Jolien D'hoore (Mitchelton-Scott) won the inaugural Driedaagse De Panne one-day race that made its début on the UCI Women's WorldTour on Thursday. As she crossed the line, the Belgian champion did not know she had won, thinking there might still have been some riders from the breakaway ahead of her.
"I was not sure if we were going to catch the riders in front," D'hoore told Sporza after the race. "I had a teammate up there in Gracie Elvin, so I just focused on the sprint. Even if it was for seventh or eighth place, I wanted to win the sprint."
Cold temperatures, crosswinds, some rain in the first hours of racing, and the many narrow roads on the route made for a hectic race.
"Everyone wanted to be at the front, and there was a lot of wind, which led to some echelons," D'Hoore said. "Nobody really knew what to expect as it was a new race for everyone. There was never one team that took control of the run-in, so it was pretty dangerous with all the turns and with the tram tracks in the last corner. I knew that I had to be in a top-five position through the final turn, and then I just sprinted on my instinct."
Australian Chloe Hosking (Alé Cipollini) added another podium finish to her results list but is still chasing her first European win of the season.
"It's not the result I came here for, but I've been consistently good," Hosking said. "I feel like I have three more chances in the next 11 days. Hopefully I'll keep knocking on the door and the big win will come soon.
"We caught the last rider from the breakaway in the last corner, so you can either say we timed it really well, or we left it a bit late," Hoksing said. "Marta Bastianelli had to do a lot of work a bit early, so I was alone with 300 metres to go. That is too early with a headwind sprint."
Luxembourg champion Christine Majerus (Boels Dolmans) was one of the riders in the early breakaway. When she had to drop back to the peloton after a back wheel puncture, Majerus took part in the chase of her erstwhile companions. In the final, she still had enough power to take part in the sprint and finished off her performance with a third place.
"Amalie was sick," Majerus said of former world champion Dideriksen. "Normally she's one of our main sprinters, so we were only five today. This third place was the most I could do. It was a pity that we had nobody in the break after my puncture. There were a lot of good sprinters here, I was really fighting for position, and I'm happy that we could still get a podium without having one of the biggest sprinters in the race."
Mieke Kröger (Team Virtu Cycling) was also part of the breakaway but unlike Majerus, she almost made it to the finish. Going solo on the final lap, the former German time trial champion was close to victory.
"The gap kept ticking down and I thought that we needed to act," Kröger said in a statement posted on the team website. "We were two riders in the break, so we needed to attack. I just let my feelings guide me. I was happy to get away and it sounded promising in the radio. You never know until you are caught. With 4 km to go, I had like 30 seconds. Then just before the last corner I heard the chains behind me and knew it was over."
Listen to D'hoore speak about her victory in the latest Voxwomen video below. The UCI Women's WorldTour continues on Sunday, 25 March, with Gent-Wevelgem.
Belgian Champion @JolienDhoore@MitcheltonSCOTT takes her first victory of the season, and it’s on home soil @Driedaagse_— Voxwomen (@Voxwomen) March 22, 2018
“This is good for the morale, good for the team and a good start to the classics” #Driedaagsepic.twitter.com/82tcHBWBse