Lucinda Brand's attacking pays off - how the 2014 Energiewacht Tour was won

The Energiewacht Tour is the first European stage race of the year for the women's peloton, and it's the perfect example of Dutch racing. The parcours may be flat but the large peloton on the narrow roads, and above all, the wind, makes it TOUGH racing. There's the first Team Time Trial of the season, which always shakes up the GC, but to win this, riders have to be tactically brilliant, and not be afraid to keep trying. Here's how this year's race was won, with videos, links and more - and what happened in the Junior Woemn's Stage race. Add anything you enjoyed from the races into the comments!

First, I want to start with a huge THANKYOU for the Energiewacht Tour organisers.  They provided really excellent social media, as always, and it was a pleasure to follow this race.  They really set the bar for being inclusive, and caring about us fans at home as well as on the road-side.  They work their socks off, and they're pretty much all volunteers.  If you've enjoyed this race, please do tell them on twitter or on facebook,I know they'd really appreciate it!

If you're in the Netherlands, here's the 22-minute highlights of the race from RTL

***

Stage 1, Havenstad Delfzijl - 93km

11 minutes video from RTL XL

ORICA-AIS race report and photos - report on the race website - race report from Liv-Shimano

It only took 10 minutes before the race was in the gutter, and the race was all about groups splitting and re-forming.  Lots and lots of attacks during the race, but it came to a bunch sprint, and Kirsten Wild won!  Here's her post-race interview:

Stage results

1. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Liv-Shimano, 2:16:10, + 10" bonifications
2. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Boels-Dolmans, s.t. + 6" bonis
3. Jolien D’Hoore (Bel) Lotto Belisol, s.t., + 4" bonis
4. Barbara Guarischi (Ita) Alé-Cipollini, s.t.
5. Gracie Elvin (Aus) ORICA-AIS, s.t.
6. Thalita de Jong (Ned) Rabobank-Liv, s.t.
7. Martina Zwick (Ger) Bigla, s.t.
8. Emilie Moberg (Nor) Norway. s.t.
9. Marta Tagliaferro (Ita) Alé-Cipollini, s.t.
10. Roxane Fournier (Fra) France, s.t.

***

Stage 2, Westerwolde, 116km

11 minutes video on RTL XL

Race report and photos on ORICA-AIS - race report on the race site - Stage report from Liv-Shimano - photos of Stages 1 & 2 on Peloton Café

More attacking, more grouping and re-grouping, and although riders and teams tried, no one got away...  another bunch sprint, and another win for Wild!

1. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Liv-Shimano, 2:47:28
2. Barbara Guarischi (Ita) Alé-Cipollini, s.t.
3. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Boels-Dolmans, s.t.
4. Jolien D’Hoore (Bel) Lotto Belisol, s.t.
5. Elena Cecchini (Ita) Alé-Cipollini, s.t.
6. Martina Zwick (Ger) Bigla, s.t.
7. Aurore Verhoeven (Fra) France, s.t.
8. Kim de Baat (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg, s.t.
9. Gracie Elvin (Aus) ORICA-AIS, s.t.
10. Lotta Lepistö (Fin) Bigla, s.t.

After Stage 2, Wild was leading the GC, with all the intermediate sprint bonifications adding up to give her a small advantage over Lizzie Armitstead.  But while you could be forgiven for thinking "oh right, another Tour of Qatar, Wild has this nailed", it was never going to be that simple - everyone knew that the next day would shake it all up - because the two-stage day included the Team Time Trial....

***

Stage 3a - Groningen Airport Eelde, 97.1km

ORICA-AIS report and photos from the double-stage dayrace report from Bigla - Chloe McConville's blog - race report on the EWT site

Nothing like 100km of hard racing to get riders ready for an afternoon TTT, right?  And this one changed everything - a result of attacking paying off, team politics, and maybe a little bit of complacency?

