Anna van der Breggen bests Ellen van Dijk in European opener
In the tenth edition of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) beat out Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) in a two-up sprint to win the first European race of the season. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) led home the chasers in Ghent to round out the podium.
The race winning move escaped from an elite front group of approximately 30 riders on the Molenberg, the eighth and final climb of the day. The duo extended their advantage over the cobbled sections that followed, holding off the dwindling chase group to the line.
Whilst riders began to lose contact with the bunch from the onset of the race, the action began in earnest on the Côte de Trieu, the third climb of the 122 km course. By the time the women’s peloton reached the mid-point of the race, only 50 riders remained in contention.
An elite selection formed over the top of the Paterberg that included three former Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winners – Amy Pieters (Liv-Plantur), Tiffany Cromwell (Velocio-SRAM) and Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) – alongside Armitstead and her Boels-Dolmans teammate Chantal Blaak. When the group swelled to 14, Boels-Dolmans advantage was undeniable. The Dutch team had five riders in the leading group.
A second chase group caught the race leaders just before the Wolvenberg, and 32 riders tackled the penultimate hill together. With 30 kilometres left to race, including the final three sectors of cobbles left to race, van Dijk and van der Breggen escaped from the front group and immediately set to work to build their lead.
The duo were evenly matched. Whilst van der Breggen is stronger on the hills, the roads to the finish were flat. Van Dijk, has won multiple world titles against the clock – in both the individual time trial and the team time trial – and is typically the stronger sprinter of the two.
Van der Breggen put in a dig on the Padestraat but was unable to distance van Dijk. By that time, the chase group was down to 18 riders. With four from Boels-Dolmans and three from Rabo-Liv amongst the chasers, the leaders had a distinct advantage. The chase struggled to get organised, with several teams opting to save their energy for the sprint for third place.
Hitting the two kilometre mark with more than a minute on the chasers, van der Breggen and van Dijk readied for the two-up sprint. The Rabo-Liv rider was the first to hit-out toward the line, and she managed to hold off van Dijk to claim her first Classic title in her first race following a nasty crash in the team time trial at the 2014 Road World Championships last fall.
Fourteen seconds later, Armitstead sprinted in for third ahead of Blaak. Whilst Boels-Dolmans missed out on the win, the team’s second, third and fourth place finishes clearly demonstrate their depth as a team and suggest they may be the powerhouse team of the spring season.
Stay tuned for our photo gallery and expanded report of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
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