Amy Pieters added to the Netherlands’ tally of European titles today, sprinting from a three woman breakaway to the take the win in Alkmaar.
The 28 year-old was the clear winner in the sprint, Elena Cecchini crossing the line a bike length behind in second, and Germany’s Lisa Klein third.
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The three had been off the front of the race for more than 76km and had begun jockeying for position only inside the final two kilometres. Despite her best efforts, Klein was in an unenviable position on the front throughout the final 1500 metres, and was passed easily by Pieters who opened her effort in the final 200 metres.
Cecchini, in only her second race since a crash at June’s OVO Energy Women’s Tour, was never able to get on terms with the Dutchwoman, but managed to overtake her Canyon-SRAM team mate, Klein with relative ease.
After a tremendous effort to close the gap the British team came away with fifth place for Alice Barnes.
How it happened
With high winds raging across the Dutch flatlands, the peloton race was blown to pieces nearly as soon as the flag dropped. And, with just 20km of the 115km course in Alkmaar covered, the bunch was split into three groups spread over more than one minute.
The leading group of 15 contained five women from a super strong Dutch team, with Anna Henderson the only Brit making the early selection. With two of the ten pan flat laps done they led a second group by 30 seconds.
On these early laps the home squad took much of the responsibility, though their advantage dropped the moment they allowed the German team to come to the front.
Despite having three riders in the lead group the Italians led the chase, and with the Dutch hesitancy among the leaders, the advantage soon came down, and a larger group formed.
With 2017 champion Marianne Vos and Kirsten Wild now in that front group the Dutch now had even greater strength, though Henderson also had reinforcements, Nikki Juniper and national champion Alice Barnes giving the Brits options.
With 76km left to race, the Dutch put another rider up the road when Pieters took what was to be the winning move away, and over the ensuing six kilometres the trio built a lead of 1.30.
Representing the strongest countries in the race and the chasing group, and with all three having excellent sprints, their team mates should have seen no need to chase. However, with the gap over 2.30 only five kilometres later, the Dutch began attacking from behind.
First Demi Vollering, then Lucinda Brand, Chantal Blaak and Marianne Vos had a go, but with other teams alert, none of the home squad’s efforts were successful, though they succeeded in ensuring the pace remained high.
Out front the three leaders cooperated extremely well, their lead settling at two minutes while the jockeying behind made the racing exciting and fascinating in equal measure.
As the race approached the closing 50km Juniper came to the head of the peloton in an effort to close the gap. The 37 year-old was briefly able to bring the gap under two minutes, but with no help from other countries the leaders once again began to slip away.
After nearly ten minutes on the front Juniper was joined by both Henderson and Barnes, the British team taking responsibility with the race disappearing up the road.
A solo effort by Barnes brought a reaction from the leaders’ team mates, but it was only with 32km remaining that GB received any help, with the Belgians coming to the front.
However, despite this the three leaders’ gap gradually increased, again approaching the 1.50 mark, having been within 1.40.
British and Belgian matches burnt, and with just over 20km to go, the Dutch returned to the front and at last, the gap to the leaders began to tumble, and with 15km remaining the deficit was inside one minute for the first time.
However, with the catch apparently in touching distance the Dutch, with the Italian team of last year’s champion Marta Bastianelli on their wheel, sat up allowing the leaders their heads.
European Championships 2019: Elite women’s road race, Alkmaar – Alkmaar (115km)
1. Amy Pieters, Netherlands in 2-56-03
2. Elena Cecchini, Italy
3. Lisa Klein, Germany all at same time
4. Lorena Wiebes, Netherlands at 25 sec
5. Alice Barnes, GB
6. Kirsten Wild, Netherlands
7. Lisa Brennauer, Germany
8. Susanne Andersen, Norway
9.Christine Majerus, Luxembourg
10. Rasa Leleivyte, Lithuania all at same time