The women’s peloton continued to witness a changing of the guard in Belgium today, with Kirsten Wild winning Driedaagse De Panne. The Dutch woman was hardly a surprise winner in what was always set to be a bunch finish, but the fact only one of the biggest teams have won a WorldTour race this season shows the sport is perhaps changing.
Fresh from winning rainbow jerseys on the track, Wild’s (WNT-Rotor) win was never in doubt after she opened her powerful sprint late in the finishing straight. First she followed Boels-Dolmans’ Amalie Dideriksen, then as the Dane tired after being forced into the wind too early, Wild effortlessly passed.
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Former world champion Dideriksen eventually finished outside the top ten, while Wild’s 20 year-old compatriot Lorena Wiebes (Parkhotel Valkenburg) finished second, with local hero Lotte Kopecky (Lotto-Soudal) third.
It was another consummate sprint from Wild, who has been at the top of the sport for years and has the power to go with her canny race craft. Her team brought her to the front late in the frantic closing kilometres and she executed her sprint perfectly.
Of the bigger teams Trek-Segafredo’s Lotta Lepistö was the highest placed in fourth, while Sunweb’s Susanne Andersen finished one place behind her.
Of those big teams, Boels-Dolmans seem to be the ones suffering most this season. Chantal Blaak’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad success and Jip van den Bos’s Le Samyn des Dames win are the Dutch team’s only 2019 victories, and neither of those are WorldTour events.
Indeed Thursday’s race was the second consecutive top level race none of their riders have finished in the the top ten. Not only is world champion and serial winner Anna van der Breggen absent after winning the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race with team mate Annika Langvad, the squad have also suffered some poor fortune.
Earlier this month new signing, Belgian sprinter Jolien D’hoore crashed at the 1.1 ranked Drentse 8, breaking her collarbone. One of the sport’s best sprinters, D’hoore won in De Panne last year and would have been nailed on for at least a podium had she been present on Thursday.
How it happened
In its second edition, the 134.4km race set off in still conditions which, with a completely flat parcours, was not conducive for exciting racing. Last year’s race was blown to pieces early on by gales and feeling, but this year despite some early attacks, no early forays off the front stuck.
Riding for her new team BTC City Ljubljana, former British time trial champion Hayley Simmonds was one of those who tried her luck in the break, but after 40km did anything stick.
Portuguese rider, Daniela Reis (Doltcini Van Eyck) managed to build a lead of 30 seconds, but once again she was caught just four kilometres later.
While many continued to try their luck to get away, nothing was able to stick as the race tackled the pan flat kilometres of Belgium’s far north-west.
Finally, with 69km remaining the bunch split as they negotiated the twisty roads around Veurne, though even then it re-formed a short while later.
Ahead of fastest schedule, the race entered De Panne for the first of two 17km laps around the town and it was here that the break became more aggressive, with a dangerous breakaway forming.
First, Sofia Bertizzolo (Virtu) escaped and built a lead of 30 seconds, but she was then joined by Lucinda Brand (Sunweb), Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans), Roxanne Knetemann (Parkhotel Valkenburg) and Lauretta Hanson (Trek-Segafredo) and they built a small lead while behind the bunch worked frantically, eventually bringing them back, setting the race for what was a chaotic sprint.
Driedaagse Brugge De Panne 2019: Brugge to De Panne (134.4km)
1. Kirsten Wild (Ned) WNT-Rotor in 3-13-07
2. Lorena Wibes (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg
3. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Lotto Soudal Ladies
4. Lotta Lepistö (Fin) Trek-Segafredo
5. Susanne Andersen (Nor) Sunweb
6. Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Valcar-Cylance
7. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Virtu
8. Emilia Fahlin (Swe) Virtu
9. Arlenis Sierra (Cub) Astana Women
10. Marianne Vos (Ned) CCC-Liv all at same time