Six days through Holland: The Boels Rental Ladies Tour in photos

by Anne-Marije Rook

With the UCI Road World Championships just three weeks away, a very competitive and fit peloton contested the Boels Ladies Tour over the past week.

The six-stage tour through The Netherlands – a 19-year-old event previously known as the Holland Ladies Tour – was upgraded to World Tour status for the 2017 season. A field of 92 riders came out for the penultimate event in the Women’s WorldTour, but none were more focused on winning the tour than Orica-Scott’s Annemiek van Vleuten.

The tour kicked off with a prologue in Van Vleuten’s hometown of Wageningen, and she was eager to give her fans something to cheer for.

However, it would be a tough fight stage after stage as previous winner Ellen van Dijk (Team Sunweb) and Anna van der Breggen’s Boels Dolman’s squad, were also looking for a win on home soil. The six stages covering 577 kilometres would see five different winners, but ultimately, after taking the orange leader’s jersey in the prologue, Van Vleuten would manage to keep it. She slowly built on her slim advantage until victory was hers.

The Cor Vos photographers were on site to capture the emotion, weather and action throughout the six days.

Prologue: A short sufferfest

Race favourite Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) did not disappoint her hometown fans as she stopped the clock at just 5’47” after completing the 4.3-kilometre course. Van Vleuten sat comfortably in the proverbial hot-seat as rider after rider came in without endangering her time. No one looked close until European champion Ellen van Dijk (Team Sunweb), a late starter in the prologue, was nearing the end of her run. But even the former world time trial champion came short, crossing the line a little over four seconds later than the Dutch national time trial champion had.

Boels Rental Ladies Tour (2.WWT) Wageningen → Wageningen

VAN VLEUTEN Annemiek Orica-Scott
VAN DIJK Ellen Team Sunweb
BRENNAUER Lisa Canyon SRAM Racing

European champion Ellen van Dijk couldn’t match Van Vleuten’s speed.

Moniek Tenniglo (WM3) suffered hard for her 26th place, just 29 seconds down from Van Vleuten.

Olympic bronze medalist Anna van der Breggen falls just short of the podium in the prologue.

In orange since day one. Van Vleuten and her Orica-Scott team would spend the remaining five stages trying to defend her small advantage.

Stage 2: A rainy 132-kilometre road race with a sprint finish

After a fast start to the race, Japanese road and time trial champion Eri Yonamine (FDJ-Futuroscope-NA) went off the front solo. She opened up her gap to over two minutes and was then joined by a duo of Ilona Hoeksma (Team Hitec) and Winanda Spoor (Lensworld-Kuota).

It wasn’t until the trio arrived in Arnhem together for the finishing circuit of 18.7 kilometres that the peloton decided to reel them back in. As her two companions gave in, Yonamine went on, and was finally caught with just two kilometres to go.

A crash then disrupted the sprint in the final hundred meters, but Kirsten Wild (Cylance) was already gone, barrelling toward the finish with little competition.

Boels Rental Ladies Tour (2.WWT) Eibergen → Arnhem

WILD Kirsten
WILD Kirsten Cylance Pro Cycling
CONFALONIERI Maria Giulia Lensworld - Kuota
BRENNAUER Lisa Canyon SRAM Racing

Team Orica-Scott tries to stay warm and dry before the start of stage two.

WM3’s Kasia Niewiadoma smiles despite the weather.

Team USA gears up for a rainy stage 2.

Team Sunweb’s Julia Soek on the attack.

The star of stage 2, Eri Yonamine, would be rewarded with the ‘most aggressive rider’ jersey after her long breakaway effort.

Stage two was a wet one. The peloton spent most of the day chasing a long-lived breakaway.

Exhaustion on the face of Parkhotel Valkenburg rider Eva Buurman

Winning the ‘most aggressive rider’ jersey, Eri Yonamine was stoked with her first Women’s WorldTour podium.

The peloton barrels down the chute in stage two.

With a powerful sprint, Dutch woman Kirsten Wild earned her first race win since May.

Stage 3: Another time trial

Two stages in, the top three in the general classification were still within seconds of each other. All three competitors are capable time trialists so the stage three time trial was an important one.

GC leader Van Vleuten once again proved that she is the fastest in the race against the clock, besting European time trial champion Van Dijk (Team Sunweb) and former world ITT champion Linda Villumsen (VéloConcept) to build on her overall lead.

