Lorena Wiebes took her first Women's WorldTour win of the season after crossing the line second at the Three Days Brugge De Panne on Tuesday.
The Dutch rider finished behind Boels-Dolmans' rider Jolien D'hoore, but the Belgian was relegated after changing her line and pushing Wiebes towards the barrier. D'hoore had begun her sprint early, chasing down Wiebes's Sunweb team-mate, Alison Jackson, who had launched early, but as Wiebes closed in she changed her line, though she did appear to leave sufficient room on the barrier to be passed.
German champion Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT) came from behind to take second, with Belgian champion Lotte Kopecky (Lotto-Soudal) in third.
A frantic closing 20km saw Sunweb come to the front in the final 1500m, but when D'hoore's team-mate Amy Pieters went long Jackson was forced to counter, nearly making it after Pieters faded. Wiebes remained patient though, staying on the wheel until the last moment.
For her part, the lack of any real celebration, or even smiles suggested D'hoore was expecting to be relegated, receiving the news as she was about to be interviewed after the race.
National champion Alice Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) was top Brit in sixth place, an excellent result after she was distanced in a stretch of crosswinds, eventually bridging the gap alone.
How it happened
Since being reduced from a three-day stage race to a one-day event in 2018, De Panne has retained its name and added a Women’s WorldTour race.
Starting in the city of Brugge and finishing in the seaside town of De Panne, the 156.3km race is the longest one-day event of the 2020 women’s calendar. With an opening section taking the race onto two and a half laps of a local circuit, crossing the finish line on the first occasion after 63km.
Virtually pan flat, the race’s highest point of 35m above sea level came inside the opening 10km, before the route headed towards the coast, spending much of the time on roads below sea level.
The opening part of the race was disappointing, the peloton appearing to be suffering a hangover from Sunday's exciting edition of the Tour of Flanders. That, combined with the flat parcours and an early lack of wind led to an uninspiring opening 100km.
This began to change at the sprint prime, with 63km to go where two crashes split the bunch. Here British rider Pfeiffer Georgi (Sunweb) was forced to abandon, but ahead of her the pace lifted, Parkhotel-Valkenburg exchanging blows off the front with any team prepared to go with them. However, for each move there was a response from the peloton and the race stayed resolutely as one.
With 30km to go Boels-Dolmans and Sunweb appeared at the front, and as the race turned into a crosswind section the peloton split, with around 35 women in the leading group. However, even then, with the road constantly changing direction, one of the chasing groups, led by Barnes, made contact and the race eased once again.
Once again, just inside the closing 20km another crosswind section brought another split, with only around 20 women at the front, including all the top sprinters and their domestiques. Initially this appeared to be conclusive, but an imbalance in numbers caused cooperation to drain away, and a small group of chasers got on with seven kilometres to go.
This precipitated a frantic final, with numerous attacks. With two riders but no sprinter the Trek-Segafredo pair of Ellen van Dijk and Elisa Longo Borghini made repeated attempts to get away, while Boels-Dolmans had their whole team present and did the same with Pieters closing effort looking to have set up D'hoore's victory.
With none of the leaders present, Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) continues to lead the Women's WorldTour with just one event of the series remaining. With none of the routes for the three-stage Ceratizit Madrid Challenge yet announced and Europe still in the grip of the pandemic, Tuesday may have been the last top tier women's race of the year, with Deignan bagging another honour.
Three Days Brugge De Panne: Brugge - De Panne (156.3km)
1. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) Sunweb in 3-39-43
2. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Ceratizit-WNT
3. Lotte Kopecky (Belgium) Lotto-Soudal
4. Sarah Roy (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
5. Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) CCC-Liv
6. Alice Barnes (Gbr) Canyon-SRAM
7. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
8. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
9. Alison Jackson (Can) Sunweb
10. Eugénie Duval (Fra) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope, all at same time
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