Demi Vollering avenged her second place last year to take a dominant win at Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday.
The Dutch rider escaped with Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-SRAM) with 26km to go, but was able to drop her compatriot on one of the race’s 24 climbs, riding the final 10km to victory alone.
When Rooijakkers dropped back into a chasing group of five, her team mate Kasia Niewiadoma attacked on the final climb to the line, placing second, ahead of DSM’s Liane Lippert.
Once again SDWorx rode an aggressive race, placing at least one woman into every serious move. Vollering was joined by two team-mates in what seemed to be the winning nine-woman break earlier in the race. And when she finally headed up the road there was always a fellow SDWorx rider to act as an anchor to the chase.
Unsurprisingly the team were the only squad to have three women in the final top 10.
It was another brilliantly entertaining race. Aggressive throughout, despite persistent attacking all day no group was able to establish itself with a comfortable lead, 45 seconds being the biggest advantage until the winning pair established their gap. Though that briefly reached one minute, even that was never secure in what was a tense closing 22km lap.
A number of British riders showed themselves at and off the front though. Sophie Wright (UAE Team ADQ) was aggressive in the early stages, and Le Col-Wahoo attacked regularly with Alice Towers, Lizzie Holden and Isle of Man based Anna Christian all off the front. Anna Shackley was also regularly visible in support of Vollering’s victory.
How it happened
After starting life as a non-UCI race Brabantse Pijl was elevated international status in 2016 and this year has been promoted to the second level ProSeries, as organisers Flanders Classics continue to promote the women’s sport.
This promotion has seen an increase in distance, from 127km last year, to 141.2km between Lennik and Overijse this year, in the same area and on some of the same roads as last year’s World Championships.
From the start the route headed generally east, skirting the southern edge of the Belgian capital Brussels, before crossing the line in Overijse to tackle three 22km closing laps. En route they would ascend 24 classified climbs, with the Moskesstraat, ridden on four occasions, also among nine cobbled sectors.
Eighteen kilometres in and British rider Sophie Wright launched the day’s first attack, the Norfolk born UAE Team ADQ rider briefly taking a small group up the road. Wright’s move presaged a series of further moves, another Brit, Lizzie Holden (Le Col-Wahoo) also off the front for a while.
Despite the British the constant aggression it was only after 53km when a move got anything that might be considered a gap, Isle of Man rider Anna Christian (Le Col-Wahoo) was allowed to dangle 12 seconds off the front for eight kilometres.
She though was reabsorbed as the peloton’s speed increased ahead of the first of four ascents of the cobbled Hertstraat. Amber Kraak (Jumbo-Visma) emerged at the top and built a lead that had grown to 25 seconds as she topped the Moskesstraat for the first time, 65km behind her.
However, shortly afterwards, as the climbs began to come thick and fast, she was within touching distance, and over the next climb, the Holstheide she was caught by another group, leaving a promising leading group of six.
However, even that was not allowed freedom, and a group of around 60 women crossed the final line at the start of the three laps. Shortly after, on the second ascent of Hertstraat, a group of nine women emerge off the front.
Alex Manley (BikeExchange-Jayco), Silvia Persico (Valcar Travel and Service), Vittoria Guazzini (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope), Loes Adegeest (IBCT), Juliette Labous (DSM), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) and the SD Worx trio of Demi Vollering, Niamh Fisher-Black and Marlen Reusser were able to maintain a lead despite a concerted chase.
With three SD Worx riders among their number it took a while for the entire breakaway to commit, but when finally they did, the gap began to grow and they took a lead of 30 seconds over the line at the start of the penultimate lap, 44km remaining.
However, Elisa Balsamo and Coryn Labecki were both pre-race favourites, and their respective Trek-Segafredo and Jumbo-Visma teams were keen to close them down. The leading group was finally caught the next time up Hertstraat, a further group of around 30 women forming and including both Labecki and Balsamo.
Thirty kilometres out, on the Holstheide attacks from both Niewiadoma and Lippert cut that group to around 10 before Vollering and Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-SRAM) got away leaving a chasing group of 12.
Crossing the finish line to start the final lap, the two Dutch riders led a regrouped peloton by 1-01, with Juliette Labous (DSM) in between. But the race was not over.
In the pack Labecki now had a team-mate to work with, Balsamo also working with Amanda Spratt (BikeExchange-Jayco) to close the leaders’ advantage, which was down to 33 seconds on the Hertstraat for the final time, 15km to go.
There Labecki began her own, ultimately fruitless chase, and the race was set for a nail-biting finale.
With 10km to go, the final ascent of the cobbled Moskesstraat saw Rooijakkers drop back, stubbornly staying ahead of a group of four, including Labous. By the time Rooijakkers was caught by the four chasers with three kilometres to go Vollering led by 45 seconds.
In the chasing group Rooijakkers and Labous slipped into a support role for Niewiadoma and Lipppert, but they were unable to close in on Vollering.
Brabantse Pijl 2022: Lennik - Overijse (141.2km)
1. Demi Vollering (Ned) SD Worx, in 3-37-59
2. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM, at 22 sec
3. Liane Lippert (Ger) DSM, at same time
4. Marlen Reusser (Sui) SD Worx, at 27 sec
5. Juliette Labous (Fra) DSM, at 44 sec
6. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Canyon-SRAM, at 58 sec
7. Silvia Persico (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service, at 1-02
8. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) SD Worx
9. Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) UAE Team ADQ
10. Alex Manley (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco, all at same time
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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.
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