Ellen van Dijk wins the 2014 Ronde van Vlaanderen

It was one of the biggest races of the year, and the third round of the Road World Cup - cobbles, hills, screaming fans, our own Jens on the sidelines - and the Classics team of the Spring demonstrating once again, they're completely dominant! Read on for videos, race reports, photos and more - and add anything you see, and talk about it all in the comments!

10 minutes video and long interview with Ellen van Dijk from Sporza - make sure you click through to it, Ellen looks SO happy!  And another lovely video interview - and audio too - on NOS

UPDATE!  Another great video from NOS - following Annemiek van Vleuten and Rabobank through the race

So what happened in the race?  The first part was carnage, as the battle for position was even more intense than normal, and the Flanders roads are notorious for mayhem.  It must be such a disappointment to experienced riders like Amanda Spratt, who was taken out by a spectator, and my biggest "HEAL FAST!" to her and all the other riders injured yesterday.

There were early attacks from the likes of Gracie Elvin and Valentina Carretta, who got 19 seconds but were caught before the very first climb, the Wolvenberg, but it felt like Rabobank-Liv were really trying to get away throughout the race - all their post-race reports (see below for the videos) talk about how they tried to attack, but no one would help them.  This is possibly not a surprise - here's Chloe Hosking talking about how that feels from the other side:

Somehow, I managed to find myself off the front with Annemiek van Vleuten just after the sixth climb of the day, the Valkenburg. While she urged me to work I knew enough not to ride away with the former winner; I knew she would drop me like Charlie Sheen drops inappropriate comments on the next climb so we were soon back in the peloton.

You have to stop now, and read Chloe's race report - she really does write these very, very well, and it's a fantastic story of the race!

Boels-Dolmans lead over the Wolvenberg, and then with cobbles and climbs coming all the time, the peloton kept breaking into groups and coming back together.  Carretta tried again as they approached the Molenberg, but was caught again, and after the climb and the three big cobbled sections, Paddestraat, Lippenhovestraat and Haaghoek, the bunch was still splitting into parts and regrouping, but no significant attacks. And through the feedzone, one very special Rabo soigneur

Inspired by Vos, perhaps, it was time for Rabo to get serious, with Lucinda Brand doing her thing - early attacks that make the peloton chase hard - but she was caught before the third climb, the Leberg, where it was her team-mate Roxane Knetemann and ORICA's Shara Gillow's turn, with Knetemann taking the GPM points - and Knetemann's interview is very interesting, because she said Gillow wasn't allowed to work, so although they got 36 seconds and made it over the Hostellerie together, they were caught before the Valkenberg, where Van Vleuten and Hosking had their go, and what was left of the peloton raced together over the Kaperij, and then, 7km later, the Kanarieberg, with 35km to go.

This really broke the race up, and a break of ten escaped over the climb, becoming 13 - including Ellen van Dijk, Lizzie Armitstead and Megan Guarnier from Boels, 2 Rabos and Emma Johansson (ORICA) - and the chase to catch them shed a large portion of the remaining peloton.  Everything was very serious now, and every move could change the race....  and then Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Rabo) attacked, and just before the Kruisberg, with 27km to go, Ellen van Dijk put in a huge attack, and got away.  I loved Emma Johansson's very honest comments about this moment, in the ORICA-AIS race report:

When Ellen went, I knew we were in trouble. Because Rabobank had just been racing sort of aggressive, I thought someone would go after her. No one did. I think they were all looking to me.

Ellen is such a strong rider, and she got some seconds quite fast. I had a decision to take. I thought: If I go now, when everyone expects me to go, I’m just going to pull everyone there and I’m killing myself for them. I took the decision that I wouldn’t go there. I was hoping someone else would do the work or that Ellen wouldn’t get such a big gap coming into the Oude Kwaremont. I would give it a real crack there.

...

I can’t complain. We did what we could. If I could turn back time, I would have gone straight after Ellen when she went – just to know I did that. Of course another situation might have appeared if that’s what I would have done.

I decided to wait. It was the decision I took at that moment, and it felt like the right one. It turned out to be the wrong one, so….

Ellen is such an incredible rider, the World ITT Champion, so while I can see why the peloton might have thought they could catch her, it was very, very dangerous.  Lucinda Brand tried to chase again, with Tiffany Cromwell (Specialized-lululemon) - and Van Dijk had just 22 seconds on the pair and 40 seconds on the peloton at 20km to go, then 35 seconds to the paid and 55 to the chase as she raced solo up and over the Oude Kwaremont.  The noise must have been unbelievable, and you can see how much she was hurting in the video, but she powered over the top, and remained away.

