By Owen Rogers
It’s been another great spring for Boels-Dolmans. The world’s top ranked women’s team close the opening phase of the season with 11 wins to their name. Including success at Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, they have won six of the nine Women’s WorldTour races to date.
It’s all very familiar.
Gaining momentum since Lizzie Deignan won the final two editions of the Women’s World Cup in 2014 and 2015, the team continued with Megan Guarnier and Anna van der Breggen topping the rankings of the first two years of the Women's WorldTour.
Though the Brit contributed to those successes, it is apparent she has not been missed since announcing her pregnancy earlier this year.
“Of course Lizzie is one of the most important riders in our team,” team manager Danny Stam told Cycling Weekly in the shadow of the podium in Liège where Anna van der Breggen had celebrated her fourth WorldTour victory this year. “But when the great news from Lizzie came out the girls saw some more opportunities and when the first win was there then the pressure was gone.”
The loss of one key rider could be expected to undermine the strength of a team of 11, but Stam has been used to balancing the requirements and ambitions of a stellar roster form some years, and has apparently found a way around the challenges, creating even more success.
“It’s planning, that is the most important thing. I speak with the girls about where they want to peak or where they need to peak. For example Chantal [Blaak, the world champion] was not racing Flèche Wallonne because we needed to give her a break.”
After winning the 2017 Women’s WorldTour’s individual ranking, Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen has continued her winning ways and is perhaps emblematic of the team’s success.
However, she is not the only winner. Chantal Blaak won Amstel Gold Race recently and Amy Pieters the Ronde van Drenthe, while there was team trial success at the Healthy Ageing Tour where Van der Breggen, Blaak, and Pieters all took stage wins and the team occupied the top four places on general classification.
Such success might suggest women’s racing has been boring this year, but that is far from the case. Liège was evidence that other teams are taking the battle to the Dutch team, Canyon-SRAM and Mitchelton-Scott especially aggressive, the latter finishing second and third with Amanda Spratt and Annemiek van Vleuten respectively.
Though he would not name his main challengers, Stam sums it up.
“Liège was a great race for women’s cycling, if you see how aggressive the race was it was a symbol of how we want to promote the sport.
“We live form race to race, we can look back on a great, great Spring season and now we have to continue. Other teams don’t let their heads down, they keep making it difficult for us.”
While Boels-Dolmans may continue their successful ways as the season progresses don't expect other teams to roll over and let it happen.
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