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At 11.20 a.m. CET this morning, the starting pistol send the women’s peloton off for the sixth round of the Women’s WorldTour. After 137 kilometers through the Wallonia area of Belgium, Rabo-Liv was able to finally break the Boels-Dolmans’ winning streak with Anna van der Breggen coming across the line first.
This is the second year in a row that Van der Breggen soloed across the infamous hilltop finish of Flèche Wallone. Boels-Dolmans completed the podium with Evelyn Stevens in second, and Megan Guarnier sprinting to a third place finish.
Today we also saw the Women’s WorldTour debut of Marianne Vos, who finished within the top 10.
La Flèche Wallonne Féminine (1.WWT) Huy → Mur de Huy
With 11 climbs on the 137 kilometer course, the climbs were decisive for the progress of the race, with the second climb up the Mur de Huy as its absolute climax. Here’s how the 2016 Flèche Wallone Femmes played out climb-by-climb:
The race started off active with seven riders escaping the peloton within the first 10 kilometres of the race. The break consisting of Emilia Fahlin (Alé Cipollini), Lex Albrecht (BePink), Cecilia Gothaas Johnsen (Team Hitec), Sheyla Gutiérrez (Cylance Pro Cycling), Ann-Sophie Duyck (Topsport Vlaanderen-Etixx), Jessica Allen (High5 Development Team Australia) and Katia Ragusa (Servetto-Footon) were the first to hit the first climb.
Km 11. Côte d’Ereffe
The break ascends the first climb of the day with Albrecht taking the first Queen of the Mountain (QOM) points.
The break starts to increase its advantage to around a minute and a half. Meanwhile, Spela Kern (BTC City Ljubljana) attempts to bridge up to the breakaway, but doesn’t get any further than 45 seconds behind the leaders.
Km 31. Côte de Bellaire
When the break reaches the Côte de Bellaire for the first time, the lead has grown to 2’35”.
It’s obvious that Albrecht is after the Queen of the Mountains prize as she also crosses the top of the Côte de Bellaire first.
Km 38.5. Côte de Bohisseau
While the break starts the climb up the Côte de Bohisseau with an advantage of 3’15”, there is a crash in the peloton with Amber Neben (BePink), Saartje Vandenbroucke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Etixx) and a rider of the Australian team involved. Neben and Vandenbroucke abandon the race.
Albrecht takes the third QOM atop the Côte de Bohisseau.
Km 51. Côte de Solières
The 4.3 kilometer Côte de Solières (4% average increase) causes Ragusa to drop from the seven leaders. The gap between the remaining six in the break and the peloton is holding steady at around 3’05”.
Km 65. Mur de Huy
Albrecht also reaches the top of the Mur de Huy first, showing impressive form today.
Almost 3’30” later, Carlee Taylor (Liv-Plantur) leads the peloton over de Mur de Huy.
Km 78. Côte d’Ereffe
After crossing the finish line for the first time, Rabo-Liv starts to take control. Slowly, the gap between the break and the peloton goes down to under 3 minutes.
The Côte d’Ereffe QOM is once again for Albrecht.
Km 97. Côte de Bellaire
The hard work of the Rabo-Liv team is paying off as the lead comes down to 1’45”. It’s the three former winners within the team that are working to get the break back: Marianne Vos, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Anna van der Breggen.
Before the leaders are caught, Albrecht takes one more QOM at the top of the Côte de Bellaire.
Km 104.5. Côte de Bohisseau
During the climb up the Côte de Bohisseau, Allen gets dropped from the break. Not much later, the remaining five leaders are caught by the peloton as well.
Despite feeling tired and recovering from an illness, Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) crosses the top of the Côte de Bohisseau first. While she takes on the peloton as they reach the top of the climb, Ashleigh Moolman (Cervélo-Bigla) gets dropped. The team explains on Twitter that “she woke up sick, but still took to the start because she loves the race so much.”
After the top is reached, a group of around 40 riders get a small gap on the rest of the field. The lead grows to 25 seconds quickly.
Km 117. Côte de Solières
The lead group arrives at the foot of the Côte de Solières with an advantage of around 1’15” to the second group. Wiggle-High5’s Elisa Longo Borghini is the first to reach the top.
Although Moolman is out sick, Cervélo-Bigla has some other cards to play, too. One of them is Carmen Small, who escapes off the front after reaching the top of the Côte de Solières.
Km 131. Côte de Cherave
The maximum advantage Small is able to reach is 15 seconds, but the short and steep Côte de Cherave (1.3 kilometers at 8.1%) proves too much as she’s reeled back in by the front group during its ascent.
Seven leaders break free from the front group, which shatters during the climb up the Côte de Cherave. The seven riders are Rabo-Liv’s Anna van der Breggen and Kasia Niewiadoma, Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5), Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM), Katrin Garfoot (Orica-AIS) and Boels-Dolmans’ Evelyn Stevens and Megan Guarnier.
Km 137. Finish atop the Mur de Huy
The leaders try to drop each other as they reach the Mur de Huy. Stevens and Van der Breggen are able to get away together and start the climb up the Mur de Huy with Stevens in Van der Breggen’s wheel.
It’s Van der Breggen who drops Stevens on the Mur de Huy and in the final meters towards the finish line, she knows: it’s a back to back victory at Flèche Wallonne and her first one in the Women’s WorldTour.
With Van der Breggen’s win, the Boels-Dolmans winning streak in the Women’s WorldTour comes to a stop, but the team does manage to get second and third with Stevens and Guarnier.
Niewiadoma gets pipped on the line by Guarnier and finishes fourth in the race. With that, she increases her lead in the Women’s WorldTour young rider classification.
Armitstead crosses the line in 28th place, 1’23” behind Van der Breggen, but still manages to hold on to the Women’s WorldTour leader’s jersey.
Women’s WorldTour standings after the Flèche Wallone Femmes
1. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) – 368 points
2. Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) – 343 points
3. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) – 325 points
Young rider classification
1. Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv) – 24 points
2. Floortje Mackaij (Liv-Plantur) – 12 points
3. Alexis Ryan (Canoyon-SRAM) – 10 points
1. Boels-Dolmans – 1262 points
2. Rabo-Liv – 733 points
3. Wiggle-High5 – 658 points
The next Women’s WorldTour race will be the Tour of Chongming Island from May 6 to May 8.