Elvin fifth as wind plays havoc at Drentse8

Fri 15 Mar 2019

Former Australian champion Gracie Elvin sprinted to fifth place at Drentse Acht van Westerveld as wind played havoc with racing and only eight riders completed the full distance.

A strong group of 14 reduced down to eight, with Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo) eventually slipping off the front for the victory. Behind, less than 30 riders remained in the bunch that contested for ninth place, a lap ahead of the planned finish.

Wind plays havoc:
Forecasts for some traditional, brutal Dutch racing were accurate as teams arrived at the start line in Dwingeloo to be welcomed by strong winds. 

It didn’t take long for it to play havoc with the bunch, as it split into four sections before briefly regrouping again. The next splits were more permanent as Elvin rode herself into the front group and Sarah Roy into the first chase group.

A race of eight:
Despite being larger in its initial development, the lead group reduced to eight after a nasty crash on the first descent of the VAMberg. 

Once those remaining regrouped, their advantage only grew as it extended quickly from one-minute to almost four minutes.

Behind, some of the stronger groups reconnected to make a heavily-reduced peloton of less than 30 riders. The small bunch persisted but was ordered to contest the finish ahead of the final local lap due to the significant time gap. The remainder of the field failed to finish, victims of the brutal conditions.

Tactics at play in the finish:
Having worked well together for the majority of the day, tactics came into play in the closing kilometres. 

Despite a number of attempts by Elvin, it was Cordon-Ragot who slipped off the front and, with a teammate there to discourage any chase efforts, took a solo victory.

Gracie Elvin:
“I love racing in the wind and I feel like there hasn’t been many windy races the last few years, especially as we don’t have the Tour of Qatar anymore, so I was pretty hopeful that today was going to be exciting. 

“There was lots of narrow winding roads in the first lap. It split properly at about 30km when we hit a canal with big cross winds. From what I could see it was Trek and Boels were really driving it in the front and I just made sure I was there and when I looked back there was a split.

“The group was working pretty well together from the get-go. I was a bit worried because I was very outnumbered, but then I was sad to see there was a crash on the VAMberg with our old teammate Jolien D’hoore, I hope she is OK. Then the group was down to eight and we worked really well together until the final two laps when the games really started. 

“It’s a bit hard when you’re outnumbered, but I tried to pick a few moments with crosswinds or narrow cobbled sections to make a difference but I just couldn’t get the right group going. 

“Some of the girls were keen for a sprint and even though I was alone I wanted to try.  Audrey count-attacked one of my moves and the group let her go. It’s a poker game, I felt strong and maybe I could maybe have gone with more attacks, but you don’t know how the other girls are feeling and if you’re doing too much or not enough. 

“Today was a nice goal to try to podium, but the WorldTour race on Sunday is a big one. I’m really looking forward to that. It’s difficult, it’s even longer this year and I think it’s going to be windy and maybe some rain, so it could be an epic day.”

Martin Vestby - Sport Director:
“It was a really crazy day. It was on after 10 or 15km, it all exploded and the breakaway went really early. If you weren’t in position from the start then it was over. 

“It was a strong front group, the strongest riders in those conditions made it to the front.  

“In the beginning the group was bigger and included the sprinters, so ideally we wanted to go away and make the group smaller. But then there was a crash and others dropped off the back, so they rode half the race with eight riders.

“Then, it was a bit of a case of waiting for the final and picking a moment. Gracie had a couple of tries, but it’s a bit of a game and when Trek had two strong riders, you have to play a bit when you’re alone.  We can be happy with her condition and the way she rode, it looks good for Sunday.”

Drentse Acht van Westerveld – Results:
1. Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek segafredo) 3:52:06
2. Amy Pieters (Boels Dolmans) +1:30
3. Marta Bastianelli (Team Viirtu Cycling) 1:30
5. Gracie Elvin (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +1:30

Photo courtesy of Kristof Ramon.