Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo-Bigla) left it all out on the road Sunday's Tour of Flanders. After an aggressive race, the South African thought that she'd done enough to seal herself only her second WorldTour podium, but was edged out by Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) for the final spot.
Moolman-Pasio was part of a select group up front when race winner Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) attacked soon after the Kruisberg. She tried several times to track the Dutch rider down but was eventually brought back by her chasers.
"I'm happy with the race in general. Anna just surprised us all. I gave it everything on the Kwaremont, I went solo there, but it wasn't enough to pull Anna back. Then we got caught again from behind, and then Annemiek, Kasia and myself and Amy we went on the Paterberg. We were trying really hard to not let the bunch behind catch us, but unfortunately a few a came from behind for the sprint. I thought that I had third but then Annemiek got me on the line. I'm happy with the race," Moolman-Pasio told Cyclingnews, still composing herself after such a hard effort.
"I expected something to go after the Kruisberg, something always goes there, but Kasia had launched an attack and I followed and then Anna went. It's really hard when you're on your own to try and follow everything."
While there was no podium placing, the result is a good indication of Moolman-Pasio's form, particularly with her big goal of the Ardennes Classics on the horizon.
"My objective was only to be good for the Ardennes Classics so I think that I'm already ahead of where I want to be, so I'm happy."
Brennauer battles illness and impresses at Tour of Flanders
Despite suffering from a cough and a cold, Lisa Brennauer (Wiggle-High5) put in a solid performance at the Tour of Flanders to take her best ever finish of eighth place. Her teammate Kirsten Wild just missed the top 10, winning the sprint from the fourth group on the road to claim 11th.
With former champion Elisa Longo Borghini forced to sit out due to illness, Wiggle-High5 had to go back to the drawing board for Sunday's race. They had former podium finisher Wild as a potential contender, but they also had high hopes for Brennauer. Since her debut in 2013, Brennauer's best finish at De Ronde was 17th place, but they believed that her characteristics lent themselves to a good result and she duly delivered.
"I'm pretty happy with my performance because I was ill at the start of the week and I'm still not 100 per cent," she told Cyclingnews. "I was surprised that I could stay super long. I made a bit of a mistake in the Kwaremont so I had to close the gap there, but I made it back to the front. In the end, my body was just empty. I tried to do the sprint from the chase, but I was already really tired. It was a pity for us but I gave my best in the final and that's all I had today.
"After the Paterberg, I had to see how things were. Anna van der Breggen was obviously in the front and there was a group in front of me still. We had to gamble a bit to not bring it back too fast because we had a lot of Boels riders with us and we didn't want them to play the game on us. Obviously, I was super tired at the end so my sprint was not how it was supposed to be."
Flanders was only Brennauer's fourth race day with the Wiggle-High5 team after her illness meant that she didn't start Dwars door Vlaanderen last Wednesday. After so long with the Canyon-SRAM, Ronny Lauke set-up she says she's settling in well to her new home.
"I'm super happy. We haven't had a lot of good luck so far. We were missing Elisa Longo Borghini today and some girls were caught in a crash. It's just the start of the season and we're still optimistic," she said. "The girls welcomed me very well and I feel really good in my new team and I'm also happy with my performance so far. I just have to get healthy and then we're ready for the next part of the season."
Broken ribs and stitches for Fournier after Flanders crash
Aside from Anna van der Breggen's long-range solo attack to victory, one of the striking images from the Tour of Flanders was Roxane Fournier (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) being catapulted into a small gap between a pole and a wall.
The 26-year-old sprinter was caught up in a huge crash in the run-in to the Muur van Geraardsbergen and found herself with nowhere to go as she headed towards pole on the pavement. It was a startling image, and Fournier says that she was scared for her life as she went tumbling through the air. Fortunately, the French rider avoided major injury but she was still left with a number of broken ribs and required stitches to her right knee.
"I was moving up because we were coming to the Grammont wall [the Muur], an important moment in the race," she explained on the team's Facebook page. "A fall took place in the middle of the pack and I wanted to avoid a girl, unfortunately, we were close to a house and a pole was right next to it. I could not avoid the house when we were riding at full speed and I found myself stuck between the two. I feared life, but fortunately, I had the reflex to shift my head to not do not hit it first."
Hosking bruised following crash
Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini) was another rider that came down hard during the crash with a little more than 60 kilometres remaining. As riders trickled through the gaps between the bikes and stricken riders, Hosking could be seen in the foetal position in the centre of the road.
While she was eventually able to get to her feet, her race was over and she was taken to hospital in Geraardsbergen to be checked over. She later confirmed on Twitter that she hadn't suffered any serious injuries, though she was left with plenty of bruising, and would be heading back to Australia for the Commonwealth Games.
Hosking even posted a photo of herself in the kids play area of the hospital, with Roxane Fournier and Rudy Barbier, who crashed out of the men's race, as they watched the race on television.