Energiewacht Stage One: Gunnewijk Named Most Aggressive, Elvin Sprints to Fifth

Wed 9 Apr 2014

Loes Gunnewijk earned the most aggressive jersey on the opening stage of the Energiewacht Tour while Gracie Elvin was the top finisher for ORICA-AIS in fifth place. Kirsten Wild (Giant Shimano), winner of four out of five stages last year, picked up where she left off, outsprinting Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) and Jolien D’Hoore (Lotto Belisol) to the top step of the podium.

“I was actually trying to help Mel [Hoskins] in the sprint, but there was a big crash in the last corner,” explained Elvin. “I was positioned on Kirsten’s wheel. I looked back immediately after the crash, and Mel wasn’t there. I stuck to Kirsten’s wheel the best I could and sprinted for myself. I was pipped on the line and managed fifth place.”

Winds split the bunch in the opening ten kilometres on the first of four 22.8 kilometre circuit laps. Elvin, Gunnewijk and Hoskins made the 28 rider selection. Behind the leaders, four additional groups took shape.

“We stayed toward the front and looked after each other,” Elvin explained. “There was a lot of wind today. It wasn’t really in the right direction for the course, so the bunch could never really put on enough pressure to break it up any further. Even if it wasn’t windy enough to split the bunch, it was definitely windy enough that we needed to stay at the front.”

“We would have liked to have better numbers when things first split up,” admitted Elvin. “We thought the group would gain more time as the race unfolded. Luckily, it came back together. We were a little surprised by that.”

Inside two laps left to race, the first and second groups on the road merged. The size of the group roughly doubled.

“Jessie [MacLean] had been in the second group, so we had four after the regrouping,” noted Elvin. “Rabobank and Lotto Belisol were racing aggressively, but nothing they did forced any additional splits. With a half-lap left, we were joined by another group. The whole field was pretty much there at that point.”

Gunnewijk had punctured just before the regrouping, and she was fighting her way back to the front group as the kilometres ticked down. Her efforts proved worthwhile as she reconnected with the bunch eight kilometres from the finish.

“Loes had a mechanical with about 15 kilometre to go,” said Elvin. “She did a huge effort to get back to the bunch and come to the front again. Her wheel change was quite slow. She had to get the wheel off neutral, and it took her much longer than she would have hoped to get back to the bunch.”

Seven kilometres from the finish, Elvin attacked in an effort to avoid the seemingly inevitable bunch sprint. The peloton responded quickly, overtaking her within a kilometre.

“We didn’t really want it to be a big bunch sprint at the end,” said Elvin. “We had hoped to be sprinting from a smaller group with better numbers.”

With Elvin’s acceleration neutralised, the sprint trains came to the fore with Giant-Shimano flexing their muscles on the front of the bunch. Wild handily bested Armitstead. D’Hoore crossed the line with a bike length gap to the top two on the stage.

“We still have quite a few cards to play,” said Elvin. “The other teams showed their form and their tactics today. We definitely have an idea of the most likely scenarios we’ll face in the next few days.”

“The team is in good form,” said Elvin. “Hopefully we’ll get Mel up for a sprint in the next few days. It’s too early to say what will happen on the overall, but Loes and I are quite confident in the front, and that’s definitely an advantage.”