This article first appeared on VeloNews.com.
Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) won stage 1 of the Simac Ladies Tour from a reduced bunch after over 60km in a strong, 21-rider breakaway.
Wiebes sprinted to victory with a clear margin, beating Karlijn Swinkels (Jumbo Visma) and Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo) into second and third.
A crash in the peloton saw the bunch split around 80km into the stage, after which a group of 21 riders established themselves in the front. With most big teams represented, the group worked well together and held their lead all the way to the line
A lead-out from Charlotte Kool and Franziska Koch delivered Wiebes to her 18th win of the season, and her first in the European champion’s jersey.
How it happened
The opening stage of the 2022 Simac Ladies Tour started and finished in Lelystad, taking in one and a half laps of an 83km circuit before heading back into the centre of the city for the finale. Set in the pan-flat region of Flevoland, stage 1 was as flat as a stage could be — Lelystad sits at 3m below sea level — and looked nailed on for a sprint. The risks of Dutch winds posed a possible challenge, though.
The first 20km were somewhat uneventful, with no breakaways going as Team DSM led the peloton, already taking control in support of Wiebes, but the action soon started. After 25km, the crosswinds made themselves known for the first time and split the peloton, allowing a 28-rider group to emerge at the front of the race, 15 seconds ahead of the next group.
After a hard chase, the second group re-joined the lead to make a bigger bunch, but several riders were still distanced as the race headed towards the 40km mark.
Amongst the chaos of the wind, a crash saw Coryn Labecki (Jumbo-Visma) go down and abandon the race. The Simac Tour was the American’s return to racing after a two-month absence and would have been a key test ahead of the world championships in Wollongong next month.
With much of the peloton regrouped and the wind let up, the peloton calmed slightly approaching the first bonus sprint of the race. Shortly after, Wiebes was involved in a crash that saw the peloton split again, though Wiebes made it to the front group that contained 21 riders after 80km.
Caught on the wrong side of the split, FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope chased in the second group, trying to close a 24-second gap to the front of the race.
Going into the final 40km of the race, the lead group’s advantage had grown to a minute. With many teams well represented, they were working well together and making it hard for the chasing riders. Among the sprinters represented in the lead were Lonneke Uneken (SD Worx), Alison Jackson (Liv Racing Xstra), Ruby Roseman-Gannon (BikeExchange-Jayco), and Chloe Hosking (Trek-Segafredo), but their chances were perhaps overshadowed by the presence of Wiebes, who also had key lead-out riders Charlotte Kool and Franziska Koch with her.
Despite a big push, their advantage did shrink somewhat going into the final 30km of the stage and what remained of the peloton behind had the leaders in view on the longer straights. After cooperating for so long, the front group began to attack each other in the final 15km, with the Liv Racing Xstra quartet of Jackson, Smulders, Buurman, and Korevaar taking turns to accelerate and forcing Team DSM to control things.
At 11km to go, Hosking punctured out of the lead group, which took some steam out of the leaders’ efforts as Trek shouldered less responsibility on the front. This caused the gap to shrink again, but with 4km to go, the leaders still held a healthy advantage and looked set to contest the win between them.
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (SD Worx) launched an attack from the front group with 1.8km to go but could not get away. Going into the final kilometre, Kool once again executed an effective lead-out for Wiebes, allowing the European champion to easily outsprint the bunch, winning by several bike lengths. Karlijn Swinkels (Jumbo Visma) took second, whilst Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo) just beat Jackson to take third.
With bonus seconds on the line, Wiebes now leads the race by two seconds over Swinkels. In the end, 19 leaders finished 49 seconds ahead of the peloton, meaning the general classification is already beginning to take shape after what was expected to be a straightforward sprint stage.
Tomorrow’s stage starting and finishing in Ede is a similarly flat day, taking in three laps of a 40km circuit with a small rise in the final 10km but a flat run to the line.
Simac Ladies Tour (2.WWT) Lelystad → Lelystad
GASPARRINI Eleonora Camilla