British rider Alice Barnes places seventh as 2017 women's Ghent-Wevelgem is settled in a sprint finish

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After a race of attrition, where no breaks were allowed free, Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla) won Sunday’s Ghent-Wevelgem Women’s WorldTour race. The Finnish champion sprinted from a group of around 30 riders ahead of local rider Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle-High5) and Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb), winner of last week’s Trofeo Binda.

The group had contested an aggressive final 20 kilometres, where numerous attacks managed to gain an advantage, though none remained clear, setting up a bunch sprint in the fourth edition of the women’s Ghent-Wevelgem.

A stiff breeze accompanied the 148 riders who left the start in Boezinge, the start changed from previous editions in Ypres, and brought in to accommodate the increased distance of 146.2km, up form last year’s 115km. That wind, however, had little effect on four opening 11.9km circuits around the start town.

>>> Boels-Dolmans left reeling after injury and illness force whole team withdrawal from Dwars Door Vlaanderen

On the final circuit, however, the pace increased as the peloton began to assemble itself to take on the first of two accents of the cobbled Kemmelberg, just 20kms later. Though the climb was taken relatively calmly, with Boels-Dolmans and Team Sunweb on the front, some of the smaller teams struggled behind.

Just four kilometres after that climb, a group of 50 women emerged from the first ascent of the Monteberg, however, it was the send passing of those two climbs which defined the race, creating the final selection.



As the peloton entered the 40km final run to the finish, all the major teams had multiple representatives in the group of 30, and when Ellen van Dijk (Sunweb), Elisa Longo-Borghini (Wiggle-High5), Katrin Garfoot (Orica-Scott) and Christie Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) went clear with just under 20kms to ride, it seemed as though they wold fight for the win.

All four are strong time triallists, but when they were joined by sprinters 2007 World Champion Marta Bastianelli (Alé-Cipollini) and Arlenis Sierra (Astana), second last week, the break was doomed.

Though Lepistö won Dwars Door Vlaanderen on Wednesday, the victory was Cervélo-Bigla’s first WorldTour victory of the season. Third in last year’s World Championships, the 27-year-old Fin was responsible for the team’s only top level win last year, the final stage of the Women’s Tour in Kettering.

Top British rider was Alice Barnes (Drops) in seventh, while Lizzie Deignan withdrew from the event at the last minute with illness, adding to Boels-Dolmans’ health issues.

The Tour of Flanders, the next race of the Women’s WorldTour, takes place next Sunday.

Result

Ghent-Wevelgem, Elite Women, 146.2km

1. Lotta Lepistö (Fin) Cervélo-Bigla, in 3-53-54
2. Jolien D’hoore (Bel) Wiggle-High5
3. Coryn Rivera (USA) Sunweb)
4. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Alé-Cipollini
5. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Canyon-SRAM
6. Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Ita) Lensworld-Kuota
7. Alice Barnes (GBr) Drops
8. Chantal Blaak (Ned) Boels-Dolmans
9. Elena Cecchini (Ita) Canyon-SRAM
10. Sheyla Gutiérrez (Esp) Cylance, all at same time