By Owen Rogers
Alena Amialiusik took the win after an entertaining second stage at the Lotto Belgium Tour on Wednesday. The former Belarusian champion escaped four other leaders in the closing five kilometres of what was a hugely combative stage, winning alone.
Lorena Wiebes won the sprint for second place and with it took the overall lead into Friday’s final stage, while Lotte Kopecky was third.
The race was exciting and aggressive all day long, never settling as the peloton took chance out of each other over the 137.5km course starting and finishing in Galmaarden.
The final group formed just ahead of the day’s last climb, Trek-Segafredo leading the chase to catch the solo breakaway. A five-woman group formed on that ascent of the Steenhoutberg, the impetus going out of the chase with five different teams represented.
Despite having a lead of little more than 40 seconds, the leaders finessed and attacked each other all the way to the 2km to go mark, when Amialiusik made her move. The victory was just reward for Canyon-SRAM, who were aggressive throughout the day, sending a number of riders up the road.
Conversely, with Wiebes beginning the day only two seconds down on GC, DSM did much of the controlling, and they will need to do the same if she is to hold onto the red jersey on Friday.
The final stage is the first race to finish at the top of the fabled Muur van Geraardsbergen, but is harder even than that. Starting with two 33.2km laps the race then covers two circuits of 17.1km, each one taking on both the Bosberg and the Muur.
How it happened
After yesterday’s flat opening road stage the 2021 Lotto Belgium Tour headed to the Flemish Ardennes for a 137.5km Classics style race of bergs and cobbles.
Taking on five laps of a 27.5km circuit the peloton were set for a tough day, the route undulating all the way and including two classified climbs, the Congoberg and Steenhoutberg. The former averages five per cent over its 1.25km though has ramps of 10 per cent, while the latter starts slowly, but rears up to over 11 per cent.
Though the pace was high on the opening lap, the bunch stayed largely together over the day’s two main climbs. And it was the same on the second lap, where only Rotem Gafinowitz (Bingoal-Chevalmeire) was able to gain any advantage, attacking at the bottom of the lap’s second climb, the Steenhoutberg, cresting it with around five seconds lead.
The former triple Israeli time trial champion built a decent lead on the following lap, stretching it to 1-50 with only India Grainger (France) chasing her. However, on the flat Blijkheerstraat cobbled sector Lotte Kopecky (Belgium) attacked, taking prologue winner Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) and British champion Alice Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) with her.
The trio had started the stage in third, fourth and fifth place respectively, Barnes 10 seconds down, and they quickly swept up Gafinowitz. Now four, the leaders had a gap of around 45 seconds when they crossed the finish line with two laps remaining, the DSM team of overnight second placed Lorena Wiebes at the front of a chasing group of around the 40.
On one of the smaller climbs Gafinowitz was dropped but that failed to hinder the three leaders, all of whom are current or former world or national time trial champions, their lead extending to one minute. However, on the cobbled descent of the Congoberg disaster struck Kopecky, who punctured and was caught after receiving neutral service.
This changed the dynamic both in the peloton, but also for the two leaders. First Van Dijk implored Barnes to take a turn, but with the gap closing the Brit refused. Then when the Dutchwoman attacked her gears gave up, leaving her temporarily stuck in her biggest ratio.
While Barnes headed off alone Van Dijk was able to sort her bike but sat up and waited for the peloton, while Barnes began the final lap only a handful of seconds ahead and was caught shortly after.
The final lap was an aggressive affair, teams taking turns to attack, while DSM once again controlled. However they were unwilling to cover Barnes’s German team-mate, Hannah Ludwig who got away after the Congoberg, quickly building an advantage of 25 seconds, with 12km to go.
But with Trek-Segafredo leading, the gap tumbled as a small group pursued her onto the final ascent of the Steenhoutberg, inside the last 10km. Five women crested the climb in the lead; Van Dijk, Kopecky, stage one winner Lorena Wiebes (DSM), Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM) and Movistar’s Lourdes Oyarbide.
With so many teams at the front impetus went out of the chase and the leaders took a lead of 40 seconds into the closing five kilometres.
Lotto Belgium Tour 2021, stage two: Galmaarden - Galmaarden (137.5km)
1. Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Canyon-SRAM in 3-49-31
2. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) DSM at 03 sec
3. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Belgium same time
4. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 04 sec
5. Lourdes Oyarbide (Esp) Movistar at 08 sec
6. Jolien D'hoore (Bel) Belgium at 1-00
7. Sanne Cant (Bel) Plantur-Pura
8. Pfeiffer Georgi (Gbr) DSM
9. Arianna Pruisscher (Ned) S-Bikes Dolitcini
10. Julie de Wilde (Bel) Plantur-Pura all at same time
General classification after stage two
1. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) DSM in 6-23-56
2. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Belgium at 02 sec
3. Ellen Van Dijk (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 09 sec
4. Lourdes Oyarbide (Esp) Movistar at 37 sec
5. Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Canyon-SRAM at 58 sec
6. Jolien D'hoore (Bel) Belgium at 59 sec
7. Pfeiffer Georgi (Gbr) DSM at 1-13
8. Lauretta Hanson (Aus) Trek-Segafredo at 1-17
9. Shari Bossuyt (Bel) NXTG at 1-18
10. Marie Le Net (Fra) France at 1-19
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