Ronde van Vlaanderen, the culmination of the women’s cobbles season, and Dwars door Vlaanderen, its midweek cousin. Plus SSR action a continent away at the Joe Martin Stage Race.
Let’s pretend the tv broadcast recap of the Ronde didn’t happen just as the riders hit the Muur or that signal dropout meant we didn’t really see how Ellen van Dijk got away at Dwars. Great coverage of both races, and the tracker for Flanders (when it worked) made the race even easier to follow.
- Marta Bastianelli : TotW can only shake its head. You race defensively midweek, conserving energy for the weekend, and still get second. On Sunday, you take advantage of a lack of decisive attacks to have a go yourself on the Oude Kwaremont (as advised by Bjarne Riis), sticking in when the climbers counter. You pull through on the run-in just enough that no one can say you haven’t. Your teammate is sitting on the chase group, your rivals don’t have enough to attack you anyway, and you crush them in the sprint. Then what? You get the kind of reaction generally reserved for Alejandro Valverde (and, let’s face it, Valverde has his admirers). TotW has no such compunction. You are rider of the week. For the second time this season. And probably not the last.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig : TotW really can’t compete with Cille’s own technicolour description of her race at Flanders. Prominent from the Hotond onwards, her attack on the Oude Kwaremont was the catalyst that led to the final group getting away. Lost the wheel a bit on the run-in but clung on despite feeling like (in her words) ‘a dead fish’ by then. Fun ride.
BAM!PAM! as she would say.
- Annemiek van Vleuten : Not quite the riding away from it all performance at RvV we perhaps expected after Strade Bianche, or after seeing her stretch the leading group on the climbs at Dwars midweek. AvV herself felt that to shake off Bastianelli other teams needed to have helped make the race harder earlier. Mitchelton certainly did a lot of work neutralising the early break but didn’t have their first major attack until Annemiek countered Uttrup on the Oude Kwaremont, bringing Bastianelli and Niewiadoma back with her. Her next attack on the Paterberg succeeded only in dropping Kasia, and from then on it all seemed a bit inevitable, despite a valiant attempt in the sprint.
- Ellen van Dijk: Last Tuesday seems an age ago, but Dwars was an excellent race won by EvD in classic style, escaping from a group of bigs before the Nokereberg and then timetrialling her way up the hill and home across the cobbles. Had a decent RvV, too, making it into the chase group behind the leaders and finishing 5th.
- Sofia Bertizzolo: Shepherded Bastianelli through the early stages, joined a dangerous attack mid-race, then had enough left to make it into the chasing group, sitting on to finish fourth and reclaim the WWT young rider jersey she won last year.
- Chloe Dygert: Meanwhile across the Atlantic, Dygert won two of four stages to take the Joe Martin Stage Race GC.
At the Ronde Vita Heine’s Norwegian national champion’s jersey was prominent going over the Muur (once we actually got to see it) and she was still in the top 20 at the end of the race. 19 year old Mexican rider Andrea Ramirez beat Dygert, White et al to win the time trial stage at the JMSR.
Team of the Week
Virtu’s Bastianelli-Bertizzolo combo deserves a mention but the prize goes to Trek-Segafredo, who finally put it together at Dwars: Ellen van D striking out solo over the cobbles, ELB patrolling the chase, and the rest of the team doing a grand job of making sure no one left in the peloton got any ideas. Now can they manage something similar in a WWT race?
Didn’t race Dwars, sagely avoiding micro-analysis of their performance twice in one week, then somehow managed to crash en masse early on at the Ronde, forcing Jip van den Bos out of the race and holding up their other riders. Jolien D’hoore, returning from a broken collarbone, fortunately wasn’t among them, though her highlight seems to have been hearing ‘Jolene’ played over the speakers on the Leberg. Majerus in particular did a lot of work on the front mid-race, but no Boels rider could go with the front few once the serious attacks started. Still, two riders—Blaak and Pieters—in the top 10 isn’t a total disaster, and Anna is back for the Ardennes. Will normal service be resumed? Will this section be short-lived?
Italy v Netherlands grudge match
Tables turned from last week, with an Italian winner and five Dutch riders in the top ten at the Ronde (along with another Italian, of course). But more Italians lurked just outside the top ten, with Marta Cavalli—another young trackie hacking it pretty well on the road—and Soraya Paladin—scoring points in the lumpier races so far this season—finishing 11th and 12th.
Misfortune of the Week
Alas, poor Marianne Vos, who punctured on the Oude Kwaremont just as the final group was starting to form.
Comeback of the Week
She’s been lapsing for a while but TotW was delighted to see Sarah (formerly of this parish) well and truly fall off the women’s racing wagon on Sunday. (No injuries we hope.)
Andrew (currently of this parish) sneaked the win at the Ronde with Uttrup, Niewiadoma, Bertizzolo and Blaak. At the top, bsmashers and hiddenwheel seem to have settled in for the duration. Special shout to Spin Doctor, whose North America-focused team Sur la Plaque won the JMSR with Dygert, Shannon Malseed and Sara Bergen.
Vlady is out ahead with an early season lead the like of which hasn’t been seen since, oh, Zombie Kittens last year. Competition for second is rather more heated, however, with yeehoo, shawn and th whistler within 150 points of each other. But watch out. The aforementioned Kittens lurk only a short way behind.
Aquatarkus won the Ronde in a sprint. Mr Verbiage still leads overall. Just. There’s now a gap until the next round of the WWT, Amstel Gold Race on 21 April.