By Owen Rogers
Dutchwoman Lucinda Brand won the Internationale Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour on the back of a dominant show from her five-woman Trek-Segafredo squad.
Brand, who is the reigning cyclocross world champion, also bagged two stage wins as the American squad put on a show during the six day German race. Brand finished in the top seven on each of the six stages, winning on days three and five with late moves which gapped her rivals.
With one stage win to her credit, Belgian champion Lotte Kopecky was second overall, riding for the national team, while Danish champion Emma Norsgaard’s opening day victory saw the Movistar rider take third.
After a spring blighted by sickness, the race also saw a return to action for Lizzie Deignan. Active on stage one, she was the final helper for Brand and finished ninth overall 1-26 down.
Her compatriot Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) was also aggressive throughout the week, bagging four top 10 finishes and closed the race in 25th overall, some 6-28 down, most of that time lost on stage three.
How it happened
The six-day race takes place in the German state of Thüringia to the west of Leipzig, in an area that was, until 1990 part of East Germany.
The race’s first edition was before reunification, in 1986, and since then it has only missed three years, 1990, ’91 and last year because of the pandemic. Names like Nicole Cooke, Judith Arndt and Emma Johansson are among the winners of the previous 32 editions, though in recent years home riders have been successful.
Current German champion Lisa Brennauer won in 2017 and ’18 and Kathrin Hammes was the defending champion, both riding for Ceratizit-WNT at this year’s race.
Hammes was particularly active on the 88.9km opening stage around the small town of Schmölln, making her way into two breakaways and taking the Queen of the Mountains jersey and working hard to hold it to the end.
It was a late break that took the honours, 17 women fighting for the win, with Danish champion Emma Norsgaard (Movistar) continuing a magnificent start to the year by winning the sprint, and taking the yellow jersey.
For stage two, the race headed west to Gera for another aggressive, dynamic day of 125.1km, in which some of the participating club teams were particularly active, forming part of two breakaways.
Neither were ever likely to stay away though, and the race re-formed for a bunch kick, won by DSM’s Dutch sprinter, Lorena Wiebes, though Norsgaard was second and retained the overall lead.
Starting and finishing on what was Germany’s oldest street motor racing circuit in Schleiz, the 116.5km third stage was another opportunity for the local teams, with RSG Gießen Biehler placing two women in the day’s escape. Also there was Caroline Andersson (Coop-Hitec Products) and Kirsten Wild (Ceratizit-WNT), one of the pro peloton’s strongest sprinters.
While the Dutch rider drove the break along they were caught with a little more than 16km remaining, Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo) and Liane Lippert (DSM) countering soon after. Brand went solo with 500m to go, taking the stage, though Norsgaard sprinted to second place, retaining the overall lead.
Stage four was a fast and frantic affair, no break able to go clear until over 45 of the 101km were done. Then 11 women built an advantage of over two minutes, but with Movistar leading the bunch behind, they were brought back.
The race finished at the top of the Hanka-berg, named after 1999 race winner, former world time trial champion and local rider Hanka Kupfernagel. Over one kilometre at an average of 9 per cent saw Norsgaard slipping back, and though it was Lotte Kopecky who won the stage, Brand was second, assuming the race lead.
Over 143km and with more than 1,900m of climbing made stage five the hardest. Starting and finishing in Weimar, the day’s break went clear with 10km done, Lisa Klein (Canyon-SRAM) and 2017 world champion Chantal Van den Broek-Blaak (SDWorx) getting away, eventually extending their lead to 3-30.
However, with Movistar and DSM taking control of the bunch they entered the final 20km with a reduced advantage and were caught with 12km to go.
Numerous attacks peppered the hilly final, but after being set up by team-mate Deignan, Brand launched a solo move, having on to win by six seconds, extending her overall lead to 17 seconds ahead of Sunday’s final stage.
Like all the previous stages the final day began and ended in the same place, this time in Gotha, a city of 40,000 people just west of state capital Erfurt.
Just under 100km, the stage began in frantic style, though Elena Cecchini (SDWorx), Neve Bradbury (Canyon-SRAM) and Karlijn Swinkels (Jumbo-Visma) eventually got away, though they were never allowed too much leeway and were caught inside the closing 10km.
Numerous attacks characterised the final few kilometres but a bunch sprint was inevitable, Wiebes taking her second stage win of the week on the uphill finish.
Though Brand finished two seconds down, in sixth place that was enough for her to take the overall.
Internationale Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour - Final general classification
1. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Trek-Segafredo in 17-53-35
2. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Belgium at 9 seconds
3. Emma Norsgaard (Den) Movistar at 18s
4. Liane Lippert (Ger) DSM at 40s
5. Emilia Fahlin (Swe) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope at 42s
6. Amy Pieters (Ned) SDWorx at 50s
7. Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Canyon-SRAM at 1-03
8. Christine Majerus (Lux) SDWorx at 1-19
9. Lizzie Deignan (Gbr) Trek-Segafredo at 1-26
10. Valerie Demey (Bel) Belgium at 11-28
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