After winning last year’s first edition, Lorena Wiebes made it two from two winning the Scheldeprijs 2022 after a perfect team performance.
Her DSM team had ridden all day, monitoring a three-woman break, but in the final they still had new recruit Charlotte Kool in place to lead her team captain out. Even so Wiebes was forced to open her sprint with 250m remaining, but simply rode away from her rivals, winning by two bike lengths.
Chiara Consonni (Valcar Travel and Service) took second, with Rachele Barbieri (Liv-Xstra) in third.
Despite taking what was effectively their B Team to the race, with Wiebes on board DSM were left to control. But such was the quality and focus throughout the young Dutch squad, they were skilfully able to keep the break within touching distance, though not so close to encourage counter-attacks.
Though they allowed other teams to take the lead in the final few kilometres, the Dutch team always remained third or fourth wheel, Kool moving into position late in the day.
The victory was Wiebes’s fourth of the year, and the 40th of the 23-year-old’s prolific career. Her position as the peloton’s fastest woman is far from secure though, with world champion Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) also on four, and the battle for front supremacy is one of the the most interesting narratives of the season.
Trek-Segafredo themselves have been one of the dominant teams of the year to date, but seemed to have misfired in their last two races. While they placed Chloe Hosking well in the final three kilometres of Wednesday’s race, the Australian was forced into the wind far too early and was unable to sprint, though managed to finish sixth.
How it happened
In its second edition, the women’s Scheldeprijs was the last of organiser Flanders Classics’ men’s races to add a women’s event at UCI level. Unlike races like the WorldTour Tour of Flanders or the ProSeries Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Wednesday’s race sits at 1.1 level, along with next week’s Brabantse Pijl.
This classification typically reduces prize money, but also limits the number of top tier WorldTour teams able to take part, as well as the race distance. However, the 138.1km route starting and finishing in the Antwerp suburb of Schoten, is considerably longer than some WorldTour events.
With strong wind forecast from the south-west echelons were a possibility, though with the route heading north-east toward the Dutch border before turning back towards three 18.6km closing circuits, opportunities for crosswinds and gutter action were limited.
That tailwind ensured the opening kilometres were ridden at high pace, no one able to get away, and it was 30km in before Brit, Abi Smith (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) reacted to a move from Irish woman Megan Armitage (IBCT).
They were joined by Canadian, Simone Boilard (St Michel-Auber93 WE), and the three women took a while to settle. Smith did much of the work to establish the gap, which took 10km to reach 40 seconds. However, over the ensuing six kilometres, the trio were allowed their escape and the gap stretched out to 1-20.
Despite a couple of ill-fated and inexplicable moves from the peloton, the breakaway’s advantage extended to 1-57. However, with 80km to go DSM came to the front working for last year’s winner Lorena Wiebes and, assisted by Valcar Travel and Service, that lead began to tumble.
By the time the leaders hit the first of two cobbled stretches - the second of which was ridden four times - their advantage was down to 1-20, and was as little as 30 seconds when they crossed the finish line for the first time, 51km remaining.
And there they dangled. An unsuccessful attempt by Amandine Fouquenet (Arkéa) changed very little, the break continuing to work hard to maintain their advantage, and DSM ensuring the peloton held station. The lead was out to 54 seconds at the beginning of the penultimate lap, another Arkéa rider, Marie-Morgane Le Deunff optimistically riding in no-woman’s land, but the change was of no consequence.
Though DSM led the peloton across the line for the final circuit with their deficit still over 30 seconds there was little jeopardy until Smith attacked at the start of the cobbled Broekstraat. With some excellent results against the clock the 20-year-old Brit presented a threat to the sprinters teams, but with more than 100km off the front she was unlikely to succeed and was caught with just five kilometres to go.
A huge crash near the front some 4.6km from the finish split the peloton, but did nothing to prevent a bunch kick.
Scheldeprijs Women 2022: Schoten - Schoten (138.1km)
1. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) DSM in 3-21-56
2. Chiara Consonni (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service
3. Rachele Barbieri (Ita) Liv-Xstra
4. Georgia Baker (Aus) BikeExchange Jayco
5. Barbara Guarischi (Ita) Movistar
6. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Trek-Segafredo
7. Julie de Wilde (Bel) Plantur Pura
8. Letizia Borghesi (Ita) EF Education-Tibco-SVB
9. Anna Trevisi (Ita) UAE Team ADQ
10. Charlotte Kool (Ned) DSM, all at same time
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