Boels Rental Ladies Tour (2.WWT) Roosendaal → Roosendaal

VAN VLEUTEN Annemiek Orica-Scott
VAN DIJK Ellen Team Sunweb
VILLUMSEN Linda Team Virtu Cycling Women

Laser focus on Italian ITT and road race champion Elisa Longo Borghini.

Wearing the best young rider kit, Team Sunweb’s Floortje Mackaij powers to a 31st place in the individual time trial.

UHC’s Tayler Wiles lined up for Team USA at the Ladies Tour.

Former ITT world champion Linda Villumsen was interestingly missing her rainbow bands as she netted a podium place finish in the time trial.

Race leader Van Vleuten on her way.

Fastest again! Van Vleuten wins the third stage time trial.

Stage 4: A bike-throw finish

A fast start to Boels Ladies Tour stage four meant that no-one was able to launch a successful attack. The fact that Pernille Matthiessen (VéloConcept) was awarded the red combativity jersey because her attack was the one that stuck the longest, says it all; she was off the front for a mere five kilometres.

After 100 kilometres from Gennep to Weert, the stage ended in three laps on a local circuit, and a bunch sprint was inevitable. This time it was a very close call between German Lisa Brennauer (Canyon-SRAM) and Australian Chloe Hosking (Alé Cipollini). In a bike-throw finish, only the cameras were able to determine Brennauer as the stage victor.

The top five of the GC remained unchanged.

Boels Rental Ladies Tour (2.WWT) Gennep → Weert

BRENNAUER Lisa Canyon SRAM Racing
HOSKING Chloe Alé Cipollini
FOURNIER Roxane FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope

Race leader Annemiek van Vleuten poses with the stars of tomorrow.

Australian Nettie Edmondson (Wiggle High5) at the start.

The “Dutchies” are having a lot of fun in their homesoil tour.

Van Vleuten on the attack.

Stage 4 ending in a bike-throw between Lisa Brennauer and Chloe Hosking.

A happy Lisa Brennauer chats with her team after winning stage 4.

Stage 5: Anna van der Breggen’s final GC attempt

It was an attack-filled penultimate stage on Saturday, but it wasn’t until the finishing circuit that an attack actually stuck. Women’s WorldTour leader Anna Van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans), fourth in the GC at that moment, attacked and was swiftly joined by GC leader Van Vleuten. Van der Breggen won the stage in a two-up sprint and jumped up to second in the GC, at 43 seconds from Van Vleuten.

Boels Rental Ladies Tour (2.WWT) Stramproy → Vaals

VAN DER BREGGEN Anna Boels - Dolmans Cycling Team
VAN VLEUTEN Annemiek Orica-Scott
PIETERS Amy Boels - Dolmans Cycling Team

Van Vleuten on the attack.

Jessica Allen and her Orica-Scott teammates control the race in support of teammate and GC leader Van Vleuten.

Van der Breggen tried to sneak away from the peloton but Van Vleuten was quick to respond.

The race leader versus the Women’s WorldTour leader.

Sabrina Stultients getting some alone time.

Van der Breggen bests Van Vleuten in a two-up sprint.

Stage 6: Save the longest and hardest for last

In the last and hardest stage through the Limburg hills, an 11-rider break formed very early in the stage and included Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans), Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb), Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM) and Hosking.

An attack by Van der Breggen in the peloton caused a split, with a group of 25 riders in the first peloton. Out of that group, Janneke Ensing (Ale Cipollini) and Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) escaped and bridged towards the leaders. The lead group splintered in the final 30 kilometres, with first Niewiadoma off the front solo and eventually, Ensing leading the race.

Ensing would solo on toward her first Women’s WorldTour victory, while Van Vleuten safely crossed the line in the first peloton to secure the leader’s jersey.

Boels Rental Ladies Tour (2.WWT) Sittard → Sittard

ENSING Janneke
ENSING Janneke Alé Cipollini
BRAND Lucinda Team Sunweb
NIEWIADOMA Katarzyna WM3 Energie

Janneke Ensing celebrates her first Women’s WorldTour win.

Janneke Ensing in the break.

A Dutch tour wouldn’t be complete without a cobbled climb.

Utterly spent: Kasia Niewiadoma rolls to the finish solo after spending time in the break.

A look of satisfaction. She’s done it!

All the award winners.

The final GC podium: Van der Breggen, Van Vleuten, Van Dijk

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