Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) took a thrilling victory in the elite women's road race at the UEC European Championships in Plouay. The road race world champion started a long-range sprint on the uphill drag to the finish line to take the win ahead of breakaway companion Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy). Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland) and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Netherlands), who were distanced from the decisive breakaway on the final climb, finished third and fourth, respectively.
"Thanks to the Dutch squad because we lined up with a dream team," said Van Vleuten, who has not raced a European Championships during her career prior to her victory in Plouay. "We had eight super-strong girls and we decided that it was in our advantage to make the race really hard. Between myself and Anna van der Breggen, it was both our jobs to make the race super hard to set something up for the other girls. I was so proud to race together with my team and I am so proud to do this together."
The decisive four-rider breakaway of Van Vleuten and Van den Broek-Blaak, and Niewiadoma and Longo Borghini, contested the final two laps of the women's 109.2km circuit race together.
There were several tactics at play between the quartet with the two Dutch riders playing their cards with Van den Broek-Blaak for a potential breakaway sprint and Van Vleuten for an attack over the punchy climbs.
Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma, without teammates from their respective nations, worked together on the ascents to try and drop Van den Broek-Blaak from the group. They were successful on several of the climbs but the former world champion manage to claw her way back to the group on the flatter sections of the circuit.
Van Vleuten led the quartet into the final climb of the race, Cote du Pont-Neuf, located just 2km from the finish line. Longo Borghini was the first to attack at the bottom of the climb but her move was quickly countered by Van Vleuten.
The Italian managed to latch on to Van Vleuten's wheel as she passed, and the pair crested the climb with a small gap over a distanced Niewiadoma and an even further distanced Van den Broek-Blaak.
Van Vleuten initially refused to pull through knowing her teammate Van den Broek-Blaak, the strongest sprinter of the four riders, was only handful of seconds behind. However, Longo Borghini pulled the leading pair through the final kilometre of the race and into a two-up sprint.
Van Vleuten launched her sprint at the bottom of the uphill drag to the line, and while Longo Borghini responded in a fierce chase, it was not enough to catch Van Vleuten at the finish line.
How it unfolded
Many of the elite women’s field toed the start line for the second time this week after already competing in the Women’s WorldTour GP de Plouay on Tuesday won by Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo). At the European Championships, however, this time they were competing with the respective national teams.
The women competed across a 13.6km circuit that included three climbs; Cote du Lezot, which boasted pitched of 19 per cent at the start of the climb, Montee de Lann Payot and the Cote du Pont-Neuf located just 2km from the finish line in Plouay. The women completed eight laps for a total of 109.2km
A breakaway of 11 riders cleared the field during opening laps of the race but that swelled to a larger group of 23 riders at the midway point of the race.
The front group included Elise Chabbey and Marlen Reusser (Switzerland), Soraya Paladin, Marta Cavalli, Elena Cecchini and Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy), Hannah Barnes and Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (France), Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark), Lotte Kopecky (Belgium), Emilia Fahlin (Sweden), and Lisa Brennauer (Germany). The move also included seven Dutch teammates with Annemiek van Vleuten, Ellen van Dijk, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, Marianne Vos, Demi Vollering, Amy Pieters, and Anna van der Breggen.
A crash with 38km to go in the front group involved Deignan, Uttrup Ludwig, Brennauer, Reusser and Chabbey. Almost simultaneously, Vos launched an attack on a short climb that was quickly countered by Van Vleuten. Vos sat up and Van Vleuten continued to forge clear with Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma, and the trio held a 15-second lead.
Uttrup Ludwig and Brennauer regained contact with the chase group and the Dane did much of the pace-setting to try and close the gap to the newly-formed breakaway. She proceeded to launch an attack straight off the front of the group to try and bridge across to the move but the remaining Dutch riders weren’t happy with that and reeled her back in.
Uttrup Ludwig didn’t give up and kept the pace high in hopes of managing the time gap to Van Vleuten, Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma. She attacked again on the Cote du Lezot but was followed by Van Dijk, Pieters, and Cordon-Ragot.
