Lorena Wiebes (Parkhotel Valkenburg) is the up-and-coming sprinter in the women’s peloton, and she is now winning at the highest level. After strong performances all spring that included three UCI victories, she won her first UCI Women’s WorldTour race on Thursday when she was first across the line in stage 1 of the Tour of Chongming Island.
When Wiebes won the Dutch junior road race championships as a first-year junior in 2016, it was clear that she was a rider to watch. In the spring of 2017, she confirmed this by winning Junior Nations Cup races such as the Trofeo Da Moreno, the junior edition of the Trofeo Binda, two stages and the overall classification at the Healthy Ageing Tour, and a stage of the Omloop van Borsele. Later that year, she won the European junior road race championships on a flat course in Herning, Denmark, that finished in a sprint.
Wiebes had signed with Dutch team Parkhotel Valkenburg for 2018, her first senior year. Not among the top-15 teams automatically invited to Women’s WorldTour events, the team had a program consisting mostly of lower-category races, peppered with the occasional wildcard. This was ideal for Wiebes as it allowed her to find her feet in the senior peloton, and she collected four UCI victories and over a dozen top-ten placings. In addition to that, Wiebes also showed her talent at Women’s WorldTour races, placing fourth at the Brugge-De Panne one-day race and twice reaching the stage podium at the Boels Ladies Tour.
For 2019, Parkhotel Valkenburg did make the top-15 of the UCI’s ranking thanks to Wiebes’ 2018 results and the signing of experienced riders Sofie De Vuyst, Ann-Sophie Duyck, and Roxanne Knetemann. Wiebes opened her account in March with a win at the Nokere Koerse, three days after her twentieth birthday. Despite her young age, Wiebes already is a crafty sprinter with a knack for picking the right wheel to follow and an impressive turn of speed. She showed this at Brugge-De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem when she found the wheel of Kirsten Wild (WNT-Rotor) and was the only rider to stay close to the Dutchwoman. Wiebes finished second twice while Wild won both races.
Wiebes continued winning in April and May, taking the Omloop van Borsele and stage 1 of the Tour de Yorkshire before travelling to China. With Wild and other high-profile sprinters absent, Wiebes was the pre-race favourite at a Women’s WorldTour race for the first time.
“It was really warm,” she said after the stage. “Last week I rode in Yorkshire, and it was really cold, that is a big difference. The stage was a bit hectic sometimes, it was a high pace, and a lot of attacks in the final. My team did an amazing job to keep the pace high onto the last kilometre. I just had to find a wheel and keep going.”
After her stage win, Wiebes leads the general classification, points classification, and U23 classification. She and her young Parkhotel Valkenburg teammates now face the next challenge – defending the lead and keeping the peloton together. Last year’s Tour of Chongming Island saw a breakaway stay away on stage 2, so they have their work cut out for them.