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It was just above freezing this morning in Gent, but the bright blue skies and the sun made it a cheerful and almost springlike Saturday morning. The tension that comes with the first big race of the season was palpable, especially among those who hadn’t made the trek to Australia, Qatar or San Luis for early season racing. The women’s peloton set out from the Flemish Cycling Centre Eddy Merckx with a record number of 198 riders.
There were crashes, attacks and some serious headwinds to content with, but even so, the race win was completely open until Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) and Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) escaped at 25 kilometers to go. The two got a maximum advantage of 40 seconds, but when Elvin didn’t take over the lead anymore, Armitstead decided to go on her own.
After an impressive ride, Armitstead showed that the rainbow curse is nothing but a fable, proudly displaying the rainbow stripes on her torso as she crossed the finish line solo.
“The rainbow jersey curse? I was number 13 today as well. That shows how much I believe in those things. Yeah. I think World Champions aren’t lucky,” she commented afterward. “You work hard and you don’t suddenly stop working next winter because you’re world champion. It gives me extra motivation more than anything.”