De Panne: Superb piloting by Brennauer enables Wild victory

Kirsten Wild (WNT-Rotor) won the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne one-day race on Thursday after a thrilling finale culminating a mass sprint with nearly all the top sprinters. Cyclingnews takes a closer look at the final kilometres as we analyse the sprints of Wild and the other podium finishers, Lorena Wiebes (Parkhotel Valkenburg) and Lotte Kopecky (Lotto Soudal Ladies).

Trek-Segafredo, Boels Dolmans, and Mitchelton-Scott all took charge of affairs from 6km to go. About 2,000 metres from the finish, Kopecky had been brought close to the front by her teammates, and Wiebes had found the wheel of Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) to sit on.

At this point, Wild was still far back in the peloton, sitting around position 40. Her teammate Lisa Brennauer was a bit further ahead in position 30 and started to move up about 1.5km from the finish. Wild took the cue and pushed hard to get onto Brennauer's wheel; the Dutch sprinter was then expertly piloted to the very front.

Under the red kite with 1,000 metres to go, Brennauer, with Wild in her wheel, had taken the lead. From here on, Wild used her race craft to stay near the front but out of the wind. Team Sunweb took over just before the right-hand turn across the tram tracks with 700 metres to go.

Christine Majerus (Boels Dolmans) came to the front to lead out her teammate Amalie Dideriksen 450 metres from the line. When the Danish champion launched her sprint with 300 metres to go, there were two lines of sprinters next to each other, close to the barriers on the right side of the road: Dideriksen with Kopecky, Susanne Andersen (Team Sunweb), Marta Bastianelli (Team Virtu Cycling), and Chloe Hosking (Alé Cipollini) behind her, and Lepistö followed by Wild, Wiebes, and Vos.

Lepistö went for Dideriksen's slipstream, and a gap opened on the left side that Wild and Wiebes took full advantage of to launch their sprints 250 metres from the line. But while Wiebes still had to go around Majerus, Wild had a free road to the finish ahead of her.

"It was a high pace all day," Wild said. "I tried to stay fresh for the finish and save the best for the last. My plan was to go much later, but I was boxed in a bit and thought that if I did not go now, I would surely not win anything. I went all or nothing, and fortunately it turned out well."

Kopecky's front wheel was overlapping Dideriksen's back wheel on the right side where there was no room to pass, so the Belgian had to stop pedalling several times in order to get onto the other side. When the Belgian got up to speed with 175 metres to go, Wild and Wiebes had already passed her.

"It did not go perfectly for me," said Kopecky after the race. "I was in Dideriksen's wheel, but on the right side, so I could not go yet, I had to come to the left side first. But I still reached the podium, and I am satisfied with that."

Marta Bastianelli (Team Virtu Cycling) had been one of the favourites for the race, but the Italian 'only' finished seventh. "It was a dangerous finish with a big peloton. I had hoped for a smaller group, that would have been better for me," explained Bastianelli. "I lost my teammates a bit on the final kilometres, and it was hard to find the right wheel. I got boxed in by Lepistö on the last 300 metres, and then it was impossible to get a better placing. I just tried not to crash, getting to the finish safely was the most important thing in that moment."

As she still finished ahead of Vos, Bastianelli defended her UCI Women's WorldTour leader's jersey, and her teammate Sofia Bertizzolo continues to lead the youth ranking. The race series continues Sunday with Gent-Wevelgem.

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