After the first third of the race, with the usual attacks and groups etc etc, Chloe McConville of the Jayco-AIS Aussie national squad attacked at the 33km mark, and was joined by Vera Koedooder of Bigla.  Neither of these teams were expected to score big in the TTT, they're both "small" teams - but these are two gutsy riders, with Koedooder a veteran of Dutch racing who animated Gent-Wevelgem and was pipped to second in the sprint.  The Energiewacht Tour evolved from the Omloop door Middag Humsterland day race, which Koedooder won in 2008, then again in the last run, 2010, so she certainly knows how to win on this kind of course, so it was interesting those two were allowed to ride.

Part of this was due to peloton politics.  As the holders of the leader's jersey, teams were looking to Liv-Shimano to chase, but Liv weren't playing that game, maybe because they knew their squad wasn't one of the strongest for the TTT, so they needed all the energy they could get, and after the sprint points, stopped working.  Here's Loes Gunnewijk's view, from the ORICA race report:

"It surprised everybody," Gunnewijk continued. "It was their job to chase because they had the yellow jersey. When they stopped working, no one else wanted to ride. I don’t know if they were gambling or it was a miscommunication."

In the mean-time, the attack pair had gained over 4 minutes and were well into the virtual lead!  The chase eventually sorted itself out, and by that time it was too later - and after a try or two, Koedooder dropped McConville at 15km to go and solo-ed home for the win and the yellow jersey, leading with 1:09 over Wild, with the Aussie managing to stay out solo and come in for 2nd - her first UCI race podium! - and the Most Aggressive rider's jersey. A big crash just outside the final 3km dropped riders like Lizzie Armitstead out of the GC - but luckily it seems like no one was too badly hurt, and Trixi Worrack won the sprint for third.

Here's Kirsten's view in the Liv-Shimano report

Kirsten said after the stage: "It was a strange race today – with the TTT this afternoon we thought that the other teams would help us chase the two breakaway riders but no one did.

"We were left to do all the chasing and the gap went back out again, and at the end I lost the jersey. The team were strong but it was a weird race. At the finish it was pretty hairy so I tried to stay at the front to not lose any seconds."

Stage 3a results

1. Vera Koedooder (Ned) Bigla, 2:24:52
2. Chloe McConville (Aus) Australia, + 02:22
3. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized-lululemon, + 03:02
4. Barbara Guarischi (Ita) Alé-Cipollini, s.t.
5. Marta Tagliaferro (Ita) Alé-Cipollini, s.t.
6. Roxane Fournier (Fra) France, s.t.
7. Carmen Small (USA) Spaecialized-lululemon, s.t.
8. Emilie Moberg (Nor) Norway. s.t.
9. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Liv-Shimano, s.t.
10. Eline Gleditsch Brustad (Nor) Norway, s.t.

***

Stage 3b - Oldambt, 15.1km TTT


Report on the EWT website

This was always going to be one of the most interesting stages of the race.  Ever since the much-loved-by-PdC Cervélo Test Team disappeared (I still miss it), Specialized-lululemon have taken over the mantle of dominating Team Time Trials, with three TTT World Cup and both the TTT World Championships gold to prove it.  But they've lost some of their strength, with Ina-Yoko Teutenberg retiring through injury and World ITT Champion Ellen van Dijk moving to Boels-Dolmans - and Chantal Blaak and Tiffany Cromwell, the two riders in the squad, are superb attackers, but could they fit in?  Cromwell was never part of ORICA's TTT squad for some reason, so she hasn't raced one since 2011...

But it turned out that while their line-up has changed, their winning ways haven't, and Specialized cannot stop winning!

