Dutch time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) staked her claim to lead the Dutch team at the upcoming World Championships team by winning the Boels Rental Ladies Tour on Sunday.
The 34-year-old led the race from start to finish, winning the prologue and consolidating her lead with victory in the stage three individual time trial.
The Orica-Scott rider was challenged only by compatriot and Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans), who finished 43-seconds down after the pair broke away on Saturday’s 137.5km fifth stage in the hills of Limburg.
At 155km, also in the hills of the southern Netherlands, Sunday’s final stage was the longest and when Van Vleuten’s dominance came under the biggest threat.
Early in the day a strong group of eleven riders escaped and, when OVO Energy Women’s Tour winner Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Energy) and Janneke Ensing (Ale-Cipollini) bridged across, Van Vleuten’s Orica-Scott team were forced into defensive mode.
There were echoes of the river bridge incident at the Ladies Tour of Norway, when the peloton was caught on the wrong side of a closed level crossing, though Van Vleuten’s team eventually ensured she successfully defended her advantage.
The six stage race, the last multi-day event of the Women’s WorldTour, was dominated by the Dutch. German rider Lisa Brennauer (Canyon-SRAM) was the only foreign rider to win a stage when she won a sprint finish on the fourth day.
Along with from Van Vleuten’s victories against the clock and van der Breggen’s win on Saturday, Kirsten Wild (Cylance Pro Cycling) and Ensing bagged the remaining stages.
Home riders also occupied six of the top ten places on the general classification, proving their seven-woman team will be the one to beat at the World Championships in Norway later this month.
Many of those favourites are unlikely to be riding at the Madrid Challenge next Sunday. The race – held to coincide with the end of the men’s Vuelta a España – is the final race of the Women’s WorldTour, but Cycling Weekly understands many top teams have chosen to prepare for the World Championship team time trial rather than head to Spain.
With Deignan withdrawing from the race while in tenth place, the best placed British rider was Hannah Barnes. The Canyon-SRAM rider has had an excellent season and was aggressive throughout the week, helping Brennauer to her stage win and place two team mates in the top ten on GC.
Boels Rental Ladies Tour, final general classification
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Orica-Scott, in 14-41-57
2. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, at 00-43
3. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 1-03
4. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Canyon-SRAM, at 1-24
5. Linda Villumsen (NZ) VéloConcept Women, at 1-49
6. Chantal Blaak (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, at 1-55
7. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Energie, at 3-04
8. Janneke Ensing (Ned) Alé-Cipollini, at 2-18
9. Amy Pieters (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, at 2-19
10. Elena Cecchini (Ita) Canyon-SRAM, at 2-27