotional Deignan. “I am incredibly surprised and grateful to my teammates. I am really overwhelmed with all the support [from fans] we received this week.
"I was here really to consolidate the first block of training and racing I have done, and my expectations were potentially if I got a good opportunity to go for a stage but thought that wouldn’t happen.”
Deignan grabbed a bonus second at an early intermediate sprint, doubling her precarious lead over Niewiadoma from one to two seconds. Extending her lead gave a little more breathing room, but with the time bonuses on the finish line, the race was not over.
“The priority was to beat Kasia and not have any gaps, especially in a final like this with so many corners and that you have not seen before,” said Deignan. “I positioned myself with the help of Ellen (van Dijk) and Elisa (Longo Borghini) onto the back of the Boels-Dolmans train, and there’s no coming around those girls! So I was happy to be where I was.”
Deignan has been away from the sport on maternity leave, she did return for the spring classics but looked below her traditional peak form.
"Grit and determination helped me," said Deignan, "I am away from my daughter for a reason, I am here to do a job, and I have a fantastic team around me that I did not want to let down.
“Yesterday was the first time I thought I had a chance for the GC. The whole race has been pretty open because of the bonus seconds, which made it hard to predict. I am delighted. I just can’t wait to see Orla at home, I am really proud – of myself and my family for all the help they have given me to be here.”
“The perspective you gain from having a year out of professional sport is amazing. My attitude is just about enjoying it, I never had that attitude before, and it’s paying dividends. I feel I am in the best team in the world from a support perspective, and all these awesome women around me lift me up.”