The Ronde van Drenthe is always an exciting race, and this year proved to be no exception! Watch the video for the final km, and below the jump I'll tell you all about it. I know, I know, the headline gives it away, but there was so much to love about this one!
The video above starts with the last half hour of the women's race, when they'd gone over the VAMberg for the second time and have 30-ish km to go - or you can watch just the last km here, if you want something shorter (the vid above goes into the men's race after, if you're interested!)
And come back to the comments, as we'll add in any rider blogs, team or other videos and other things that come out once the riders have all recovered.
EDIT! Results & video from Sunday's Novilon Eurocup added below - and race results from the other Sunday races in the comments!
It was a cold, wet day in the north-eastern Netherlands, the cobbles slippery and wet, after the rainstorms earlier in the day. I wrote about the course in my race preview - but it's one where the wind can do a lot of damage, and it can be a struggle just to stay in the race until the two decisive climbs at the end.
After starting with the traditional ride through a building, the race hit the VAMberg for the first time, where Martina Corazza (Kleo), Annelies Visser (Dutch National Team) and Frøydis Wærsted (Hitec) took the first set of mountains points. The first part of the race was all about early attacks and catches, the peloton splitting and reforming, with riders getting ready for the three cobbled sections at the mid-point of the race.
These cobbles are narrow sections, under trees, and the riders knew they'd be wet and dangerous, so the big favourites were taking no chances - an elite group of Marianne Vos & Sarah Düster (Rabobank), Judith Arndt & Loes Gunnewijk (GreenEdge), Kirsten Wild (AA Drink-Leontien.nl), Trixi Worrack (Specialized-lululemon) & Adrie Visser (Skil-1t4i) had attacked a few km from the first section at Exloo, and by the time they exited the other side, had 30 seconds, the peloton in four groups behind them. Superb as those riders were, though, they couldn't stay away, and they were caught - before the final, longest cobbled stretch divided the peloton for good.
About 30 riders had made it into this front group, with representation from all the big teams. From AA Drink-Leontien.nl: Chantal Blaak, Lucinda Brand, Lucy Martin, Kirsten Wild, & Lizzie Armitstead; from Rabobank, Marianne Vos, Iris Slappendel, Sarah Düster, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot & Roxane Knetemann; Judith Arndt, Loes Gunnewijk, Tiffany Cromwell & Amanda Spratt from GreenEdge; Emma Johansson & Elisa Longo Borghini from Hitec-Mistral; Martine Bras & Laura van der Kamp from Dolmans-Boels; Monia Baccaille & Tatiana Guderzo from MCipollini-Giambenini; Trixi Worrack & Charlotte Becker for Specilized-lululemon; Janneke Kanis & Adrie Visser for Skil-1t4i; and the solo riders - Giorgia Bronzini (Diadora-Pasta Zara), Megan Guarnier (Tibco-To The Top), Romy Kasper (RusVelo), Evelyn Arys (Kleo), Alexandra Burchenkova (Michela Fanini) and Audrey Cordon (Vienne Futuroscope)
Of course, there were attacks from this group, and cat-and mousing. After the Vos reached the top of the VAMberg first, eleven riders got away for a few km, and just as they were caught, Chantal Blaak attacked, at around 35km to go, and made her bid for suicide-attack glory.
She stayed away for a while, too. Behind her, Longo Borghini and Knetemann escaped for a while, but they were swallowed up - and Rabobank lead the chase, inching back Blaak's lead, while every now and again, another rider would attempt to get away.
The roads around here change abruptly from wide and smooth to narrow wooded lanes - it's a strange landscape, from beautiful to bleak and back again in mere kilometres. That group showed their exceptional bike handling skills, navigating the tight turns and the changes in geography perfectly. Armitstead flatted 2km from the final ascent of the VAMberg, but was soon back in - and the group had Blaak in their sights.
Blaak wouldn't give up, however - despite the threat behind her, she pushed and pushed - and it was only on the final climb that she was caught, Ferrand-Prévot hitting the top first. From then on, it was women's racing at it's best - everyone attacking at some point, attack faster than we could type, absolutely non-stop. Armitstead was particularly active, and Arndt, and Cromwell, and Vos, and Johansson, and, and, and.... Riders were shed off the back of the group - some from attrition, some (like the Rabos) from working themselves to the bone, and some from accidents - Van der Kamp, Guarnier and Burchenkova crashing (poor Megan Guarnier looked close to tears as a slow bike change meant she was dropped from the group - she'd had an excellent race up until that point).