Behind her, Brand and Cromwell had been caught at the climb, and an attack of three were chasing Van Dijk....  or rather, two were chasing, Johansson and Elisa Longo Borghini, while the third rider, Van Dijk's team-mate Lizzie Armitstead was there for the ride!  Imagine how frustrating that was for the other two - chase Ellen, and if they catch her, Lizzie's ready to sprint....  if they don't, the 13km flat run-in is perfect for Van Dijk's ITT power.

Over the Paterberg, the chasers could see Van Dijk, but she had 40 seconds over the trio, and 1:30 to the bunch - and then Ferrand-Prévot jumped out of the chase...  marked by another Boels rider, Guarnier.  They were joined by Van Vleuten and another Rabo, Anna van der Breggen, 2 Specialized - Cromwell & Evelyn Stevens, and Belgian Lotto rider Liesbet de Vocht, and while they could catch the chasing trio, no one could catch Van Dijk, who won solo, with Armitstead out-sprinting Johansson for second - the most perfect race for Boels!

1.   Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, 3:47:50
2.   Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Boels-Dolmans, + 01:01
3.   Emma Johansson (Swe) ORICA-AIS, s.t.
4.   Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Hitec Products, + 01:03
5.   Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Rabobank-Liv, s.t.
6.   Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Rabobank-Liv, s.t.
7.   Liesbet de Vocht (Bel) Lotto-Belisol, s.t.
8.   Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels-Dolmans, s.t.
9.   Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.
10. Evelyn Stevens (USA) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.

Full results

Ellen was so happy with that win!  Here's her post-race tweet

And such an incredible job by Boels-Dolmans - they played it absolutely perfectly, and hell, with 2 wins and 2 second places in 3 World Cups, they are THE team to watch this season!

More views, from Rabobank - intreviews with Annemiek van Vleuten

Translation by PvdV (VEEL DANK!)

Proud of the team but we where the only one that tried to force a break and we had to as we didn’t have someone who stands out right now. We tried and attacked but it didn’t last and when everything was still together (Except for Ellen) at the Oude Kwaremont I felt my legs and realized I am good but not in perfect shape right now. She wanted to peak here but recovery takes 6-7 months before she gets back to her former shape so the rest was just to good right now. It’s important now to race to improve my shape, she is hoping on a windy Energiewacht tour so she can fight the wind and get stronger. She needed to make a switch this season and ride in a supporting role for Anna and Pauline but since they are stronger now she accepts it but hopes it will turn around when she gets better or be at the same foot.

Roxane Knetemann:

THANKYOU AGAIN PETER!

Had a good day, I attacked at Haaghoek cobbles right before the Leberg. We quickly gained 30s but Gillow wasn’t allowed to ride anymore so I decided to stop the effort as Gillow is stronger on the climbs and you don’t take her in your wheel when the teams want to win. But I think I did my share of work.
Bit dissapointed that the rest of the peloton didn’t want to make it a real race. Maybe they where scared of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. And when we passed I thought oh yeah this pretty heavy (said with the air "but still others should have attacked more") We wanted to attack as we had to but also because the race get TV time and we want to present we can make a attractive race as well. But we wanted to win and come 2nd or 4th. The 3 jerseys are great and the team is good but we didn’t get close to the win. In the Energiewacht tour we need to change things and get win because we are good enough and all riders are good but not enough.

And Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, in English

UPDATE! And here's the Rabo soigneur during the race

UPDATE! And the Wiggle Honda video

UPDATE! and here's the USA national team pre-riding the course


Another fantastic race report from Gracie Elvin on CyclingTips and look!  Riders feel the same as we do!

I woke up before my alarm at an hour that is very unlike me. Flanders day is like my second Christmas, and I wanted to shake my roommate Emma (Johansson) awake saying "It’s Flanders day! It’s Flanders day!".

And some great photos - from Wei Yuet Wong, on his flickr, in the ORICA race report, and on the Boels-Dolmans facebook.

This is possibly my favourite post-race tweet, but add yours to the comments, with anything else you find.

And a bit of a plug - if you, like me, loved watching Ellen win, then you can find out a lot more about her, in my interview from last week, where she told me what she thinks of Flanders.  Read it, or listen to it.

Next up - GP Dottignies, today - read the Velofocus preview, let's talk about it in the comments - follow my twitter list for live updates.

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