By Ben Atkins in Hoogeveen, Netherlands
Team High Road's breakaway specialist Chantal Beltman took a magnificent solo victory in the Ronde van Drenthe World Cup on Saturday. She broke away with Sarah Düster (Cervelo Lifeforce Pro Cycling Team) and last year's second place finisher Elodie Touffet (Gauss RDZ Ormu) at the end of the final cobbled sector with 70 kilometres still to race, and stayed away when those two faded in the final kilometres. She finished comfortably six seconds ahead of what remained of the peloton as led home by former World Champion Marianne Vos (DSB Bank) and High Road team-mate Ina Teutenberg.
As in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen last weekend, the race was dominated from the start by the High Road and Cervelo Lifeforce teams. They put pressure on at the first cobbled section after 38 kilometres, which had the affect of splitting the peloton and putting several favourites into difficulty. It was at this point that current World Cup leader Suzanne De Goede (Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung) punctured and her whole team was forced to work to bring her back to the front. This cost the team dearly and she spent most of the rest of the race on her own.
It was another supreme display of team riding from both the High Road and Cervelo Lifeforce teams: both placing a rider in the break, allowing the rest of their riders to relax in the peloton and block the chase of other teams. As happened in Vlaanderen last week, it was High Road that managed to turn that dominance into victory. With a breakaway specialist off the front, and a sprinter waiting in the rear, they had an ideal situation in the closing kilometres.
"It's another victory for the team I think," said Beltman after the race, "because I just could go because I knew they were just so close after me, and all were still there. So I could go, and if they caught me I knew Ina [Teutenberg] could be ready for the sprint."
Beltman's victory was made all the sweeter by the fact it was in her home nation, in front of so many of her compatriots. "That's so cool," said the 31 year-old Dutchwoman, "so many people, so many fans along the road. It was extra motivation for me, yeah, that was good."
The three riders had worked very well together, right up to the final climb of the VAM-berg, but just a few kilometres further on, Beltman realised that the time had come to go it alone. "They got weaker and they couldn't push anymore and I thought I can't wait any longer;" she told Cyclingnews, "we have to go full on, and so I gave it all and I was away on my own. I didn't think anymore and I just [was like] 'go go go'."
Despite only holding a dozen or so seconds over the chasing bunch behind, she held no fear of being caught and the team behind her spurred her further: "No, [I was not worried]", she continued, "because we had Ina for the sprint ready and all the girls were still there, so they all shouted to me [over the radio] 'Go go go!' and I thought, 'Yeah, I go.'"
Suzanne De Goede didn't have the luckiest day, but still managed to collect fourth place and more points towards retaining her lead in the World Cup standings. "Well, the problem was: I got a flat tyre in tenth position on the first cobbles," she explained to Cyclingnews on the way to the podium, "and one of my team-mates gave me a wheel and worked so hard today to get me back in the bunch. I think I was in group five or something really far away they all worked really hard to get me to the front. So this was a great result for the whole team, and good to keep the jersey still.
"So, a good result for bad luck on the first cobbles, and a really good team result I think."
The next round of the World Cup will be Flèche Wallone on April 23.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Ronde van Drenthe World Cup.