Blaak aims for Tour of Flanders after claiming world title

After winning the UCI Road World Championships last year, Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) has made the Tour of Flanders her next major target.

The Dutch rider, who recently signed a contract extension with Boels-Dolmans taking her through to the end of 2020, will race for the first time in the rainbow jersey at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad later this month. However, while she has experienced success there, her sights are set firmly on winning Flanders five weeks later.

“That one is missing,” she told Cyclingnews at her Boels Dolmans’s presentation in Heerlen earlier this week. “It’s a Monument, and I have dreamed since I was a kid of winning Flanders. I have been close a couple of times.

“But also it is not everything because there are a lot of good races. If there’s a chance, I will try to take it, but if I am not good enough I am the first to say I will work for my teammates.”

Though she was not the dark horse winner some suggested, Blaak began the World Championship road race as a domestique, it was only when she attacked after rejoining the peloton from a mid-race crash that she began to believe the title could be hers.

“I started thinking how I could win, because if it continued I should do it for Holland,” she said of the penultimate lap breakaway with Briton Hannah Barnes and Frenchwoman Audrey Cordon-Ragot.

Her race-winning move, though, came only after the trio was caught on the final ascent of Salmon Hill. Now comprising seven riders, the group included Dutch teammates and pre-race favourites Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten. On the descent, in a move redolent of her win at the 2016 Gent-Wevelgem, Blaak attacked hard.

“I knew immediately I had a good gap and that it could work. If I go fully with everything I had probably the only chance of my life to get that jersey. But the good thing was that if the girls came back [and] I was finished I had a great race, I was in the break, I did a good attack and our two leaders are there, so there was no pressure on me, so I went as hard as I can.”

After months training at home and a couple of team camps, Blaak is now comfortable in the sport’s most famous jersey and determined to enjoy it. While she admits her status as world champion is different, her character and position on one of the sport’s most successful teams is not.

“In this team it is really hard, [because] we have a few leaders. I think I was one of them already, but I don’t want to change my style of racing. I like the game, I like to play and I like to work for my teammates and race aggressively. If I am in a good break, I have a chance, and, if not, I work for someone else, it is easy for me.

“My dream season would be that I will I can show that I am one of the best riders in the world. I want to be a good teammate, but I also want to take my own chances.

“I have worked pretty hard this winter. I think I have a level already, I am not better than last year, but I don't need to be better because I was already there.”

Over previous seasons, Blaak’s best form has come in the classics. Wins at Le Samyn, Ronde van Drenthe and Gent-Wevelgem headline, while podium finishes at Het Nieuwsblad prove the spring class she has shown since joining Boels-Dolmans in 2015. This year she will be hoping her new jersey will provide the impetus to convert consecutive third-place results at Flanders into a much-coveted victory this April.

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