This is hands-down one of the best national champ kits and helmets in the bunch.

Photo gallery: Highlights from the 2015 Ronde van Drenthe

by Jessi Braverman

Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle Honda) outsprinted a field of fast finishers at Ronde van Drenthe to take the biggest win of her career. The Belgian national champion made the most of the perfectly executed lead-out by her Wiggle Honda teammates Chloe Hosking, Elisa Longo Broghini and Audrey Cordon to pull on the World Cup leader’s jersey following the opening round of the ten-race series. It was the second win for d’Hoore in as many weeks and the second win for Wiggle Honda in Drenthe following Giorgia Bronzini’s win at Drentse 8 two days earlier.

While d’Hoore’s story has been the most often repeated out of Ronde van Drenthe, there are plenty of other tales to be told. Ella CyclingTips spoke to Tiffany Cromwell (Velocio-SRAM), Chole Hosking (Wiggle-Honda) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) and collected comments from Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS) and Brian Cookson (UCI president) to paint a more complete picture of one of the most anticipated races of the season.

We also put together a more traditional race report, which you can read here. The report includes the race highlights video hosted on the UCI YouTube channel.

Brian Cookson, president of the UCI

Brian Cookson was on hand for the opening round of the World Cup. He gave interviews, watched the race as it unfolded and took part in the podium presentation. Cookson is largely viewed as genuinely invested in the growth of women’s cycling, especially when compared to his predecessors.

I think we’re seeing stronger and stronger and more professional teams coming through, and I hope that we can grow the professional side of women’s cycling, so we can begin to offer a proper career for women in cycling. We’ve got a way to go yet, apart from one or two remunerated riders, but I think we’re now seeing a real growth in professional women’s cycling. This is, of course, something the UCI wants to support

Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS)

Lizzie Willaims won The Suffer Prize, awarded by the race jury to the rider with the best fighting spirit in the face of suffering. Williams crashed twice and had two mechanicals. She twice battled her way back from the caravan to the bunch before ultimately withdrawing because she was out of bikes to ride.

It was probably the worst day on the bike that I’ve ever had, but you have to take the good with the bad in this sport. I had a bad day and hopefully tomorrow will be sunshine and no crashes.

You’ve got to get back. You can’t give up. If you’re going to give up, you might as well not be here. I’ve come all the way from Australia. I’m not going to give up just because I have a tumble.

I got to the front and hit the cobbles tenth wheel, feeling really positive, and 500 metres later my derallieur broke off and snapped into my back wheel. That was the end of my day. I had no bikes left. I had two bikes and they were both broken.

Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla)

Following a strong showing two days earlier at Drentse 8, Annemiek van Vleuten had high hopes for Ronde van Drenthe. Unfortunately, it was a tough showing for her Bigla team. Ashleigh Moolman Paiso was involved in an early crash and spent much of the day chasing. Shelley Olds and Lotta Lepistö were involved in a pile-up on the cobbles. When the selective split was made on the VAMberg, van Vleuten was the only Bigla rider to make the move – and she lacked the legs to make an impact.

I was in a group of seven after the VAMberg, and that was a really good group for me because there was only one girl from each of the teams. It was Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS), Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans), Lisa Brennauer (Velocio-SRAM)…

Then it came altogether, and there were more girls. It was harder at that point because there were teams with more numbers. I looked around and knew it would be hard for me to do something. You hope that maybe a teammate comes back also, so you have more riders. You have to play with the numbers, especially when you don’t feel that strong like me today. That’s when you need your teammates even more.

When the attacks were going, I had to decide who to follow and who to not. It was hard. I was only one, so I couldn’t follow everything.

Iris [Slappendel] came back in the last three kilometres, and she was on the other side of the road. We had a miscommunication. She thought some people were off the front. If she had known the true situation, maybe she could have attacked. It was sad that she did not hear that.

I had to find my own way in the sprint. I tried, but when you don’t have the super legs, and you’re alone and you have to position yourself, it’s hard. With all the people coming back in the last three kilometres, it was even harder. I was not in a good position in the second to last corner. I was closed in.

It’s really good for women’s cycling to see that a team like Wiggle Honda is also strong and will take responsibility in a big race when it comes to close down a gap. It makes our sport more interesting when we have more strong teams. Last year there were only one or two teams that were really strong at each part of the year.

It’s different now – there is Boels, Rabo, Wiggle. I think my team can also win if we don’t have bad luck. We’ve taken responsibility at Strade Bianche and Het Nieuwsblad to go for the victory. I think that’s a good thing. I like it how it’s now working out in women’s cycling.

