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Prologue sets stage for close GC battle at Boels Ladies Tour

Boels Ladies Tour
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

With no separate time trial in the 2019 edition, nor a hilly stage of the same difficulty as in recent years, the time differences incurred in the opening prologue of the Boels Ladies Tour could become crucial for the general classification.

Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) won the prologue but said afterwards that she and her team would not actively defend the leader’s jersey, instead targeting stage wins throughout the week. This is good news for the riders just behind Van Vleuten who will be eager to step up with the 2017 and 2018 overall winner so outspokenly disinterested in the race overall.

Lisa Klein (Canyon-SRAM) was only six seconds slower than Van Vleuten. The German time trial champion is also a decent sprinter, making it possible for her to take bonus seconds in intermediate sprints and sprint finishes during the next stages to make up the difference to Van Vleuten and get the overall lead herself. Klein’s teammates Alice and Hannah Barnes as well as Katarzyna Niewiadoma also placed well on the first day and are all within 18 seconds of the lead, giving the Canyon-SRAM team several options.

Team Sunweb had entered the race planning for Leah Kirchmann to be their main GC hope, but in the prologue, Lucinda Brand ended up as the team’s best-placed rider in third place, seven seconds behind Van Vleuten and three seconds faster than Kirchmann in seventh place. The technical nature of the prologue worked to the advantage of Brand who also races cyclo-cross and therefore is familiar with such course layouts.

“On a route like this with a lot of corners you always think that there are some places where you could have gone faster, but the result is a nice confirmation of the training I have done in the last weeks in preparation for the World Championships. It was a good start, but things are still very close and can look totally different tomorrow,” said Brand.

Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) had targeted the prologue with an eye to a GC result, and the European time trial champion started well. But turning off the cobblestone section at the top of a small hill, Van Dijk’s chain dropped off the front chainring, causing her to lose control of the bike and fall off, tumbling down the grass-covered hillside. With a time loss of 1:48 minutes, Van Dijk’s GC ambitions are now over.

Van Dijk’s teammate Letizia Paternoster performed well to finish fourth, nine seconds behind Van Vleuten, surprising even her own sports director Ina-Yoko Teutenberg. “We did not necessarily expect her to be this good, but we all know Letizia has it in her. She has been so busy with the track program this season. Lately she has been on the road more and showed today that she has gained more of these strengths.”

Lisa Brennauer (WNT-Rotor) finished fifth in the same time as Paternoster. Though she will likely ride in support of her teammate Kirsten Wild in the flat stages to come, the German road race champion is well-positioned for a GC bid on the hillier stages.

The same is true for Boels Dolmans who had four riders finish among the best 11. The time deficit of Anna van der Breggen, Christine Majerus, Amy Pieters, and Chantal Blaak is between nine and eleven seconds only, setting the team up for a multi-pronged strategy in the race sponsored by the team’s main sponsor.

Finally, Lorena Wiebes (Parkhotel Valkenburg) exceeded expectations with a 12th place, losing only 13 seconds to Van Vleuten. As stage 1 is flat, includes an intermediate sprint with time bonifications, and is very likely to end in a mass sprint, Wiebes could have made up this time after just one day and must be the favourite to wear the race leader’s jersey after the equally flat stage 2.