Stage 3b results

1. Specialized-lululemon, 0:19:22
2. Boels-Dolmans, + 00:07
3. Rabobank-Liv, + 00:14
4. ORICA-AIS, + 00:16
5. Liv-Shimano, + 00:33
6. Rusvelo, + 00:34
7. Lotto Belisol, + 00:43
8. Wiggle Honda, + 00:46
9. Parkhotel Valkenburg, + 00:55
10. Alé Cipollini, + 00:58

That's a really interesting result - not much between them, and Van Dijk is definitely bringing up Boels' TT potential.  ORICA were missing Amanda Spratt, but then, Rabo were missing Marianne Vos, and Vos has winning the Worlds TTT as one of her 2014 ambitions....  this is going to be a competition that will be SO much fun to watch all year.

The stage ended with Vera Koedooder still leading the competition, 31 seconds ahead of Specialized-lululemon's Trixi Worrackm and + 33 to her team-mates Cromwell and Lisa Brennauer....  but the next stage would be the longest of the race, and anything could happen....

***

Stage 4 - Uithuizen - Gemeente Eemsmond, 136.7km

Weirdly there's no video I can find of Stage 4, so if you see any, put it into the comments!

Race reports from ORICA-AIS - Liv-Shimano - Rabo-Liv

It was all "go hard or go home", with some really strong attacks, especially from the Spec-lulus, and at around halfway there was a front group of 17 riders, whose escape had been helped by a train-crossing, that included all the favourites.  Tiffany Cromwell was attacking hard, and it looked like she might get away as the group looked to Vera Koedooder to chase....  but Cromwell was caught, and then it was time for the four Rabobank-Liv riders in the break to give it a go... until one of them, Lucinda Brand, managed to escape with around 25km to go.  Rabo have been having a difficult Spring, because one of their big goals was to prove they could win without Marianne Vos, but despite attacks from pretty much every rider in every World Cup, that helped make all the races SO much fun, they haven't managed it, and Vos is back next week.  Things were getting desperate, but it's very much to their credit that they didn't choose to ride races like the Ronde van Vlaanderen defensively, but continued to fight all the way.

Brand's role is attacking super-domestique, and while everyone remembers Anna van der Breggen riding out of her skin for Vos in last year's World Championships, it was Brand's attacks in the early laps that helped shed half the peloton and exhaust the chasers.  She won her Netherlands National Champion's jersey last year after an early attack and a 100 kilometre solo breakaway, so she can make it stick - but this is why teams chase her so hard.

Amy Pieters was chasing for Liv, and of course Vera Koedooder, but they couldn't catch Brand, who managed to win by over a minute - and take the GC lead by a precarious 32 seconds on Koedooder and 1:01 on Worrack....  there was still a lot to play for with one stage to go....

Interview with Brand after the stage - where she says she wasn't expecting her attack to stick, as she was riding for team-mates - but she was VERY happy to make it!

Stage 4 results

1. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Rabobank-Liv, 3:33:42
2. Jolien D’Hoore (Bel) Lotto Belisol, + 01:09
3. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Boels-Dolmans, s.t.
4. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.
5. Barbara Guarischi (Ita) Alé-Cipollini, s.t.
6. Elena Cecchini (Ita) Estado de Mexico Faren, s.t.
7. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Liv-Shimano, s.t.
8. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, s.t.
9. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.
10. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Rabobank-Liv, s.t.

GC after Stage 4

1. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Rabobank-Liv, 11:24:40
2. Vera Koedooder (Ned) Bigla, + 00:32
3. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized-lululemon, + 01:01
4. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Specialized-lululemon, + 01:05
5. Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.
6. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Liv-Shimano, + 01:09
7. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, + 01:12
8. Roxane Knetemann (Ned) Rabobank-Liv, + 01:19
9. Gracie Elvin (Aus) ORICA-AIS, + 01:21
10. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Boels-Dolmans, + 01:34

***

Stage 5 - Veendam, 104.7km

11 minutes video from RTL

Race report with lovely photo of Chantal Blaak! on the race website - race report from ORICA-AIS - and Liv-Shimano - and Rabo-Liv

It looked a bit ropey for Brand and Rabo, as some early breaks got away with none of them in it - and a big 17-rider break that included the likes of Wild - but they chased hard and caught it back, and although Vera Koedooder tried to escape, Brand was having none of it!

