Entering its third season, the now venerable TotW has finally managed to get its act together in time to cover the season’s opening weekend. Wonders will never cease.
The traditional hilly cobbled season opener, Omloop het Nieuwblad, ridden in suitably gloomy Flandrian weather, followed by its sprintier (and wordier) sequel, Spar Omloop van het Hageland - Tienen - Tielt-Winge and midweek racing at Le Samyn des Dames.
- Annemiek van Vleuten: Claimed to be ‘surprised’ by the ease with which she rode away from her rivals on the Muur to win Omloop het Nieuwsblad. No one else was. No slow start this season, and apparently no curse of the rainbow jersey either. As you were, in fact. (Though Anna van der Breggen—missing here—might yet say a word or two…) Rider of the week. It won’t be the last time.
- Chantal van den Broek-Blaak: Faced with the might of AvV, this year the defending ONH champion managed a valiant fourth. However Blaak got her own breakaway win midweek at Le Samyn, capitalising on a dominant team effort by Boels to finish almost two minutes ahead of the field.
- Lorena Wiebes: Didn’t make it into the last group at Het Hageland last year; this time, as the race came back together after multiple attacks, Wiebes loomed omniously in her Dutch national champion’s jersey. Once Trek—rather desperately—opened the sprint for Lotta Henttala, there was only ever one winner. TotW looks forward to Wild and D’hoore returning from track duty for the three-way battles in the sprint classics we never quite got last year.
- Marta Bastianelli: Looked rueful as Wiebes zoomed past to dislodge her from the top of the Het Hageland podium. But second this weekend in both the climbier race and the sprintier one confirms Bastianelli as a continuing threat this classics season. Only two races in and Ellen van Dijk must already be sick of seeing her on her wheel.
- Floortje Mackaij: After mixing team leadership with a fair amount of deluxe domestiquing the last few years, Mackaij now seems to be Sunweb’s top rider for the classics season. Couldn’t quite get past Bastianelli in the sprint, but third at Omloop suggests good things still to come.
- Emma Norsgaard: This week’s sole TotW debutant, the 19 year old Dane proved her early season win at Setmana Valenciana was no fluke with a podium spot at Het Hageland.
TotW Team of the week
Boels take the prize with their steamrolling of Le Samyn, where Christine Majerus and Jip van den Bos both controlled the race with Chantal Blaak off the front and managed second and fourth in the sprint for places. But there was plenty of quality teamwork elsewhere, with Sarah Roy of Mitchelton-Scott putting a huge effort to set up Van Vleuten’s attack at OHN and Bigla riders active on multiple fronts all weekend.
Domestique of the week, however, goes to Eri Yonamine, who stuck limpet-like to every attack at Het Hageland in the service of Alé-BTC Ljubljana teammate Marta Bastianelli, and then rightfully nicked her podium flowers to pose for a photo or two.
Comeback of the week
TotW was delighted to see Sabrina Stutiens back on a podium this weekend. Though it was a minor race in Belgium, this marks a significant step in Stultiens’ lengthy recovery from a head injury and is an optimistic sign for a return to the elite peloton. It was also good to see another rider who had time out with concussion last year, FDJ’s Emilia Fahlin, finish strongly at Het Hageland.
Struggle of the week
Bike racing poses one challenge but as Floortje Mackaij discovered, cracking open the post-race champagne entirely another. TotW could probably just about manage the latter…
ASO? A women’s Tour de France? TotW will believe it when it sees it.
Three races in and rkoekebakker’s Girlsof2020 have already carved out an early lead thanks to leading rider Chantal Blaak, Annemiek van Vleuten, Jip van den Bos and Floortje Mackaij. Also with Annemiek, Chantal and Jip, mcgovern’s Braids are Best are about 200 points back in second, closely followed by dreamer_mg’s The Smurf Village—also with Blaak and Vleuten—and the top non-Blaak team, The Figurehead’s Annebots, Roll Out, with Van Vleuten, Van den Bos, Emma Norsgaard and Lizzy Banks, in joint third.
Fear not, the nine teams still on nul points. The season is still young, though it may be a while before it gets any older.
Luctor Emergo somehow managed to draft a team comprising Annemiek van Vleuten, Chantal Blaak, Jip van den Bos and Lotte Kopecky. Unsurprisingly his or her Lucy on the Podium with Diamonds are top of the league by 120 points.
Only one team has yet to score. Mentioning no names, eh.
Strade Bianche, supposedly. But now alas not. A bit of a wait until the Drenthe races. Assuming they do happen. Talk among yourselves.
As mentioned in the comments, Trofeo Binda, due to take place on the Sunday of Milan-Sanremo weekend, has been postponed until 2 June, Festa della Repubblica in Italy.