By Owen Rogers
Jolien D’hoore made it yet another win for SD Worx on the opening day of the Healthy Ageing Tour on Wednesday.
The Belgian rider took a tight, and chaotic sprint at the Assen TT circuit, just about pipping British champion Alice Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) on the line.
Barnes had opened her sprint early, in the chicane ahead of the finish straight, and looked to be on her way to victory, but D’hoore was supremely powerful, winning by less than a wheel. Karlijn Swinkels (Jumbo-Visma) was third.
The combination of the wide circuit and the chicane made for a messy sprint, which was marred when former Dutch champion Lorena Wiebes crashed after apparently clipped Barnes’s wheel.
Her spill also sent D’hoore slightly off course, but she was able to continue SD Worx's amazing run of form, which has so far netted the team three wins in four starts.
Another Brit, Anna Henderson was fourth, just behind her Jumbo-Visma team-mate, Karlijn Swinkels.
A late move from 18-year-old Daniek Hengeveld (GT Krush-Tunap), made for a very exciting final. The Dutch rider attacked a lap and a half out and still led by more than 20 seconds with two kilometres to go.
However, when the big sprinters' teams came to the gap tumbled, Barnes launching her sprint the moment she was caught, though she still finished in the top 10.
How it happened
That this year’s Healthy Ageing Tour is happening is a feat of determination as there are unlikely to be many races in the Netherlands this year, and organisers have moved heaven and earth to put the race on.
With the government prohibiting stage starts or finishes in towns, organisers Courage Events have thought outside the box, and moved away from population centres into the - very flat - countryside.
The knock-on effect is a lack of funding, which brought the race’s normal livestream into question. However, a crowdfunding effort was augmented by an “anonymous benefactor,” and coverage on GCN/Eurosport has propelled what was a well-kept secret into the public domain - even if it is slightly overshadowed by two rather well-known men’s races.
Stage one of Courage’s strategy saw the race begin with a 126km stage at the Assen TT motorsport track in the Dutch far north east, a location better used to MotoGP and World Superbikes than bicycles.
The 4.5km circuit was ridden 28 times, with bonus seconds available on three intermediate sprints, and even a mountain sprint at the end of the 14th lap, at the circuit's highest point, 13.9m above sea level.
With this time available early on in the race, the peloton stayed together, SDWorx’s former European champion Amy Pieters taking the first bonus sprint.
The race was still together after 45km, when Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT) won the second bonus sprint, with Brit, Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) crossing the line third. Shortly after Australian sprinter Chloe Hosking (Trek-Segafredo) won the climbing classification.
Only after the climb did anyone get away, Swiss rider, Léna Mettraux (Andy Schleck-CP NVST-Immo Losch) gaining a small advantage on the bunch. With her lead at around 30 seconds others Jos Lowden (Drops-Le Col) and Nathalie Eklund (GT Krush-Tunap) set off in pursuit.
It was Mettraux who won the day’s final bonus, but Lowden bagged two seconds ahead of the stage two time trial, and though the trio were caught immediately afterwards.
There was a moment of danger when three German women, Romy Kasper (Jumbo-Visma), Gudrun Stock (Germany) and the defending champion from 2019, Lisa Klein (Canyon-SRAM) escaped the bunch. However, SDWorx were in no mood to let anyone go, bringing them back and taking control, all six riders at the front.
After a quiet five kilometres Mettraux once again headed up the road and the 22 year-old Swiss woman was allowed to build a lead of 25 seconds, though she was closed down as the race entered the final 15km and the sprinters’ teams began forming up for the final.
Despite a stacked field of top time trialists British riders have genuine hopes for Thursday’s 14.4km test against the clock. Former double national champion Hayley Simmonds is among CAMS-Tifosi’s six woman line up, with Lowden also strong against the clock.
Healthy Ageing Tour 2021: stage one, Assen - Assen (126km)
1. Jolien D’hore (Bel) SD Worx, 3-14-03
2. Alice Barnes (GBr) Canyon-SRAM
3. Karlijn Swinkels (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
4. Anna Henderson (GBr) Jumbo Visma
5. Charlotte Kool (Ned) NXTG
6. Amy Pieters (Ned) SDWorx
7. Georia Danford (NZ) Andy Schleck -CP NVST - Immo Losch
8. Daniek Hengeveld (Ned) GT Krush-Tunap
9. Marjolein Van ’t Geloof (Ned) Drops-Le Col
10. Amber van der Hulst (Parkhotel Valkenburg), all at same time
General classification after stage one
1. Jolien D'hoore (Bel) SD Worx, in 3-13-53
2. Alice Barnes (GBr) Canyon-SRAM, at 4 sec
3. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Ceratizit-WNT, at 5 sec
4. Karlijn Swinkels (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 6 sec
5. Amy Pieters (Ned) SD Worx, at 7 sec
6. Emma Norsgaard (Den) Movistar
7. Léna Mettraux (Sui) (Andy Schleck-CP NVST-Immo Losch), all at same time
8. Jos Lowden (GBr) Drops Le Col, at 8 sec
9. Anna Henderson (GBr) Jumbo Visma, at 9 sec
10. Nathalie Eklund (Swe) GT Krush-Tunap, at same time
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