Stretching out a week to the best part of a fortnight, we have Amstel Gold Race (WWT7), Brabantse Pijl and EPZ Omloop van Borsele.
Oh, and two minor untelevised races somewhere in Belgium (WWT8 and WWT9).
Do we have to?
Yes, yes, we do.
Due credit to Amstel Gold Race and Brabantse Pijl for providing the kind of coverage we’ve come to expect so far this season.
As for ASO, their blank refusal to show Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège—two WWT races—live, despite evidently having the resources to do so, is, in TotW’s view, embarrassing, out of touch, chauvinistic, sad and increasingly inexplicable. Which is probably why ASO seem to have no explanation to offer.
- Annemiek van Vleuten : TotW is reluctant to award Rider of the Week for a performance no one actually saw, but thanks, ironically enough, to Anna van der Breggen’s dad, we saw just enough of Annemiek ominously leading the front group up La Redoute on Sunday to decide. By the top she had a 25 second lead, and in her own words, didn’t look back. That L-B-L win breaks a run of second places (Flanders, AGR, F-W) and knocks Marta Bastianelli off the top of the WWT rankings.
- Kasia Niewiadoma: Attacked early and attacked late in a hard-fought Amstel Gold Race full of attacks. Her later attack stuck, and if Annemiek was thinking of her last gasp victory at La Course as she tried to chase her down, Kasia was having none of it, and held on for a terrific win.
- Anna van der Breggen: At last. Normal service resumed at F-W, just as TotW was (well, maybe…) starting to wonder. Not even (whisper it) Alejandro Valverde has five in a row of these.
- Demi Vollering: 7th at Amstel, 5th at Flèche, 3rd in Liege. Some Ardennes from a rider most of us had hardly heard of until her fun attack at Binda. 22 year old Vollering also used to speed skate and nearly gave up cycling because she felt she was ‘too old’ to improve. TotW suspects there are improvements still to come.
- Floortje Mackaij: Put in a deluxe domestique performance at Brabantse Pijl (and possibly should have ridden for the win), attacked dashingly but unsuccessfully at Flèche Wallonne, then got into the chasing group and attacked again at L-B-L. This time she stayed away for a well-deserved second. More please.
- Sofie de Vuyst: Finally witnessed scoring VDS points, and in style, De Vuyst powered past pre-race favourite Coryn Rivera in an uphill sprint for a memorable win at Brabantse Pijl.
Alternative Team of the Week
Lorena Wiebes (2nd win of the season at Borsele), Marianne Vos (did crazy amounts of work, got 3rd at AGR and 4th at F-W to show for it), Marta Cavalli (2nd at Brabantse Pijl and until L-B-L WWT leading young rider), Vittoria Guazzini (epic domestiquing on Cavalli’s behalf), Lizzie Deignan (attacking return from maternity leave), Soraya Paladin (having a quietly excellent season any time the road goes up). Other nominations welcome.
Team of the Week
Having been mean to them most of the season, TotW is giving this to Boels-Dolmans. Anna finally got their first WWT win of the season at F-W, Annika Langvad joined her on the podium and they’re also out in front in the WWT team competition.
On the other hand…
Four Boels in the chasing group could do absolutely nothing to bring back Van Vleuten at L-B-L. Not for the first time this season, their tactics at AGR seemed hard to grasp. They’re not the only team who’ve struggled to make numbers count, however. Trek were all over AGR but their highest placed rider was Tayler Wiles in 12th. Mitchelton tried to make the race as hard as possible to help Van Vleuten, which ultimately benefitted Niewiadoma. And Sunweb dominated Brabantse Pijl from the start, only for Rivera not to finish it off.
Netherlands v Italy grudge match
Pretty much nailed down for the Netherlands this week (wins for Poland and Belgium aside), culminating in an all-Dutch podium at L-B-L. Marta Cavalli and Soraya Paladin keep Italy hanging in.
Kat Hammes managed to get her team car and herself booted out of F-W, which didn’t help teammate Erica Magnaldi later in the race when she needed a bike change…
Emilia Fahlin, meanwhile, might have challenged for the AGR podium apart from an unfortunate late mechanical, caused, she said, by certain unnamed riders running into her.
Eye roll of the week
As if no live coverage wasn’t bad enough, TotW is befuddled as to how a 5 min 10 sec ‘highlights’ package can only contain 2 mins 10 sec of racing. TotW doesn’t mind 20 seconds of Demi Vollering overcome with joy, but would have quite liked to have seen the sprint for third that made her overjoyed to begin with.
Thanks to the collective efforts of Niewiadoma, Wiebes, Mackaij, Balsamo and Guazzini, Vlaanderen90’s Yas Queen! team are new leaders overall. No one has Demi Vollering.
Vlady’s still out in front but Yeehoo is still closing, largely thanks to Soraya Paladin. PvdV leapfrogs Shawn and the Zombies with Annemiek and Floortje Mackaij. If Peter had picked Vollering instead of just naming his team after her, he’d be in the lead by now. ;-)
On the other hand, Demi did TotW proud. Look, Vlady can’t win everything. ;-)
Next up: Tour of Chongming Island. Should be fun. (Presumably as with last year we’ll focus on the overall?)