On the podium for each of her European races this year, Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) proved her form, winning the first round of the Women’s World Cup on a breezy day in the Netherlands.
The 146 km course for Saturday’s Ronde van Drenthe was largely flat, but it was final of three climbs which proved decisive, though the wind and cobbled sectors had an attritional effect on the day.
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At only 43 metres, the VAM-berg starts with a ramp of 23%, which temporarily split the race on the first ascent after only 10 kilometres, though it soon came back together, despite the high pace during the first hour. The final of four cobbled sectors saw the main selection which included many of the favourites.
Among the group of 13 were four each from both Rabo-Liv and Giant Shimano, though Armitstead had team mate Ellen Van Dijk there. Immediately after the second pass, with 40 kilometres left to race, Iris Slappendel and Anna Van Der Breggen (both Rabo-Liv) attacked, building a maximum lead of 1.20, helped when the chasing group were briefly sent off course.
It was then that Van Dijk set about closing the gap, allowing Armitstead to attack on the final climb, overtake a flagging Slappendel, before eventually catching Van Der Breggen with 10 kilometres to race. The pair worked well together, before Armitstead launched her sprint with 250 metres to go.
“It was the plan to go on the final climb,” a beaming Armitstead told Cycling Weekly at the finish, “But it wasn’t the plan to have the breakaway, but thankfully I had Ellen with me, she was incredible today.”
Armitstead will be swapping her National Champion’s jersey for the World Cup Leader’s jersey at the next round in Italy on March 30th.
Ronde van Drenthe 2014
1. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Boels-Dolmans in 3-51-03
2. Anna Van Der Breggen (Ned) Rabobank at 2 secs
3. Shelley Olds (USA) Ale Cipollini at 29 secs
4. Chantal Blaak (Ned) Specialized-lululemon
5. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Giant-Shimano at same time
British riders Lucy Garner and Lizzie Armitstead finished second and third behind Chantal Blaak in Drentse 8
Lizzie Armitstead takes her first win of the 2014 season - also the first 2014 win for her Boels-Dolmans squad