As she crossed the line in second place Lizzie Deignan celebrated as if she had won Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race.
Finishing behind teammate Anna van der Breggen was satisfying result for the former world champion, whose season has not gone as well as she had hoped.
Though she managed to finish third at Strade Bianche, she was unable to ride Ghent-Wevelgem three weeks ago, and has been blighted by illness which has hampered her training.
Indeed, her season reflects that of her team, who have have suffered their fair share of illness and injury and prevented them from dictating races in the way they did last year.
They were, however, fully aware such dominance would be nearly impossible to recreate and, with both title sponsors based in the area, had targeted the Ardennes Classics.
Managing to place all six of their riders in the decisive 35 woman group, Boels-Dolmans looked strong throughout Sunday’s race. The plan had always been to send Deignan up the road and have van der Breggen bridge to her.
“It was relief that we could race how we like to race again,” Deignan told Cycling Weekly at the finish. “It was pure joy. I had good legs finally and Anna wasn’t sick any more.
“Everyone was on their knees on this parcours, it was so windy and every time there was a little bit of wind the girls went to the front and smashed it. Megan [Guarnier] as well, it was her first race back and she was really impressive.
“It went exactly to plan.”
Of all the team’s injuries, Guarnier’s concussion picked up in a crash in late February, was perhaps the most serious. And while the American appears to be recovered, Deignan, on the other hand, is not certain her sickness issues are behind her.
“I’m still managing whatever it is I have,” she explained. “It’s recurring stomach problems that I have had in the past, but I’m happy I was not in pain today.
“I haven’t done any kind of consistent training this year, so I am really surprised by what I was able to do. If I can continue this week like I have stared it and I am not regressing back to illness, then I should have a good Tour de Yorkshire which will be a nice way to salvage my spring.”
As it is for her team, this season is a stark contrast to 2016 where by this time Deignan had four victories to her name.
“Last year I think I won almost every race I entered in the spring, so it’s very different to come away [this year] with two podiums.
“It’s not satisfying, it’s frustrating. But I have perspective on it, knowing I have done everything I could, it’s not a case of being lazy. Sometimes you just have to accept it.”
Deignan will next race at Wednesday’s La Flèche Wallonne before taking part in the first ever women’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège next Sunday.
She will then head home for a Tour de Yorkshire which is not only in her home county, but on a course which appears to suit her strengths.