Up the road, Van Vleuten, Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma worked well together, at first, taking even turns to keep their lead. However, they were eventually joined by Van den Broek-Blaak. The addition of a second Dutch rider and a stronger sprinter to the mix almost immediately changed the dynamics of the group.
Van Vleuten moved to the front of the breakaway to take control of the pacesetting over the Cote du Pont-Neuf. She was followed by Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma, while Van den Broek-Blaak sat on the back on the move.
The gap increased to over one minute as the chase group spread wide across the road and the remaining Dutch riders neutralised any additional attacks.
On the last lap, Longo Borghini attacked on the Cote du Lezot and gained a small gap as Van Vleuten jumped to close the gap with Niewiadoma on her wheel. The move distanced Van den Broek-Blaak from contention.
Over the top of the climb, Niewiadoma followed through and picked up the speed to make sure that Van den Broek-Blaak couldn’t reconnect with the breakaway.
Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma kept the pressure on but Van Vleuten then made a strong attack over the penultimate climb of the Montee de Lann Payot, with 9km to go, and opened a sizable lead.
Longo Borghini managed to close the gap to the world champion with 7km to go. Twelve seconds back, Van den Broek-Blaak reconnected with Niewiadoma in what looked like a race for the final spot on the podium. However, Niewiadoma managed to close the gap to the two leaders with Van den Broek-Blaak on her wheel, and the four-rider breakaway reunited ahead of the final climb.
Van Vleuten and Longo Borghini took their turns attacking over the Cote du Pont-Neuf and gained a small, winning, gap over a chasing Niewiadoma and Van den Broek-Blaak. Longo Borgini kept the pressure on through the final kilometre but Van Vleuten got the better of her in the final two-up sprint.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands)||2:50:46|
|2||Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy)|
|3||Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland)||0:00:05|
|4||Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Netherlands)|
|5||Audrey Cordon-Ragot (France)||0:02:29|
|6||Lisa Brennauer (Germany)||0:03:27|
|7||Lotte Kopecky (Belgium)|
|8||Marianne Vos (Netherlands)|
|9||Elena Cecchini (Italy)|
|10||Amy Pieters (Netherlands)|
|11||Emilia Fahlin (Sweden)|
|12||Christine Majerus (Luxembourg)|
|13||Marta Lach (Poland)|
|14||Elise Chabbey (Switzerland)|
|15||Marlen Reusser (Switzerland)|
|16||Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark)|
|17||Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands)|
|18||Marta Cavalli (Italy)|
|19||Demi Vollering (Netherlands)|
|20||Hannah Barnes (Great Britain)|
|21||Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands)||0:03:32|
|22||Soraya Paladin (Italy)||0:03:36|
|23||Eugenia Bujak (Slovenia)||0:07:34|
|24||Ane Santesteban (Spain)|
|25||Aude Biannic (France)||0:07:39|
|26||Valeriya Kononenko (Ukraine)||0:09:14|
|27||Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Italy)||0:11:49|
|28||Alicia González (Spain)|
|29||Susanne Andersen (Norway)|
|30||Jesse Vandenbulcke (Belgium)|
|31||Amalie Dideriksen (Denmark)|
|32||Monika Brzezna (Poland)|
|33||Rasa Leleivytė (Lithuania)|
|34||Olena Sharga (Ukraine)|
|35||Valerie Demey (Belgium)|
|36||Julie Leth (Denmark)|
|37||Hanna Nilsson (Sweden)|
|38||Eugénie Duval (France)|
|39||Katia Ragusa (Italy)|
|40||Nikola Nosková (Czech Republic)|
|41||Mavi García (Spain)|
|42||Jasinska Małgorzata (Poland)|
|43||Vita Heine (Norway)|
|44||Alice Barnes (Great Britain)|
|45||Melanie Maurer (Switzerland)|
|46||Gladys Verhulst (France)|
|47||Birgitte Krogsgaard (Denmark)|
|48||Clara Koppenburg (Germany)|
|49||Katrine Aalerud (Norway)|
|50||Tatiana Guderzo (Italy)||0:11:53|
|51||Ingrid Lorvik (Norway)||0:13:29|
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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 bike racing from the 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 cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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