By Jeff Jones and Brecht Decaluwé in Ninove
Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint) scored the first of two Ronde van Vlaanderen doubles today when she beat Austrian Christiane Soeder (Univega) in a two woman sprint. Melchers won this race in the same way last year, but was with her teammate Susanne Ljungskog. This year, up until 2 km to go, it looked as though she would finish alone, but when Soeder finally caught her, victory wasn't assured.
"It was a short sprint, so I could win it," Melchers told Cyclingnews after the race. "Winning today was harder than winning last year, because now, you start as a favourite. The wind and the rain made it really hard. I experienced the race like a war, but I succeeded in winning it."
Melchers attacked a lead group containing Soeder, Edwige Pitel (Bianchi-Aliverti) and Kimberly Anderson (T-Mobile) on the Valkenberg with around 30 km to go, and built up what looked like an unbeatable lead of nearly a minute. "When I got away, it was still so far away to the finish. On the Muur van Geraardsbergen, I got cramps. I chose to take it easier and also allow people to come back to me. The sprint was to be as short as possible, because I knew the cramps could come back."
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