When Anna van der Breggen received the winner’s flowers on the Flèche Wallonne podium on Wednesday, she was handed them by the boss of her team’s sponsor.
Boels Rentals is based in the area and their orange logo adorns everything at the three hilly classics in and around the Ardennes. The team’s kit matches everything from the winner’s gantry to the hoardings – even the mobile toilets display their unmistakable moniker.
Winning these races was important for Van der Breggen’s Boels-Dolmans team.
And win they did. Emphatically.
Wednesday’s result was a carbon copy of Amstel Gold Race where Lizzie Deignan took second place behind her Dutch colleague, and puts the team firmly back on top.
By the standards of last season, when the Dutch outfit dominated the spring, with only one victory the opening five WorldTour races, they have not performed well. But the Olympic champion’s victory in Huy and at last Sunday’s Amstel Gold has put them back on course.
Despite three wins at last week’s Healthy Ageing Tour on the flatlands of the northern Netherlands, team manager Danny Stam believes the confidence came at Ghent-Wevelgem.
However this week’s performances have been more than just confident.
“We have had some hard times, so it is easy to keep the feet on the ground,” explained a smiling Stam. “I had planned to be good this week and the girls planned to be good in this week. All I can say is ‘chapeau’ to them that they are in good shape at the right moment.”
Wednesday was the third consecutive Flèche Wallonne victory for van der Breggen, though she cannot put her finger on why the race suits her so well.
“I have no idea,” she laughed, amid the noise of the men’s podium celebrations. “You need to have goof shape because it is a really hard race and I like these races if I am strong. A big thanks to Lizzie of course, because she could also have won this race.”
Second placed Deignan, whose illness issues have blighted her spring preparation, was surprised by her form, “I’m miles ahead, if I could do some training god knows what could happen,” she smiled before explaining how the race panned out.
“It was not a particular plan for it to be Anna one and me two, but we wanted to be with two over that climb [the penultimate Côte de Cherave] and play the game
“I put put in an attack and then Anna did, I guess once Kasia [Niewiadoma, third placed] chased me down she didn’t have the legs anymore to chase Anna, so an easy ride into the finish for me.”
Looking around at the orange banners Deignan then added, “We are used to the criticism, but you have to keep your head down and keep working hard. We always knew that this is the most important week for us, look around, it’s all Boels Rentals, so as long as the sponsor is happy then that’s the most important thing.”
The team will line up with a similar team and similar ambitions for Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège.