First, 20 minutes of highlights:
Next, little highlights videos - one on NOS.nl (can't embed it) and the other, Vos focussed, by Rabosport:
So, what happened in the race?
Well, it was definitely a day for frozen eyeballs, and the rain, cold and road furniture - as well as parts of the peloton being a little bit antsy about it being the first World Cup of the season - lead to a lot of crashes, starting in the neutral zone. This race is always about a fight for position - getting to be the first rider to each section of cobbles, to the hills, and to be on guard for the attacks. There were various group- and solo attacks, and each time, riders were shed off the back of the peloton, and the groups at the back of the race dropped out of contention.
At the first climb of the VAMberg, there were probably about 45 riders in the competition, with race favourites Marianne Vos (Rabobank Liv/Giant) and Emma Johansson (ORICA-AIS) fighting each other all the way up the climb - but the group stayed together for the loop through Hoogeveen, until a crash took Emma Johansson out of the front group, and she had to fight her way back - but with a broken rear mech. On the second time over the VAMberg, Vos apparently decided the racing was too defensive, and just exploded up the climb. I LOVE watching Vos do this - she has such a powerful, physical style on climbs, swinging her bike from side to side, really pushing it, with an expression on her face that's half-suffering, half-exhilaration, even in the pouring rain. And she's one of the best descenders out there, male or female, so she only extends her lead on the downhill.
Behind her, the group fractured as the chase began. Ellen van Dijk (Specialized-lululemon) waited until the bottom of the hill and then made her move, originally with Kirsten Wild (Skil-Argos), Chloe Hosking (Hitec) and Shelley Olds (Tibco), who'd have a terrible race, crashing four times. Van Dijk managed to shake off the trio - and as we saw last week, when she solo-ed to win Le Samyn, her time trialling skills are on fine form, and she managed to catch Vos - and the pair worked together for the final ten kilometres, increasing their lead on the group.
Johnasson had struggled over the climb, with just her big and little ring. I really enjoyed ORICA DS Dave McPartland's race report, and his comments on her choice not to drop back for a new bike - this is just one of things that, without radios, riders have to decide for themselves. She worked her way to the front group, and then jumped, getting to within 15 seconds of the two leaders, but she just couldn't catch them. Vos and Van Dijk made it to Hoogeveen together, but Vos surprised Van Dijk at 500m to go, and sprinted for the win - her third Ronde van Drenthe victory in a row!
Johansson finished 15 seconds later - giving her five 3rd placings in her five European races, despite her mechanical issues. I'm sure she'd rather be higher up the podium, but truly, what amazing talents she has! They've been different kinds of races, all in terrible conditions, and that's the kind of riding that will easily win Stage Races.
Behind the front riders, a chase group of six raced for the finish. Chloe Hosking won the battle of the sprinters (and I love this photo of her and Wild battling for the line) - but a result that really made me smile was Lotto Belisol's Marijn de Vries, who came in eighth, her best result in a World Cup ever. This was especially important for De Vries, as she grew up in the area. I loved this blog by her on Cyclismas, about her memories of her childhood roads. Carmen Small sprinted in to lead the next group in for Specialized-lululemon, and I have to say, Small has been a superb signing for the team.
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabobank-Liv/Giant, 3:42:38
2. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Specialized-lululemon, + 00:01
3. Emma Johansson (Swe) ORICA-AIS, + 00:15
4. Chloe Hosking (Aus) ORICA-AIS, + 01:38
5. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Argos-Shimano, s.t.
6. Shelley Olds (USA) Tibco, s.t.
7. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Boels-Dolmans, s.t.
8. Marijn de Vries (Ned) Lotto Belisol, s.t.
9. Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) ORICA-AIS, s.t.
10. Carmen Small (USA) Specialized-lululemon, + 02:18
Sunday was supposed to be the Novilon EDRcup, but overnight, the cold stepped up a gear, and the rain turned to snow. The race was cancelled - and if you speak Dutch, you can hear more about it in this news report. But you just know the peloton found something else to do - I especially liked hearing about the ORICA solution:
So, we have a bit of a race in the UCI calendar - some riders may head home for the Oceania and the Asian Championships, but the European peloton will be at the Classica Città di Padova on 16th March, or Cholet Pays de Loire on 17th - and then it splits, for a huge day of racing on 24th - Gent-Wevelgem, and the next round of the World Cup, the fantastic Trofeo Alfredo Binda.
In the meantime, look out for the usual set of blogs and tweets from riders - add them to the comments, and I will too! Here's to the weather improving, and the crashing abating...