A hugely tense final 15km saw Emma Norsgaard take a fourth win of the season for Movistar, with monstrous sprint at Le Samyn des Dames.
Opening the taps with with well over 250m of the slight uphill finish straight remaining, the Danish star blasted past a two woman breakaway with only 150m of the 99km race to go.
Riding the final 100m in the saddle, the 22-year-old held off Chiara Consonni, the Valcar Travel and Service rider taking second place, with her compatriot Vittoria Guazzini (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) hanging on for third after being part of that late break.
It’s been a stunning start to the year for Movistar, the prolific Annemiek van Vleuten taking a stage and the GC in Valenciana last month, before winning Omloop het Nieuwsblad last weekend.
Norsgaard, who last year raced with the name Jørgensen on her licence and is now registered as Bjerg after marrying UAE Team Emirates rider Mikkel, is a rising star and is likely to go well in the remaining Classics.
Her 2021 season was stunning, taking a series of top results throughout the spring, including finishing second at last year’s Le Samyn. So far this year she has stepped up again, taking sixth at Het Nieuwsblad and second at Omloop van het Hageland on Sunday.
However, judging by Tuesday’s podium ceremony she needs to work on her podium skills after needing assistance opening the winner’s fizz. She is likely to have plenty of opportunities though.
How it happened
While the men’s race has been a feature of the calendar since 1968, the women’s race is much younger, Dutchwoman Adrie Visser winning the first edition as recently as 2012.
With SD Worx not on the start line in Quaregnon for the 99.4km race to Dour, the race lacked their two previous winners in Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and defending champion Lotte Kopecky. And with Trek-Segafredo starting without European champion Ellen van Dijk and Jip van den Bos’s Jumbo-Visma absent, Movistar’s Sheyla Gutiérrez was the only previous winner racing on Tuesday.
The race was unusual in permitting seven-woman teams for the seven climbs and 15 brutal cobbled sectors which punctuated the route, and were almost certain to make for an attritional day out, justifying that extra rider.
The reality though was somewhat different, the first 90 minutes of the race passing with little incident or breakaway. Only after around 40km did the race split, the challenging stones of the Chémin de Wilhéres taking their toll.
Though the race came back together it was not for long, as the action kicked off on the toughest cobbled sector, the Rue de Belle Vue, which conclusively split the bunch.
Late on the second of three local laps Brit Lizzie Holden (Le Col-Wahoo) got away with the perpetually aggressive Grace Brown (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope). Holden though, was unable to hold the Australian’s wheel and it was left to Brown to forge on alone, though the sprinter’s squads never allowed her much space, her lead never exceeding 40 seconds as the bunch sped up, narrow roads and cobbles making positioning vital.
Trek-Segafredo worked hard on the front with Valcar Travel and Service, though with 13km to go on the Côte de la Roquette former dual British champion, Alice Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) attacked the bunch in an attempt to close the Australian down, catching her with 10km to go.
Barnes was in full flight, dropping Brown when she nearly slid out on a bend, though by then what remained of the peloton were close behind the Canyon-SRAM rider and she was caught shortly after.
It was then Trek-Segafredo’s turn, Audrey Cordon-Ragot making a first move, with Shirin van Anrooij going the moment the former was caught. FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine’s Italian signing, Vittoria Guazzini went with her, the two young riders working well into the closing three kilometres and onto the final crossing of the Rue de Belle Vue.
A bunch of around 25 riders trailed by around 15 seconds but by the time they emerged onto tarmac their lead had only grown and an upset seemed likely. With sprinter Clara Copponi among the chasers Guazzini had never fully committed and the lead dwindled in the final 1000m.
Le Samyn des Dames 2022: Quaregnon to Dour (99.4 km)
1. Emma Norsgaard (Den) Movistar in 2-37-17
2. Chiara Consonni (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service
3. Vittoria Guazzini (Ita) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
4. Susanne Andersen (Nor) Uno-X
5. Clara Copponi (Fra) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
6. Marjolein van't Geloof (Ned) Le Col-Wahoo
7. Shirin van Anrooij (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
8. Alice Barnes (Gbr) Canyon-SRAM
9. Shari Bossuyt (Bel) Canyon-SRAM
10. Laura Tomasi (Ita) UAE Team ADQ all at same time
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