Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) was one of the riders to shape the final of the women’s Tour of Flanders on Sunday. The strong Dutchwoman followed the attack of eventual race winner Marta Bastianelli (Team Virtu Cycling) on the Oude Kwaremont and then made a move herself on the Paterberg. But when she could not shake off the Italian sprinter uphill, Van Vleuten knew it would be hard to win.
"If I go to the finish line with Bastianelli, she will beat me 99 out of 100 times. It was good that we were three after the Paterberg as the cooperation was better, but I also knew that there would be no more chances to attack."
It is hard to get away from a group on the flat run-in to the finish in Oudenaarde. In the knowledge that Bastianelli is a far better sprinter, Van Vleuten nevertheless gave it a go with about 3km to go but came up short as the European champion was attentive. "I had to try something. Maybe it looked a bit silly to go that early, but I thought it might surprise her. And I saw the chase group coming up from behind."
Van Vleuten expressed disappointment at the race result, but also at the lack of hard racing on the earlier climbs. "Last year I was very happy with third place. Now, I am disappointed to be second because I know I am slightly better than I was last year. I am a bit disappointed in how the race developed, it was not a hard race. To give you an idea, last year I finished with a 200 W average power output, this year with 160.
"I did everything I could, I went all out on the Paterberg. I know that I can drop Bastianelli on the Paterberg after a hard race where we went fast on every climb. She could follow me because it was not a hard race. I needed a race of attrition, but there were too many teams that had a sprinter and wanted a conservative race."
Instead of dwelling on the opportunities she could not capitalise on in Flanders, Van Vleuten decided to look forward to the next races, feeling that her form is where it should be and that she can be even stronger in the hilly classics.
"I think I had the legs to win today. But it is only my fourth race of the year, and the team is going well, so we can look towards the Ardennes with confidence. The three Ardennes classics are actually my big goal, so the spring season is not over yet."
The UCI Women's WorldTour will continue with the Amstel Gold Race on April 21, followed by the Flèche Wallonne on April 24 and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on April 28.