It was heartbreak for the breakaway as Coryn Rivera (Sunweb) sprinted to victory at an aggressive and entertaining Tour of Flanders on Sunday.
The American rider became the first woman to win two Women’s WorldTour races this year, her team achieving the same feat.
The 24-year-old American had been part of a group of 15 riders who caught a break of four within the final kilometre. It was an emotional moment for Rivera, winner of Trofeo Alfedo Binda two weeks ago, she collapsed in tears over the line, hugging team mate Ellen van Dijk, who had done so much work to catch the escapees.
As the bells high in the tower of Oudenaarde’s church tower tolled the 11 o’clock, the peloton rolled out for the longest race of the season so far. At over 153km, the route contained four cobbled sectors and 12 climbs, some of which were also surfaced with pavé.
Though the opening hour was aggressive, with a number of attacks, none were successful in gaining a meaningful advantage. However, with 41 km covered in those opening 60 minutes, three riders managed to gain 30 seconds, on a bunch seemingly content in the knowledge they could close the gap on a whim.
This proved the case. As the peloton approached the second third of the race, re-entering the Oudenaarde, the gap closed and, by the time they reached the first climb, the Achterberg, they were caught.
The ensuing climbs did not bring any significant selection, though they did begin to wear down the peloton, weaker riders being dropped one by one. It was the climb of the Muur van Geraardsbergen which created the first gaps, the peloton splitting and, shortly after, Rivera’s Dutch rider Rozanne Slik attacked and quickly building a gap in excess of one minute.
An attempt by French rider Elise Delzenne (Lotto-Soudal) to catch the Dutch woman proved fruitless, however, as the Slik maintained her gap until, after 112 km, on the Pottelberg, five rider launched a counter attack.
This brought a reaction for the bunch and Slik’s advantage began to tumble and she was caught on the climb of the Kanrieberg, with just 35 km to ride. A group of around 35 riders emerged from that climb which was later split again when Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) attacked on Oudestraat forming what was so nearly the winning break
With Elisa Longo-Borghini (Wiggle-High5), Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) and Polish champion Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Energie) the quartet built a significant gap, however, with Canyon-SRAM and Team Sunweb absent, the gap began to close.
With those two teams working hard the escapees came in sight and the die was cast when the catch was made with little over 800 metres to ride.
Lizzie Deignan finished as top Briti in 17th place, five seconds down
The Next round of the Women’s WorldTour is Amstel Gold Race on April 16th.
Tour of Flanders Women – 153.2km Oudenaarde-Oudenaarde
1. Coryn Rivera (USA) Team Sunweb 4-02-38
2. Gracie Elvin (Aus) Orica-Scott
3. Chantal Blaak (Ned) Boels-Dolmans
4. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Orica-Scott
5. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Lotto-Soudal Ladies
6. Elena Ccecchini (Ita) Canyon-SRAM
7. Rasa Leleivyte (Lit) Aromitalia Vaiano
8. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Energie
9. Janneke Ensing (Ned) Ale2-Cipollini
10. Elisa Longo-Borghini (Ita) Wiggle-High5 all at same time