Former world champion Chantal van den Broek-Blaak dominated Le Samyn des Dames on Tuesday, winning with a solo breakaway.
The Boels-Dolmans rider attacked a lead group of 14 women around 58km from the line, eventually winning with an advantage of nearly two minutes.
Behind her the peloton was shattered by the cobbles and wind, and a chase group battled for the podium places. Eventually the winner's team mate, Christine Majerus led the chase in second, with Lotte Kopecky (Lotto-Soudal), fresh from the track worlds, in third place.
Boels-Dolmans dominated the race with four of their seven starters finishing in the top ten, while the win was also van den Broek-Blaak’s third victory at the event.
Last year was a tough one for the Dutch woman. Though she won early in the season, a back injury derailed the rest of her year, leaving the 2019 Omloop het Nieuwsblad as her only success. Tuesday’s win came after she finished fourth at this year’s Omloop, showing the 2017 world champion is back on form.
How it happened
Only 95km, the undulating route between Quaregnon and Dour, in the far west of Belgium, included five sectors of cobbles, each of them ridden three times.
After leaving the start, the peloton headed towards the closing circuit, joining it two kilometres after the finish in Dour, crossing the line for the first time after 41.1km. They then tackled two full laps of the 26.9km loop.
Despite a couple of minor crashes in the opening kilometres, it was only on the first passage of the Rue du vert Pignon that any of the 149 riders began to struggle, though they re-formed after the 1400m cobbled sector.
However, with the wind blowing, before the race reached the second pavé sector the bunch split, a group of 14 women heading up the road. Boels-Dolmans had three women in that leading group, including last year’s winner, Jip van den Bos.
However, the first time over the the Rue de Belle Vue, the last cobbled sector of each circuit, the Dutch squad sent former world champion, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak up the road, the Dutch woman gaining 20 seconds nearly instantly.
The 13 women chasing included two from Lotto-Soudal, and while the peloton lost ground, the varying ambitions in the chase group also allowed van den Broek-Blaak to increase her advantage to two minutes.
With mechanicals diminishing the chasers they soon began to drop back, though five women were able to avoid the clutches of what remained of the peloton. Meanwhile, as the race entered its final 30km, van den Broek-Blaak’s lead was now over three minutes.
The chasing group of Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), Aude Biannnic (Movistar), Lotte Kopecky (Lotto-Kopecky) managed to bring that deficit back, but the presence of leaders’ team mates Christine Majerus and van den Bos helped maintain it at around two minutes.
With the gap static, the closing kilometres were a fascinating battle for the podium. Majerus was first to attack, forcing van Dijk to close the gap. Biannic had a go, and van Dijk another, but it came to a five way sprint won by the Luxembourg champion.
Le Samyn des Dames: Quaregnon to Dour (94.9km)
1. Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Ned) Boels-Dolmans in 2-35-01
2. Christine Majerus (Lux) Boels-Dolmans at 1-50
3. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Lotto Soudal
4. Jip van den Bos (Ned) Boels-Dolmans
5. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at same time
6. Aude Biannic (Fra) Movistar at 1-56
7. Lonneke Uneken (Ned) Boels-Dolmans 3-43
8. Marjolein van’t Geloof (Ned) Drops
9. Claire Faber (Lux) Illi Bikes
10. Alba Teruel (Esp) Movistar
13. Lizzy Bennet (Gbr) Drops at same time
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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.
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