Marta Bastianelli (UAE Team AQD) won the late-race breakaway sprint to secure the stage 1 victory at Festival Elsy Jacobs. The Italian formed part of a six-rider breakaway that emerged over the final punchy ascent and she was the fastest to the line beating Silvia Persico (Valcar-Travel & Service) and Demi Vollering (SD Worx) in Steinfort.
“We had a big race today with [Sofia] Bertizzolo,” Bastianelli said about her teammate in a post-race interview. “When this small breakaway with Vollering went, me and Sofia followed and I think I was the best for the sprint, so Sofia helped me in the last one kilometre and I won the race. The sprint is very hard, and the last climb was not easy after 121km, but I think I was in second position and I went in the last 100 metres.”
Persico, who finished third in the previous day's prologue, moved into the overall race lead as overnight leader Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) finished in a group 19 seconds behind the winning breakaway.
Vollering is in second place overall, tied on time with Persico, while Bastianelli is in third at seven seconds back heading into the stage 2 finale on Sunday.
How it unfolded
The first stage of Festival Elsy Jacobs was a 121.4km in Steinfort. The route offered undulating circuits; one 41km loop followed by three shorter 20.1km loops that included five ascents, three categorised for mountain points, at Simmerfarm.
There was an early attack from Georgia Danford (Andy Schleck-CP NVST-Immo Losch), however her efforts were shortlived and she was reeled in by the peloton with 100km to go, just ahead of the first categoriised ascent at Simmerfarm.
The climb was 2.5km with an average gradient of four per cent but the steepest section at the base was nearly six per cent.
Anna Shackley (SD Worx) picked up the full points over the top followed by her teammate Demi Vollering and Mikayla Harvey (Canyon-Sram).
Shackley was the first to accelerate over the second summit in Simmerfarm that resulted in the separations among the peloton. A group soon emerge that included her teammate Niamh Fisher-Black, who took the points over the top, followed by Maud Oudeman and Mikayla Harvey (Canyon-Sram) and Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team Emirates).
Although the group was selective it didn't last long and they were caught along the circuit heading into the third ascent for points in Simmerfarm.
Attack ensued into the third and last categorised climb with Eugenia Bujak (UAE Team ADQ) clearing the field followed by Debora Silvestri (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo).
Silvestri reached the summit first and collected the points, with Bujak and Marta Jaskulska (Liv Racing Xstra) in pursuit at 20 seconds behind.
Canyon-Sram assumed control at the front of the field but the gap the lone escapee, Silvestri, grew to nearly 45 seconds with 40km (two laps) remaining.
Silvestri, Bujak and Jaskulska joined forces at the front and pushed their lead of 50 seconds on the final lap, as SD Worx set a fast pace to lead the peloton behind.
However, the combined effort of Jumbo-Visma, Canyon-Sram and SD Worx brought their time out front to an end heading into the final climb of the day.
Attacks over the ascent saw a select group emerge that included SD Worx's Vollering and Fisher-Black, along with teammates Bertizzolo and Bastianelli, and Persico, and Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-Sram).
The move forced Jumbo-Visma to the front of the field with overall race leader Henderson chasing to close the gap, but attacks into the final caused separations among the field with Henderson caught several groups back.
Bastianelli proved fastest in the breakaway sprint to take the win.
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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