Dutch team forced to settle for third in the Ronde
Despite Deignan being the defending champion, her Boels-Dolmans team and gone into the race aiming for a sprint with Dutch rider Chantal Blaak.
However, the team were unable to provide a good enough lead out, launching too early meaning Blaak finished third, the same position as last year, behind Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) and Gracie Elvin (Orica-Scott).
“It is very difficult at the end for 155km to do a normal lead-out,” Deignan told Cycling Weekly after discussing the race with her team-mates.
“You can’t rely necessarily on those whose legs are good at the end of a normal race. It’s just who has got any energy left at the end, and there was just too much wind. Chantal did a great job to hang on to third to be honest.”
The race was set up well for Boels-Dolmans. Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen instigated a move with 35km to ride and was joined by three other strong riders.
As the group topped the Oude Kwaremont they had a 40 second advantage over the remaining peloton, but were caught in the final kilometre. However, with the team plan for Blaak, van der Breggen was not fully committed to the break.
“It was an ideal situation,” continued Deignan. “But because our radios weren’t working trying to coordinate what we need to do tactically was difficult.
“We decided to go for Chantal in the sprint, that was always going to be the best option, with one kilometre to go no one had the legs for an all out attack.”
After winning the race last year Deignan found it hard to compare the two editions.
“I wouldn’t know how to be objective about it. Last year I was coming here to win, I was in my own head space, saving energy right until I made my move, today it was a different ball game, I was doing work as well. I found it bloody hard, harder than last year.”
When she won last year’s race she was in a fine form, with perfect health, this year has been different.
Sunday was only Deignan’s third of the year after a period of sickness hampered her training and forced her to withdraw for last week’s Ghent-Wevelgem.
“I’m still definitely playing catch up, it’s disappointing to be sick and managing my health, but if I’m at 70 per cent and doing a job like that I’m doing all right.”
Deignan’s next targets are likely to be the Ardennes classics. Starting with Amstel Gold Race on April 16, those races are high priority ones for Boels-Dolmans whose team base is in the area.