Tiffany Cromwell (Velocio-SRAM)

Tiffany Cromwell was part of late race breakaway with Longo Borghini, Roxane Knetemann (Rabo Liv) and Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans). The quartet each had teammates in the chase group behind, and none appeared able or willing to back themselves. The lack of cooperate doomed the move to failure. The breakaway was caught with seven kilometres remaining.

The break was a good situation for us but I had [sport director] Ronny [Lauke] on the radio telling me only do as much as everyone else. I’m notorious for getting too excited and then killing myself and flicking myself when it counts.

It got to the point where Elisa wasn’t rolling through, which was understandable because she had her sprinters back. Knetemann was only half-rolling through at that point. Chantal was the main one working it, and when she realised the rest of us weren’t fully committed, that’s when it started falling apart.

It was frustrating in a way, but I also had to play it smart and I couldn’t go and try to drive the break and then get fourth from the break. I would have been crucified if that had happened. It was a group that should have worked but didn’t.

I thought it was going to go all the way. For awhile, all but Elisa were rolling through comfortably but it wasn’t full-gas. It had the potential. Most of the teams behind had someone in the group. Obviously Orica and Liv didn’t, but it had four different teams and no major sprint threats. We’re all opportunistic riders.

When I got the call that said don’t work if no one else is working, I tried a few attacks but when you start attacking, if no one wants to work together, that’s going to be the end of it.

As a whole, we’re really happy as a team with how the race went. We’re getting better every race, and there’s good chemistry amongst everyone. The plan was to have a good lead in to the first cobbles, which is the first critical section. After that it was for Barbie [Guarischi], Tayler [Wiles] and Alena to attack – and keep Lisa and I for as last as possible so we could try our chances in the last 20 kilometres to see if we could get a breakaway or see what we could do in the finale. We did exactly what was asked of us, so even though we didn’t get on the podium, we can take away some positives from the day.

Chloe Hosking (Wiggle Honda)

Chloe Hosking played an integral part in d’Hoore’s win. The last lead-out rider, Hosking rode the rest of the field off her wheel as she dropped d’Hoore at the 150 metre mark perfectly poised to win the race. And d’Hoore delivered. Hosking kept the speed high to cross the line in fifth place.

We went in with a pretty open plan. We had three sprinters , and we didn’t go in saying we were riding for any one sprinter. We wanted to make sure we had numbers over the cobbled sections. We were pretty sure Boels would try something in the crosswinds because last year it split after the cobbles before the VAMberg.

Basically, the first aim was to get numbers in the selection. When the selection went, we did. We had four in it. It started over the first ascent of the VAMberg and then it really solidified after the second ascent. We had Audrey, Elisa, Jolien and I. I had to really struggle over the VAMberg a second time to get in that group. I was eating handlebar stem for a couple kilometres. While I was struggling to breathe in air, Audrey and Elisa were covering attacks.

I could feel the cramps that I had at Nieuwsblad starting in my legs, so I rode to Jolien and asked her how she felt. She said straightaway that she felt good. “Alright,” I told her. “We go for you.” If your teammate says without hesitation that they feel good and you’re not feeling so great, it’s really a no-brainer. I communicated the plan with the other girls – that we go for Jolien.

Elisa got herself in a break of five around 20 kilometres to go. It was good for us. She could sit on and we didn’t have to chase anything. It all came together at seven kilometres.

We hit the front with two kilometres to go. That’s pretty early because there were only four of us left. I knew Jolien was behind me, so the girls in front of me were like puppets that I had to direct. I told Audrey [Cordon] that she had to take it long, pretty much to one kilometre to go, because I had said to Elisa [Longo Borghini] that she couldn’t drop me off until 500 metres. It’s too early before that, and Jolien would have gotten swamped.

I think I ended up going with 550 metres to go because I could just feel them coming. I took it through the last corner, and I just put my head down. The last corner was at 400 metres to go – and, I was like “Oh shit! I hope this isn’t too early!”

Jolien came past me with 150 metres or so left. It was a pretty really long lead-out. I had no idea that we gapped everyone else. I’m not looking behind me at that point! I had no idea.

When Jolien went past me, and I didn’t feel the others coming, I realised I should keep going and maybe I could get on the podium. I hung on for fifth place. It’s not so bad. It’s nice to get a personal result as well in addition to the amazing team result.

I’m really so proud of how we rode as a team. Even though I didn’t win, to be part of that atmosphere and part of such a great victory is really something special.

Editors' Picks