Amy Pieters followed in the footsteps of her Boels Dolmans teammates Amalie Dideriksen, Chantal Blaak and Lizzie Deignan on Sunday when she won the Ronde van Drenthe. The Dutchwoman took the win in what was only the second road race of her 2018 season after focusing on the recent UCI Track World Championships in Apeldoorn, where she took silver in the Madison [with Kirsten Wild] for the Netherlands.
"I had no idea exactly how I would do on the road, coming here straight from the Track World Championships," Pieters said. "I have been waiting for a big victory for a long time, now I finally have it, but it's still a bit strange. I'm happy, and I think I will fully realise it later."
With several former winners in the line-up, Boels Dolmans were favourites to win, and the team had not laid a rigid strategy.
"We were pretty open at the start," Pieters said. "We are all in good shape and can all win this race. It was a hectic race, especially in the final. Of course it's sad that we missed Chantal Blaak and Amalie Dideriksen there, then you can play off each other even more, but we have to be happy that we still won. I still felt good, so the girls gave me the chance to do the sprint."
Pieters won the fight for a good position in the final kilometre, but this meant she had to launch her sprint early.
"I was in second position, but then I got in the front pretty soon," she said. "I couldn't wait and just tried to keep it to the finish line. You're never sure, but when Alexis [Ryan] came I felt I had a second kick, and I am happy I could finish it off."
Ryan (Canyon-SRAM) had shown her good form by winning the 1.2 race Drentse Acht van Westerveld on Friday, but to finish as runner-up at the Ronde van Drenthe surprised even herself.
"I feel like the second winner today," she said. "Friday was my first UCI win, and to podium in a WorldTour race two days later is huge. I was tearing up a little bit when I crossed the line. This has really been a breakthrough season for me already."
The 23-year-old said her teammates deserved the credit for the result after bringing her back following a crash.
"I crashed pretty hard with about 40 km to go, and then my teammates killed themselves to bring me back, so I knew I had to get them something," Ryan said. "It was a long sprint. With the tailwind, you couldn't wait too long, or you don't really get up to speed. Amy went at 350 metres to go, which is very far. I launched right after her, and it was just a drag race for like 200 metres. I gave it my best, but I couldn't get her any more."
Third-place finisher Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini) wasn't as upbeat as Ryan.
"I'm just disappointed in myself. I let myself get pushed out of position in the final corner," Hosking said. "Marianne Vos and Coryn Rivera just let a huge gap open, and Amy and Alexis were gone. I tried to close it, but the race was over.
"Third is not the result I wanted, but hopefully I can build on this for the rest of the season. The team was incredible. We had six girls at the front all the time, so I think we can take a lot from that, especially leading into the Flemish races."
The UCI Women's WorldTour continues with the Trofeo Alfredo Binda on Sunday, 18 March.