Dutch sprint superstar Lorena Wiebes outpaced her rivals to take the win at Ronde van Drenthe in the Netherlands’ far north-east on Saturday.
Once again, the 22-year-old benefitted from excellent teamwork, her DSM squad bringing back a late move after she had been caught out by a late puncture. Wiebes was left to position herself on world champion Elisa Balsamo’s wheel before opening her sprint with 150m remaining, beating the Trek-Segafredo rider into second place.
After winning Strade Bianche last week, Belgian champion Lotte Kopecky (SDWorx) also suffered a late puncture but managed to sprint to third.
As it so often does Ronde van Drenthe produced a brilliant pulsating race, which waxed and waned early on but never settled, making for a hugely entertaining spectacle. It was a day of attacking racing, countless small groups going clear, with all four ascents of the VAMberg double punch climb producing breaks, including a four-woman group that was only caught inside the final kilometre.
After GP Oetingen on Wednesday, Wiebes is once again establishing herself as the season’s dominant sprinter. Such excellence is becoming normal for Wiebes, she finished last year’s Drenthe with a similar victory, DSM then placing five of their six women in the top 10.
How it happened
After the 2020 event was lost to the pandemic and last year’s race was postponed until October, the Ronde van Drenthe returned to its traditional March date on the calendar.
At 155.9km it’s one of the longest days on the Women’s WorldTour, and also one of the flattest, held as it is in the far northeast of the Netherlands. But the season and geography always combine with the distance to create an attritional and entertaining race.
Starting is Assen, the route took the peloton south to the now legendary VAMberg. The hill is built on a rubbish site, with each of the four visits tackling first a cobbled ascent then a tarmac one. The stones on the 12% slopes were not the only ones in the day, with six earlier stretches making a tough day out.
Like last year’s race, when a number of teams found themselves short-handed, the same happened on Saturday, the Movistar squad of one of the pre-race favourites, Emma Norsgaard withdrawing late on. The team tweeted “schedule adjustments for our roster didn’t allow us bringing [sic] a full team…” an early confirmation the expanded WorldTour schedule will be tough on teams’ resources.
It meant that only 11 of the 14 WorldTeams were on the start line for the second WorldTour race of the year.
Some 10km into the race Kerry Jonker (Andy Schleck-CP NVST-Immo Losch) attacked alone, the 25-year-old South African leading onto the first set of cobbles 15km later, while Trek-Segafredo worked to hold her advantage at around 1.45.
However, before she could reach the fourth cobbled sector, 50km in, Jonker was caught the pace in the peloton steadily increasing. On the fifth sector, Trek-Segafredo’s speed caused a split in the bunch, though the race re-formed before the first ascent of the VAMberg, with 70km done.
As expected the race caught fire here, the bunch splitting and a series of attacks punctuating the next two ascents, and a group of four emerged from the penultimate visit to the VAMberg.
Floortje Mackaij (DSM), Romy Kasper (Jumbo-Visma), Elena Cecchini (SDWorx) and European champion Ellen van Dijk got a small gap, but Mackaij had been in a similar move last year when Wiebes also won, and as then she sat on.
The moment that move came back Jip van den Bos attacked and a group of five formed around her. Van den Bos, Marlen Reusser (SDWorx) Alison Jackson (Liv Racing Xstra), Mischa Bredewold (Parkhotel-Valkenburg) and British champion Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM) entered Hoogeveen to cross the line for the first time with a lead of 11 seconds.
However, Georgi’s priority was Wiebes and she dutifully sat on, while the chasing group was briefly sent the wrong way, the leaders’ advantage consequently increasing to 35 seconds.
With Canyon-SRAM and Trek-Segafredo doing the work, that group was brought back with 20km remaining, though only just as Wiebes and Kopecky suffered their mechanicals.
A large group tackled the VAMberg for the last time, but once again it split and once again four women emerged at the front. Christine Majerus (SDWorx), Anousker Koster (Jumbo-Visma), Sarah Roy (Canyon-SRAM) and Nina Buysman (Human Powered Health) entered the final 10km with 10 seconds’ advantage, DSM and Trek-Segafredo desperately chasing behind.
However, despite the lead increasing to 20 seconds, the gap was gradually reduced and the leaders were caught inside the final kilometre and the bunch sprint was set.
Ronde van Drenthe
1. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) DSM
2. Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
3. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) SDWorx
4. Clara Copponi (Fra) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
5. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) UAE Team ADQ
6. Alice Barnes (Gbr) Canton-SRAM
7. Chiara Consonni (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service
8. Nina Kessler (Ned) BikeExchange-Jayco
9. Jip van den Bos (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
10. Sarah Roy (Aus) Canyon-SRAM
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