Marianne Vos took Jumbo Visma Women's team first WorldTour victory at Ghent-Wevelgem on Sunday. In what was an incredibly exciting final 35km, the former multiple world champion opened her sprint from way back in the group, with around 300m remaining, but was so strong no one was able to get near her.
Belgian champion Lotte Kopecky (Liv-Racing) and German champion Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT) repeated their results from last year's race, finishing second and third respectively in a keenly fought battle for the podium.
Despite a fast but strangely subdued opening 100km, the race was hugely exciting, with a number of moves coming after a split which came on the Kemmelberg, the last of seven climbs.
Groups came and went, but with 15km to go Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) and Soraya Paladin rode off the front of a group of seven, staying clear until Vos opened her sprint to the line.
How it happened
A fire in the closing kilometres of this, the fourth event of the Women’s WorldTour, added 1100m to the planned route, making for a total of 142.8km, stating in Ypres and finishing in Wevelgem.
As is customary at this race, early attacks were nullified, the bunch staying together in the opening 20km, and only succumbing to the strong crosswinds after around 25km. However, the race re-formed as it reached its northernmost point, in the village of Roesbrugge, before turning south and into a further stretch of crosswinds.
Inside the closing 100km the race finally split, though even then only briefly, 17 women emerging from another stretch of crosswinds, 18km ahead of the Scherpenberg, the first of seven climbs. But even such a large group could not stay away, and once more it came back together.
A fast start which had prevented any escapes, but the pace lifted even further as the climbs approached and the peloton began to be whittled away from behind as riders slipped out of the back through that and the ensuing three climbs. However, a large group emerged from those climbs and entered the first of the gravel Plugstreets.
While the race was stretched on those Plugstreets it seemed the whole peloton was waiting for the second double ascent of the Monteberg and Kemmelberg to kick off the real aggression. And as they approached the pace ramped up, gradually causing more riders to drift off the back.
More women were dropped on the Monteberg as the big teams set a high pace at the front, before Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Longo Borghini lit the touch paper on the cobbles of the Kemmelberg.
Wearing the purple WorldTour leader’s jersey, the Italian champion emerged from the descent with Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) for company. The pair are well matched and worked very well in trying to hold off a group of five women, but when they were joined by Vos and SD Worx’s Amy Pieters, the impetus left and a peloton of around 30 women formed at the head of the race.
With her Jumbo-Visma team-mate Vos safe in the group, with 30km remaining Brit Anna Henderson made a big move, escaping alone and leaving an unconvinced peloton looking to each other to chase.
The 22-year-old Henderson soon had a decent advantage and rode through Grote Markt in Ypres 25 seconds ahead, but on the windswept road towards the finish Trek-Segafredo put the race in the gutter catching the Brit almost instantly, forming a leading group of nine. However, that lasted for less than a kilometre before Longo Borghini attacked, taking Italian compatriot Soraya Paladin (Liv Racing) with her.
As the two Italians built a lead the group they had attacked swelled to 40, though despite this they entered the final 10km with an advantage of 30 seconds as it was left to BikeExchange and Valcar Travel and Service to monitor the gap. However, in the last five kilometres other joined the chase and they were caught with only 300m to go.
Ghent Wevelgem Women 2021: Ypres - Wevelgem (142.8km)
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Jumbo Visma in 3-45-08
2. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Liv Racing
3. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Ceratizit WNT
4. Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service
5. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Alé-BTC Ljubljana
6. Emilia Fahlin (Swe) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
7. Kristen Faulkner (USA) Tibco SVB
8. Sarah Roy (Aus) BikeExchange
9. Emma Norsgaard (Den) Movistar
10. Lauren Stephens (USA) Tibco SVB all at same time
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