Joining VeloClub not only supports the work we do, there are some fantastic benefits:
by Jeanine Laudy
April 12, 2016
Photography by Velofocus
WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
The Belgian classics period was swiftly followed by the first European stage race last week. The five day, six stage Energiewacht Tour took place in the north of the Netherlands from April 6th to April 10th.
With only Cervélo-Bigla and Cylance Pro Cycling absent from the top 10 of the UCI teams ranking, the start field was of high quality and the race promised to become an interesting battle between mostly Dutch riders going after the GC.
Top favourites lining up at the start included 2013 winner Ellen van Dijk and Chantal Blaak (both Boels-Dolmans), Amy Pieters (Wiggle-High5), winner of the 2014 edition Lucinda Brand (Rabo-Liv), Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-AIS) and Kirsten Wild (Team Hitec).
And Lisa Brennauer (Canyon-SRAM) went into the Energiewacht Tour to try and repeat her victory of 2015 as well.
Once again it was the Boels-Dolmans squad that dominated the races. Throughout the five days, there have been only two GC leaders, both of them were Boels-Dolmans riders. No matter whether it’s a classic, a climbers’ course or a Dutch, flat stage race, Boels-Dolmans keeps on winning. Along the way, the team did experience a first when they won the opening team time trial on Wednesday night ahead of the Canyon-SRAM (formerly Velocio-SRAM) team. Leading the team into time trial victory, was Van Dijk. One of the best time trialists in the world, Van Dijk was victorious in two stages and took home the overall race win.
Take a look at the photo gallery and video highlights below to see how Van Dijk and Boels-Dolmans won the five-day event.
The race started with a slippery and wet team time trial of 11.3 kilometers in the city of Groningen.
Van Dijk successfully led her Boels-Dolmans team to victory; and while this might not come as a surprise, this was in fact their first ever win in a team time trial.
Knowing that the team is aiming for the world TTT title, the victory is an important step in reaching that goal.
Felix Matthis was at the scene in Groningen and made this highlights video of the stage:
With Ellen van Dijk in the yellow leader’s jersey, stage 2 took off from Winsum to cover five laps of 23.6 kilometers for a total of 117 kilometers.
Coming in third after having been part of an eight-person breakaway, Van Dijk would hand off the yellow jersey to race winner and teammate Chantal Blaak, who’s having an incredible season thus far.
With a junior women’s race running alongside the elite Energiewacht Tour, Felix Mattis took a closer look at the narrow and slippery course where the women would sprint for the stage 2 victory:
The longest of the stages was the third one, leaving from Musselkanaal and finishing in Stadskanaal, after one loop of 27.9 kilometers, two of 32.8 kilometers and three local laps of 12.4 kilometers for a total of 130 kilometres.
This stage was the first race in a while not won by the dominant Boels-Dolmans team. In fact, it would be the only stage in the 2016 Energiewacht Tour not won by a Dutch rider as it was Team USA’s Allie Dragoo who crossed the line first after attacking her breakaway companions for a solo won.
Blaak however managed to stay in the yellow leader’s jersey.
The highlights video by Felix Mattis show how Dutch UCI team Parkhotel Valkenburg had been active throughout the stage, earning Vera Koedooder the orange sprint jersey.
Two stages were planned for day 4 of the race, with a short road race in the morning, starting and finishing in Zuidhorn. With Canyon-SRAM’s Brennauer and Elena Cecchini in third and fourth in the GC, only 11 and 18 seconds behind race leader Blaak respectively, it was obvious that the team would try to diminish the gap ahead of the individual time trial that was planned for the afternoon.
Canyon-SRAM lined up at the front of the peloton, but were unable to prevent a mass sprint from happening in Zuidhorn, nor could they take home this mass sprint victory. It was instead sprinter Kristen Wild (Team Hitec) who beat everyone to the line, followed closely by Blaak, still in the yellow jersey.
“It was a tricky finish and a bit of a chaos, but in the end I luckily found Julie [Leth] and Emilie [Moberg] back and we worked well together to get into the last corner,” stage winner Kirsten Wild explained her win after the race.
Ahead of the individual time trial that was stage 4b, former world TT champions Ellen van Dijk and Lisa Brennauer were sitting closely together in the GC at 12 and 16 seconds behind Blaak respectively. As Blaak is a good performer in time trials herself, this stage would probably be decisive for the GC.
A fourth rider having a shot at the yellow leader’s jersey in this individual time trial was 2014 Dutch TT champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-AIS), 27 seconds back in the GC.
This is where Van Dijk made her move, winning the time trial by 22 seconds over Van Vleuten, and earning back the yellow leader’s jersey.
Although Van Dijk was back in yellow after this stage, she was far from certain of the final victory with only one more stage to go: “Last year I missed the first echelon on the last stage, so anything can happen. We need to stay really focused.”
The final stage in the Energiewacht Tour was situated on the German island Borkum, just north of the province of Groningen. All teams boarded the ferry for a eight loop race on the island, covering almost 120 kilometers in total.
As Van Dijk pointed out, the wind would play a major role here, but not enough to break up the race. Another mass sprint offered Wild a second opportunity to get a stage win and secured the overall win for Van Dijk.