The last break of the day had 8 riders in it, but none of the big GC names.  Chantal Blaak (Specialized-lululemon), Elena Cecchini (Estado de Mexico Faren), Barbara Guarischi (Alé-Cipollini), Loes Gunnewijk (ORICA), Thalita de Jong (Rabo-Liv), Romy Kasper (Boels-Dolmans),  Sara Mustonen (Liv-Shimano) and Liesbet de Vocht (Lotto-Belisol).  Gunnewijk wasn't happy with this group, and typical Dutch rider that she is, attacked each time they hit the cross-winds and on the final lap made it away - with only Blaak capable of catching her.  They worked together to get away - and then started the duel....  won by Blaak, who countered all of Gunnewijk's attempts, and sprinted for the win.

Stage results

1. Chantal Blaak (Ned) Specialized-lululemon, 2:43:41
2. Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) ORICA-AIS, + 00:01
3. Thalita de Jong (Ned) Rabobank-Liv, + 00:24
4. Sara Mustonen (Swe) Liv-Shimano, s.t.
5. Barbara Guarischi (Ita) Alé-Cipollini, s.t.
6. Liesbet de Vocht (Bel) Lotto-Belisol, s.t.
7. Elena Cecchini (Ita) Estado de Mexico Faren, + 00:26
8. Romy Kasper (Ger) Boels-Dolmans, s.t.
9. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Liv-Shimano, + 01:15
10. Jolien D’Hoore (Bel) Lotto Belisol, s.t.

It was a great stage victory, although it must have been disappointing for Gunnewijk - and Rabo's work behind them meant that Brand was safe - keeping the leader's jersey and winning the race!  It may have been a tough spring for them, but winning the first European stage race - and on home soil, to boot - will make up for it, and show the world, yes they absolutely CAN win without Marianne Vos!

Interview with Brand after winning the race on Rabo-Liv, and on video - she's definitely happy to have won her first stage race!

Final General Classification

1. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Rabobank-Liv, 14:09:38
2. Vera Koedooder (Ned) Bigla, + 00:37
3. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized-lululemon, + 01:01
4. Barbara Guarischi (Ita) Alé-Cipollini,+ 01:02
5. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Specialized-lululemon, + 01:05
6. Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.
7. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Liv-Shimano, + 01:07
8. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, + 01:17
9. Gracie Elvin (Aus) ORICA-AIS, + 01:21
10. Roxane Knetemann (Ned) Rabobank-Liv, + 01:24

***

Photos from all the stages on Boels-Dolmans - and from Liv-Shimano.  Best Young Rider was Thalita de Jong, Points Classification went to Kirsten Wild and team prize to Specialized-lululemon.  No Mountains prize because this race is F-L-A-T!

Tons of photo albums from the elite and junior races on the EWT facebook

***

The Junior Energiewacht Tour

This is such a great race, but what makes it especially great is the junior women's stage race - and because the courses are laps, the young stars of the future get to race on the same roads as the stars.  Teams of 4 riders from all over Europe, although of course with lots of Dutch and Belgian teams.

Stage 1 was the Team Time Trial, won by a Mixed team Zuid-Oost - Limburg - Jamie Bierens, Femke Geeris, Anouk Rijff and Bryony van Vlezen.