It was attack and catch all the way home, the group moving from fat and wide across the road, to small groups, to long stretched-out lines, everyone trying to escape.... but as it came up to the finish-line, Wild started her sprint early - with Vos on her wheel, who accelerated past and had room enough for a proper victory salute, winning the race for the second year running, and starting her World Cup campaign with a bang.
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabobank, 3:32:01
2. Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, s.t.
3. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec-Mistral, s.t.
4. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Diadora Pasta Zara, s.t.
5. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.
6. Adrie Visser (Ned) Skil-1t4i, s.t.
7. Martine Bras (Ned) Dolmans-Boels, s.t.
8. Monia Baccaille (Ita) MCipollini-Giambenini, s.t.
9. Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) GreenEdge-AIS, s.t.
10. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Fra) Rabobank, s.t.
11. Judith Arndt (Ger) GreenEdge-AIS. s.t.
12. Audrey Cordon (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope, s.t.
13. Romy Kasper (Ger) RusVelo, + 00:03
14. Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) GreenEdge-AIS, s.t.
15. Janneke Kanis (ned) Skil-1t4i, s.t.
16. Alexandra Burchenkova (Rus) Michela Fanini, s.t.
17. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, s.t.
18. Charlotte Becker (Ger) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.
19. Chantal Blaak (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, + 00:14
20. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Hitec-Mistral, s.t.
Ferrand-Prévot took the VAMberg prize, Blaak the sprint prize, and Vos the cobbles prize. But it was a good day all round - I know I keep saying this, but especially good to see Johansson fully recovered from her double collarbone break. After the race, she tweeted
3rd today feels like a victory after my last two months... Thanks @ElisaLongoB for everything! Massage now and soon dinner
A fun start to the World Cup - special thanks to RTV Drenthe for showing us the race, and doing it so well - please click on their race report to show them we love it, and give them lots of lovely hits! Tomorrow it's another Dutch sprint for the peloton, the Novilon Euregiocup. can't wait!
And then, it was onto the Novilon Euregiocup
Inge Roggeman of Sengers made a very early attack, gaining 1:50 and taking the first sprint points, until the peloton decided she'd been out for long enough, and by 60km, had her back in the bunch. Next up, Dolmans-Boels Mascha Pjinenborg, on a high from winning Omloop van Oostduikerke yesterday, attacked with Silke Kogelman (Han van Arckel), but were soon pulled back - and the peloton split into little groups, battling with the wind. You can imagine how it was, everyone trying to get away - until Marta Bastianelli (MCipollini-Giambenini) attacked solo - Marianne Vos (Rabobank) and Lizzie Armitstead (AA Drink-Leontien.nl) jumped off the front to chase and catch her at 15km to go. The three worked together, until it came close to the finish, when Vos attacked at 5km to go, and while Bastianelli could follow, Armitstead was dropped and rode home alone. Bastianelli held on, but Vos launched a long sprint for the win easily beating the Italian. Bastianelli's team-mate, Monia Baccaille won the bunch sprint for fourth, and groups crossed the line behind them.
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabobank, 03:42:24
2. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) MCipollini-Giambenini Gauss, + 00:02
3. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, + 01:31
4. Monia Bacaille (Ita) MCipollini-Giambenini Gauss, 02:26
5. Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, s.t.
6. Giada Borgato (Ita) Diadora Pasta-Zara, s.t.
7. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.
8. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec-Mistral, s.t.
9. Martine Bras (Ned) Dolmans-Boels, s.t.
10. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.
Vos demonstrated that her early return to the roads hasn't affected her form - and it was a good day for MCipollini-Giambenini, as over in Italy, Susanna Zorzi won the Trofeo Alberto Vannucci-Gp Valbisenzi, ahead of team-mate Jasinska Malgorzata and Polona Batagelj (Diadora-Pasta Zara). There's more information about this race, and more, in the comments - scroll down to the bottom!