Boels-Dolmans and Anna van der Breggen pulled of a remarkable trio of victories at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, the Olympic champion taking the win in Ans. For the third time in a week, the Dutch rider finished one place ahead of her British team-mate Lizzie Deignan.
The pair had been part of a five-woman break which formed after the summit of the Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons just under 20km from the finish.
Along with Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Energie), Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) and Elisa Longo-Borghini (Wiggle-High5) they built a gap of 50 seconds. However, the pack led by Orica-Scott, began closing them down in the final kilometres.
Undeterred, and as she had done in the previous two races, van der Breggen attacked, powering away to win by 17 seconds. Again for the third time in three races, Niewiadoma finished in third place.
With the wind blowing from the north the peloton raced into a headwind for the 135km race which set off from Bastogne, just before the men began in Liège.
Though there were only four categorised climbs the entire route was scattered with tough, undulating terrain, made all the more challenging by the aggressive racing. Numerous efforts were made to form a break though it was not until 48km had been covered that a break stuck.
Despite a strong headwind, French rider Aude Biannic (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope) broke free and had built a gap of 20 seconds, before she was joined by Niewiadoma’s Dutch team mate Jeanne Korevaar (WM3 Energie) chased hard to join the Frenchwoman.
However, when other counter-attacks began to fly, Boels-Dolmans came to the front to dissuade others, eventually allowing the gap to build to 1-20 with 70km raced, and the first of the four categorised climbs, the Côte de La Vecquée, looming.
It was on that climb and after the feed zone that the gap began to tumble, the headwind taking its toll, and the pair were caught before the top.
The climb 6.7km climb blew the race apart, the most notable casualty being the abandon of former world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, whose Canyon-SRAM team are yet to take a WorldTour victory.
While the descent to the foot of the legendary Côte de La Redoute saw a regrouping, the ensuing 9 per cent slopes split the peloton conclusively, leaving 30 riders to contest the final 35km.
Before the final escape went clear, Orica-Scott joined Boels-Dolmans making the race harder in the run in to the bottom of the Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons, the Australian team leading over the top with Annemiek van Vleuten.
However, the effort put the on the back foot, meaning they were forced to chase in the closing kilometres.
With Coryn Rivera not racing, the lead for the Women’s WorldTour is taken over by van Vleuten in advance of the next race in the series, the Tour of Chongming Island on 5-7th May.
Unsurprisingly after their stellar performances in the Ardennes, Boels-Dolmans lead the team classification with 1239 points ahead of Team Sunweb with 733.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes 2017, 135.5km
1. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, in 3-42-17
2. Lizzie Deignan (GBr) Boels-Dolmans, at 17 secs
3. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Energie, at 19 secs
4. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 31 secs
5. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Orica-Scott
6. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA)
7. Shara Gillow (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
8. Olga Zabelinskaya (Rus) Bepink Cogeas, at same time
9. Elize Longho Borgini (Ita) Wiggle-High5, at 34 secs
10. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) Cervelo-Bigla, at 41 secs