Like the men’s race the day before, the Classic Brugge-De Panne Women saw several crashes wreak havoc and the field's top riders reacting to the chaotic feeling of the one-day Women's WorldTour event held on Thursday in Belgium.
Contrary to other editions, the tram tracks that the race runs alongside for several kilometres on the run-in to the finish in De Panne did not themselves cause any crashes. Instead, the crashes may be explained by moments of inattention in a long race – the longest on the women’s calendar by distance at 162.8 kilometres – as well as simple misfortune.
Marta Bastianelli (UAE Team ADQ) sprinted to third place after a hectic final that saw her teammate Anna Trevisi crash in a left turn 2.4 km from the finish.
“I am a bit sorry because there was a crash from my teammate in the corner. There was a small gap, I closed the gap back, then I sprinted. I did the maximum; in another situation I think it could have been possible to try to win,” said the Italian veteran.
She continued by calling the race difficult and 'even dangerous', a sentiment echoed by, among others, Marianne Vos, whose Jumbo-Visma squad skipped the race altogether for the second year in a row.
“It is a very difficult race, even dangerous because there are so many corners and big and smaller roads. It is almost impossible to have a teammate to lead you out, but my team worked very well in the last five kilometres, and I am happy with third place and with my condition,” finished Bastianelli.
2021 winner Grace Brown and three of her FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope teammates were among the riders involved in a large crash with 16 kilometres to go, taking them out of contention.
“I don’t think it was necessarily the fault of the race organisers. It is just a thing that happens sometimes if wheels touch or someone doesn’t take an elbow very well. It wasn’t an obstacle that caused the crash,” said Brown.
A traffic island with a hedge in the middle of the road made it harder for riders that went down or were caught behind the crash to sort themselves and their bikes out and get going again, meaning that large parts of the peloton had their race effectively end there.
Though she could avoid the crash herself, runner-up Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) suffered a mechanical and had to finish the race and sprint with a broken spoke.
Earlier in the race, Katia Ragusa (Liv Racing Xstra) lost control of her bike with 62km to go when she tried to move up in the peloton in the gutter, bringing the Italian as well as three other riders down, though all four could continue racing.
Canyon-SRAM’s Ella Harris had to abandon after a crash and was delivered to hospital. Nine other riders also had to abandon the race.
Race winner Elisa Balsamo intended to sprint for her Trek-Segafredo teammate Chloe Hosking but when the Australian was caught behind the crash in the final 2km of the race, and a quick change of plans meant that Balsamo was the sprinter going for what turned out to be a surprise victory.
“There were a lot of crashes in the last kilometres, it was very crazy,” Balsamo explained. “So we were not there with a lot of riders. There was a crash, and in the last kilometre and they told me I had to do the sprint. So I tried to find the best position, and I did a good sprint.”
Crash involving Curiner, Van 't Geloof and Ragusa#ExteriooClassic pic.twitter.com/Ufmo21OVK0March 24, 2022
Lots of riders affected in this crash - Sandra Alonso is sat on the ground but so many others are involved too.#ExteriooClassic pic.twitter.com/pPyeX5kSKTMarch 24, 2022
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