Despite the event’s optimistic tagline of “De Lente begint met de Ronde van Drenthe” (“The spring begins with the Ronde van Drenthe”), spring weather was nowhere to be found on March 11 as the 2018 UCI Women’s WorldTour continued in The Netherlands.
A long-standing race of the women’s calendar, The Ronde van Drenthe is characterised by its woody paths, cobbled roads and steep climb up the man-made VAM-berg —all of which were gritty, muddy and slick as wet winter weather continues in the northeastern part of The Netherlands.
With all the best riders present and the conditions proving to be the biggest obstacle of all, the second round of the UCI Women’s WorldTour was a true sufferfest, defined by rain, crashes, confusion and a last-minute route-change to avoid two cobblestone sectors in the final kilometres.
Louise Norman Hansen (Team Virtu Cycling) and Annelies Dom (Lotto Soudal Ladies) brought action to the race early, escaping in the first kilometres and staying out in front for the better part of 20 kilometres before they were misled by a police motorbike.
The narrow cobbled roads soon followed, shattering the peloton. A big front group reunited in the lead-in to the VAM-berg, which the peloton would have to ascend no less than four times.
The pack dwindled each time up the steep climb, but it wasn’t until the final ascent that a real attack took place. Former Dutch champion Anouska Koster (WaowDeals) attacked hard and was joined by Christine Majerus (Boels Dolmans) and Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-Scott) on the descent.
The trio, however, was reeled in quickly as a thinned-out peloton headed back toward Hoogeveen and into the final kilometres of the race together.
A flurry of attacks followed, splitting the front and causing a little bit of panic. World champion Chantal Blaak hit the deck hard and later abandoned. Another crash with one kilometre to go took out sprinter Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla) and in the chaotic final metres, Boels-Dolman’s Amy Pieters launched her sprint early.
There were 350 metres remaining but a tail wind and flat road was in her favour. Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM) was quick to respond but came just a split second short.
Our photographers were on the scene to capture the grit, grime and grimaces.
The Women’s WorldTour continues at Troffeo Binda on March 18, which will be streamed live at http://cyclingsportpromotion.com/en/live/.
2018 Women’s WorldTour
3 March – Strade Bianche, Italy
11 March – Ronde Van Drenthe, The Netherlands
18 March – Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Italy
22 March – Driedaagse De Panne, Belgium
25 March – Ghent-Wevelgem, Belgium
1 April – Tour of Flanders, Belgium
15 April – Amstel Gold Race, The Netherlands
18 April – Flèche Wallonne, Belgium
22 April- Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Belgium
26-28 April – Tour of Chongming Island, China
10-13 May – Tour of California, USA
19-22 May – Emakumeen XXXI. Bira, Spain
13-17 June – Women’s Tour, Great Britain
6-15 July – Giro Rosa, Italy
17 July – La Course by Le Tour de France, France
28 July – RideLondon Classique, Great Britain
10 August – Vargarda team time trial, Sweden
12 August – Vargarda road race, Sweden
16-19 August – Ladies Tour of Norway, Norway
25 August – GP de Plouay – Lorient Agglomération, France
28 August – 2 September – Boels Ladies Tour, Netherlands
16 September – Madrid Challenge by la Vuelta, Spain
21 October – Tour of Guangxi, China