Last year, Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) won the Boels Ladies Tour prologue in her hometown of Wageningen, in the Netherlands. This year, she had to travel a little bit further to reach the start ramp – but even Arnhem is less than 20 kilometres away from home for the world time trial champion, who enjoyed the home crowd and was surprised at her winning advantage over the 3.3km course.
"It was great to win here in my rainbow jersey, almost in my backyard," said Van Vleuten. "It's so cool to show off the rainbow stripes with a win. I almost couldn't believe how big my advantage was, as last year in Wageningen it was only five seconds over 4.3km."
Although very close to home, Van Vleuten was all business before rolling off the start ramp, concentrating on the mental effort ahead of her as much as on the physical performance.
"Like last year, there were lots of familiar faces, but before a prologue I don't want to speak to people. There's so much you have to do in such a short amount of time, so you need to prepare yourself mentally and visualise what to do, when to brake, when to change gears; you need to be very concentrated. So I'm always a bit nervous before a prologue."
Analysing the prologue, it was Van Vleuten's power output that brought her the win.
"My sports director, Gene Bates, told me I took the time on the straight parts. I didn't take any unnecessary risks in the corners, but was just so fast on the long straights. It gives me confidence to know that I have some power, both for this race and going into the world championships. I'll focus on the time trial on Sunday now, but not put pressure on myself for the GC."
Van der Breggen, Kirchmann look forward to tactical race
In her return to racing after a training period, Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) was bested only by Van Vleuten. She now turns her focus to how to race in the coming days. With both her team sponsor and the race sponsor being the same, the Boels Ladies Tour is a very important race for Van der Breggen and her teammates.
"I just returned from an altitude camp, so it's hard to start with a short prologue," said Van der Breggen. "But I'm happy with this result. It was a nice start. And I'm looking forward to tomorrow, as it's going to be a hard stage.
"We're here with a strong team, and we'll have to see how to play our cards for the GC. The other teams are always watching me, so it's difficult to escape, so this is really going to be a race that's all about team tactics."
Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb) sat in the hot seat for a long time, only to be beaten by the last three riders to start. But the Canadian wasn't disappointed, choosing to focus instead on the positives of the day's performance and the possibilities for the stages to come as she and teammate Ellen van Dijk now sit third and fourth overall.
"You never know until the last rider finishes," said Kirchmann. "These short time trials are a speciality of mine, so I thought that maybe I had a chance. But Annemiek and those other ladies are quite fast. I had a plan, and I executed it exactly how I wanted to. So regardless of how the result played out in the end, I'm still happy with my race, having finished fourth behind some quality competition.
"We have some really tough stages coming up, and we have a super-strong roster here, so now we have lots of options. We'll have to sit down and decide which tactics to use."
The Boels Ladies Tour continues with a 137.9km road stage around Nijmegen on Wednesday, August 29.