Elvin becomes the first Australian female to podium at the Tour of Flanders

Sun 2 Apr 2017

Former Australian road race champion Gracie Elvin sprinted to a sterling second place for ORICA-SCOTT at the 14th Tour of Flanders today, becoming the first Australian female to mount the podium in the iconic event.

The Australian outfit rode a tactically astute race almost to perfection with Annemiek Van Vleuten part of a four-rider attack that went clear with 30kilometres remaining.

The move gave ORICA-SCOTT options with Elvin tucked into the chasing group some 40seconds behind the leaders. A fast and explosive finale ensued with the leaders caught with only one kilometre to go and a close contest coming right down to the wire.

Elvin did herself proud, fighting all the way to the line to take a super close second behind Coryn Rivera (Team-Sunweb) with former winner Van Vleuten just missing out on the podium in fourth.

“The win would’ve have been amazing, but I was so close today,” said Elvin at the finish. “My best place in previous editions was not even in the front group, so to come here and be in the mix and try to go for the win is amazing.”

“It just goes to show all the hard work I’ve put in this season is paying off and how great the team was today. I really didn’t have to do much before the finish, everyone had a role to play and they did it brilliantly, especially Annemiek right at the end.

“She could have won today and I had to make sure I made the right decisions once that group had been caught. This is definitely a career highlight for me, I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time and after coming so close again and again I want to keep improving.”

After second place at Dwars door Vlaanderen ten days ago, Elvin and the team are hitting peak form and racing with visible confidence.

“There wasn’t any key moves over the first 50kilometres and we decided that we wanted to save our energy,” said Sport director Gene Bates. “The girls stayed out of trouble throughout the middle of the race and from there it was the job of Georgia Williams, Jessica Allen and Sarah Roy to make the race as hard as we could over the climbs.”

“We did that very well especially over the Muur and by then the damage had been done and it was only a matter of time before the race blew apart.

“It’s bittersweet really, we had Annemiek up there with three others going into the finale and she probably would have won the sprint from that group had it stayed away, but in the end it was a great result for Gracie, the first Australian to podium at the Tour of Flanders.”

How it happened:

The fifth race of the UCI Women’s WorldTour, the Tour of Flanders got underway in Oudenaarde this morning and headed out for the longest route yet, 153kilometres and the inclusion for the first time of the legendary Muur van Gerarrdsbergen.

After two hours of racing the peloton split with two groups forming and a solo rider, Rozanne Slik (Team-Sunweb) off the front with a gap of one-minute 30seconds.

The long flat stretches in between the short, sharp climbs brought the main group back together with 50kilometres left to race as Slik maintained her advantage.

Tension was mounting as they approached the final ascents of the Oude Kwaremont, Pottelberg and the Paterberg with the gap to Slik down to 35seconds and Wiggle-High5 dictating the terms of the chase.

Thirty kilometres to go and Slik was caught with a new move of four riders, including van Vleuten going clear and holding 40seconds on the first chasing group.

The final cobbled sectors made for exciting, open racing with Elvin part of the first chasers and almost in sight of the Van Vleuten quartet as the leaders started to attack each other on the Kwaremont with less than 18kilometres remaining.

A fast pursuit unfolded over the closing kilometres as the quartet battled to stay clear, but to no avail. Caught under the Flamme Rouge by the marauding chasing group and heading straight into a reduced bunch sprint.

With 100metres to go Elvin and Van Vleuten both jumped as they tried to get out of the box, but it was Rivera who just got there in front of Elvin in second and Van Vleuten in fourth.

Ronde van Vlaanderen results:

1. Coryn Rivera (Team-Sunweb) 04:02:38

2. Gracie Elvin (ORICA-SCOTT) ST

3. Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) ST

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