Amalie Dideriksen (Boels Dolmans) was again the first rider across the line in Friday's stage of the Boels Ladies Tour, raising her arms in celebration for the second day in a row. After her win, the Danish champion said that she moved into the sprinter's role only in the final of the stage as the team originally wanted to give Amy Pieters an opportunity to win.
"We had agreed to sprint for Amy today since I had the chance yesterday. But then she was in the breakaway twice on the final laps. When Amy was brought back with one lap to go, Danny [Stam, DS] said in the radio, 'Amalie, we do the sprint for you'. Amy had used a lot of energy with the attacks, so she did not have the final kick for the sprint any more, and I was next in line. So I had to switch my mind, and it was a really long sprint, really hard."
The run-in to the finish was hectic with three 90-degree turns and some typical Dutch road furniture. On the finishing straight, Dideriksen ended up getting a lead-out from competitor Lorena Wiebes (Parkhotel Valkenburg).
"I was on my own a bit on the final kilometre. Then I got the wheel of Lorena Wiebes, that was very good for me. She started her sprint very early, I could wait in her wheel a bit. But I saw people coming from behind, so I had to open earlier than I had planned. If people come from the back and box you in, you are stuck and cannot sprint like you want. In the end Lucinda Brand was really close, but I was able to hold her off."
Cyclists are a superstitious lot, and Dideriksen is seemingly no exception. Handed the start number 13 for the race, she turned the numbers upside-down on her race kit. But the number, and the race, appear to bring her good luck: The win in Weert brings Dideriksen's total of Boels Ladies Tour stage victories to three, meaning that every third of her nine road race wins since her first senior year in 2015 came in the Dutch race. "I had quite a lot of people telling me that it was their lucky number, so maybe it's a good number for me too. I am really happy. I am not used to winning much, so it is really nice to take another stage."
Before the sprinters came to the fore in Weert, the stage was characterised by a long solo breakaway. Israeli champion Omer Shapira (Cylance) attacked just a few kilometres into the race – and ended up riding more than 100 kilometres on her own before being caught with 8km to go and eventually finishing in 81st place, 2:12 minutes behind the peloton.
But Shapira's efforts were not all for nought as she was rewarded with the prize for the most combative rider, giving her a tour on the podium and a red jersey to take home. A 19th place in this year's La Course shows that she is a talent, but today's heroic solo really brought Shapira to the attention of the public.
"It was hard. I had hoped that someone would come up from behind and join me, but that did not happen. So I just looked on my power metre and kept the same watt numbers, riding the same tempo all the way. And the gap grew and grew. It is always possible to get through, but I knew that they would probably catch me."
Shapira flicked her head as if to say, that's cycling. "I just did my job and tried to enjoy it and that's it. And I got my first classification jersey, that is nice," the young Israeli smiled.
The Boels Ladies Tour continues on Saturday, 1 September, with the queen stage in hilly Limburg, starting and finishing in Sittard-Geleen.