1.   Mix Zuid-Oost - LimburgMix Zuid-Oost - Limburg, 0:20:57.58
2.   National Team Belgium, + 00:01
3.   v.Arckel-Westland WV-Team 185, + 00:11
4.   RST Racingteam, + 00:14
5.   Team Wales, + 00:15
6.   RWC Ahoy, + 00:22
7.   National Team Germany, + 00:26
8.   National Team Switzerland, + 00:28
9.   National Team France, + 00:33
10. West Frisa-DTS-Bollenstreek, + 00:42

The next two stages could have been a bit dull - I mean, it started with a TTT, and surely on 2 pancake-flat stages, the 4 in the winning TTT team would surely be the top 10 in GC?  But no!  This race showed that the junior women are just as adept at attacking like crazy people as the elites are, and it was fun watching the twitter action as they attacked, caught, grouped and re-grouped, played in the wind and generally raced hard as hell.  Stage 2 ended up with lots of groups and attacks - with 2 riders getting away, and the chase ending up as a bunch sprint

Stage 2 results

1.   Jesse Vandenbulcke (Bel) Belgium, 1:50:59 + 10" bonifications
2.   Willeke de Jong (Ned) WV Meteoor-Assen-Roden, s.t. + 6" bonis
3.   Marjolein van't Geloof (Ned) RWC Ahoy, + 01:39, + 4"
4.   Fianna Stenveld (Ned) NWVG-Bike4Air, s.t.
5.   Soline Lamboley (Fra) France, s.t.
6.   Lisa Klein (Ger) Germany, s.t.
7.   Amalie Dideriksen (Den) Denmark, s.t.
8.   Chanella Stougje (Ned) RWC Ahoy, s.t.
9.   Saartje Vandenbroucke (Bel) Belgium, s.t.
10. Elina Sauka (Lat) Mix Team Serbia-Latvia, s.t.

Stage 3 was just non-stop attacks, or so it sounded on twitter, with all kinds of groups and riders having a go - but the Belgian National Team had it all completely under control.  They really were super-strong, all race - although of course, there was no Dutch national team, and the top 4 Dutch riders were spread around the peloton rather than racing together...  it really shows their strength, but the Belgians were unstoppable!

Stage 3 results

1.   Saartje Vandenbroucke (Bel) Belgium, 2:01:27, + 10"
2.   Jip van den Bos (Ned) West Frisa-DTS-Bollenstreek, s.t., + 6"
3.   Jeanne Korevaar (Ned) v.Arckel-Westland WV-Team 185, + 00:06, + 4"
4.   Emily Nelson (GBr) Wales, + 00:11
5.   Wlebke Rodieck (Ger) Mix Team Germany, s.t.
6.   Grace Garner (GBr) RST Racingteam, + 00:21
7.   Amalie Dideriksen (Den) Denmark, s.t.
8.   Lisa Klein (Ger) Germany, s.t.
9.   Soline Lamboley (Fra) France, s.t.
10.  Jelena Eric (Srb) Mix Team Serbia-Latvia, s.t.

Remember the intermediate bonis also add up to the GC....

Final General Classification

1.   Jesse Vandenbulcke (Bel) Belgium, 4:13:14
2.   Willeke de Jong (Ned) WV Meteoor-Assen-Roden, + 00:24
3.   Saartje Vandenbroucke (Bel) Belgium, + 01:17
4.   Jeanne Korevaar (Ned) v.Arckel-Westland WV-Team 185, + 01:28
5.   Jip van den Bos (Ned) West Frisa-DTS-Bollenstreek, + 01:38
6.   Anouk Rijff (Ned) Mix Zuid-Oost - LimburgMix Zuid-Oost - Limburg, + 01:44
7.   Femke Geeris (Ned) Mix Zuid-Oost - LimburgMix Zuid-Oost - Limburg, s.t.
8.   Bryony van Velzen (Ned) Mix Zuid-Oost - LimburgMix Zuid-Oost - Limburg, s.t.
9.   Jamie Bierens (Ned) Mix Zuid-Oost - LimburgMix Zuid-Oost - Limburg, s.t.
10. Fien Delbaere (Bel) Belgium, + 01:49

Here's a photo of the final podium - remember these names!

***

Make sure you add any blogs, videos and anything else you see to the comments - the next race is one we can watch live - the Winston Salem Classic in the USA on Friday!  Here's how to watch it....

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