Annemiek van Vleuten sprints to second place at the Tour of Flanders
Former Tour of Flanders winner Annemiek van Vleuten was forced to settle for second place at the ‘Ronde’ after being edged out in a three-up sprint for the victory.
The 36-year-old made it into the winning move over the Oude Kwaremont and helped put more distance into a chasing group over the Paterberg, but it wasn’t to be in the final sprint to the line.
It was a fast and hectic opening to the race with several crashes claiming some big-name riders, while seven escapees went up the road to form the early breakaway.
The peloton looked happy to let the attackers go, with a steady pace being set until the race hit the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the gap to the break dropped significantly.
The seven riders were eventually reeled back in on the Kanarieberg and the attacks soon followed. However, nothing was sticking with Australian Sarah Roy staying attentive and marking the moves at the head of the reduced bunch as the race passed over the Taaienberg.
The Final Climbs
The race burst into life on the long drag of the Oude Kwaremont with attacks incoming and the bunch being whittled down further. Van Vleuten was alert to the dangers and made it over the summit with a small group of four riders, including European champion Marta Bastianelli (Team Virtu Cycling).
The Paterberg soon followed and the lead group containing Van Vleuten was reduced to just three, while the gap back to the chasers grew to over 30-seconds. With the gap holding, the podium places looked set to be contested between the leading three as the chase behind faltered.
With Bastianelli the favourite in a sprint finish Van Vleuten tried an attack inside the final three kilometres, but the move was quickly shutdown. As the trio passed underneath the flame rouge Van Vleuten was left to open up the sprint and despite a valiant effort to hold off Bastainelli, the Italian came around for the win.
Annemiek van Vleuten:
“Last year I was super happy with third place, now I’m disappointed with second because I know I’m slightly better than last year.”
“I’m disappointed in the end with the race because it wasn’t hard, there were too many teams that had a sprinter and would like to have a conservative race. So how the race developed I was really disappointed.”
“But I think for myself, I did everything I could, I went all out on the Paterberg. I know that if I come to the finish line with Bastianelli, out of 100 times she will beat me 99. So I had to try something, it maybe looked a bit silly to go that early, but I was hoping I could maybe surprise her.”
Martin Vestby (Sports Director):
“As a team we rode really well today, but we had expected a little bit more of an aggressive fight for position and that the race would split a bit more.”
“In the end a big group came to the bottom of the Kwaremont and even though it split over the climb, we had hoped that it would have split more before then.”
“That would have been better for us and better for Annemiek’s strengths, but the girls rode really well, they followed the plan and in the end it’s been a good day.”
Tour of Flanders Results:
1. Marta Bstianelli (Team Virtu Cycling) 4:16:50
2. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) ST
3. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla Pro Cycling) ST