Amy Pieters made it two from two for Boels-Dolmans after winning the second Women’s WorldTour race in the Netherlands on Sunday. The Dutchwoman sprinted to victory on home ground at the Ronde van Drenthe ahead of American rider Alexis Ryan of Canyon-SRAM after a long and gnarly race over cobbled roads.
Australian sprinter Chloe Hosking (Ale-Cippolini) finished in third place.
Pieters, who finished second in the 2015 edition of the event, opened up her sprint with nearly 300 metres to go, and while Ryan was able to come alongside, the young American, who won the Drentse8 warm up race on Friday, was unable to get past her.
The bunch sprint was the culmination of an exciting final 30 kilometres, which saw a number of small groups gain advantages they were unable to maintain. Only Australian Gracie Elvin was able to establish any meaningful lead, though the Mitchelton-Scott rider was caught when two groups came together behind her.
How it happened
Immediately the 154km race began two riders escaped alone. Louise Norman Hansen (Team Virtu) and Annelies Dom (Lotto-Soudal Ladies) were allowed to build a lead of 45 seconds. Though that had been reduced by the first intermediate sprint, the pair were caught after following a police motorbike off route with around 14km ridden.
The original route had been planned with nine cobbled sectors, though one of those – covered twice towards the end of the race – was cut for safety reasons. However, the first six came early in the race and, while these did not cause lasting splits in the peloton, each brought about some gaps, the subsequent chase tiring the legs of those left behind.
The otherwise flat is course is characterised by four ascents of the VAMberg, a climb over a disused rubbish site with a maximum elevation of just 44 metres above sea level.
All four ascents came in close succession, only seven kilometres separating each, and on the approach to the first Marjolein van’t Geloof became the second Lotto-Soudal rider to attack. However, the climb is narrow and the fight for position behind ensured she was brought to heel before the top.
Before the fourth climb the race had been high-paced, though relatively benign, however, over the top three riders tried to get away from the 80 or so remaining from the 134 starters. While they were ultimately unsuccessful, their attack heralded the beginning of an aggressive final 67km.
First to attack was Movistar’s Margarita Garcia who went clear after the first of three preliminary passes of the finish line in Hoogeveen, with 52km to go. After a brief hiatus the Boels-Dolmans team of eventual winner Pieters went to the front, stretching the bunch, catching the Spanish rider with ease.
The pressure was inconsistent, however, the Dutch team unwilling to do all the work, the speed waxing and waning, riders repeatedly being dropped before getting back on.
With one of the world’s top sprinters in Jolien D’hoore amongst their number, Mitchelton-Scott were left to police the front of the peloton. It was only when a large crash took out a number of big names, including world champion Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans), just before the final cobbled sector, that they upped the pace significantly.
Despite having five of their six riders present and a valiant attack by Australian Gracie Elvin with just 11km to ride, the Australian team were unable to make a conclusive selection, the race coming back together for a final which, while aggressive with multiple attacks, led to a bunch sprint.
With Anna van der Breggen’s Strade Bianche victory last week, Boels-Dolmans have now won both Women’s WorldTour races this year, and will be looking for more when Lizzie Deignan returns to the team for the next event, Trofeo Binda, near Milan, next week.
Ronde van Drenthe 2018 (157.2km)
1. Amy Pieters (Ned) Boels Dolmans, in 4-06-44
2. Alexis Ryan (USA) Canyon/SRAM, st
3. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Alé Cippolini, at 1s
4. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Alé Cippolini
5. Marianne Vos (Ned) Waowdeala
6. Coryn Rivera (USA) Sunweb
7. Arlenis Sierra (Cub) Astana Women
8. Roxanne Fournier (Fra) FDJ
9. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Sunweb
10. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Sunweb, all same time