The second leg of the Women’s World Tour takes us to The Netherlands, where the gravel roads of Tuscany are replaced with cobbles, continuing the cobbled classic campaign of early spring with the longest race scene in women’s cycling.
The highlight of the 152km Dutch race is the short but steep climb of the Vamburg, ascended three time. The first ascent comes early in the race, with seven cobbled sectors coming before the peloton hits the climb twice then heads to the finish along narrow roads.
The beautiful day in the Netherlands is a pleasant change from the usual weather of the race. The peloton stayed relatively together most of the day, with the pace set high all day long.
The race exploded over the final climb of the Vamburg, with Sunweb’s Ellen van Dijk breaking away. An elite chasing group of 15 split from the peloton, consisting of star riders like Marianne Vos (WM3 Energie), Chantal Black, World Champion Amalie Dideriksen, Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans), British Champion Hannah Barnes (Canyon SRAM), Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5), and Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica Scott).
Boels Dolmans had five riders in the chasing group, and thus took on the job of bringing back former teammate van Dijk. As soon as the solo break was closed around the 20km mark, attacks went off the front, lighting up the closing kilometers.
A group of four finally made a move that stuck; Dideriksen, Longo Borghini, Lucinda Brand (Sunweb), and Elena Cecchini (Canyon SRAM) make the break with less than 15km to go. An unorganized chasing effort by Vos and van Vleuten led to the leading quartet opening up a larger gap.
The first time across the finish line showed a time gap of 14 seconds, with 8km to go. Inside the last kilometer, the gap held above 10 seconds, allowing for a little bit of technical play from the four champions up front.
Longo Borghini went early to try to win solo, but was countered by Brand. Cecchini and Brand opened up the sprint with Dideriksen in the perfect position to go over the duo in the final meters. She was strong enough to post up and celebrate across the line. This is her first win as World Champion.
Appropriately, the race was shown to the public live on Dutch TV and via online streaming from their website. Chapeau!
The Women's World Tour will continue on Sunday March 19th with Trofeo Alfredo Binda.