Strong ride by Van Vleuten to finish seventh in the WorldTour Ronde van VlaanderenSun 3 Apr 2016
Former Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Annemiek Van Vleuten had a strong performance today to finish in seventh place of the iconic WorldTour race.
The Dutch rider gave it her everything in the final kilometres to try and bring back two escapees. It came down to the final metres of the race when Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) held on to take close victory ahead of her breakaway companion Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5).
After the race Van Vleuten explained how she rode to her maximum today to try and give herself a chance to sprint for the victory.
"The race started a bit late, it was at the Kanarieberg when the action really began," said Van Vleuten. "At that point there was a hard attack and I expected that. Gracie Elvin and I were both there and working well together."
"Over the Oude Kwaremont a split happened and I was there with 11riders. Johansson attacked with Lizzie and I did not want to let them go but I was really at my maximum after that hard climb.
"I gave it everything over the Paterberg together with two Rabo-Liv riders who also didn't have a rider in the front. Then in the final three kilometres I chased as hard as I could, I was thinking only about the victory not the podium. I could not have done anything more, but unfortunately we didn't catch them in the final."
Elvin was also well prositioned throughout the race, just missing the split over the top of the Paterberg, but fought hard to try and join the chasers.
"I actually did better than I expected today as I wasn't feeling that great this morning," Elvin explained. "We didn't get the win but we gave it a good crack, I think as a team we are really happy with our efforts today."
How it happened:
The riders gathered in Oudenaarde on a warm, spring day ready for the 13th edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. 176 riders set off to tackle ten climbs and five sections of cobbles for the fifth race of the Women's WorldTour series.
The first 40kilometres of the race around the Flemish roads was fairly controlled as the peloton conserved energy heading towards the first climb of the day, the Wolvenberg. Unlike previous editions of the race, the peloton remained all together over the climb and the following cobble section.
Thalita De Jong (Rabo-Liv) was the first rider to establish a significant lead riding out to 35seconds. She dangled out front over the next cobble sections until teams got together and worked to slowly reeled her back in.
As the race progressed towards the harder sections of the race with 40kilometres to go, a small group formed and more riders bridged across to create a strong leading group of ten, including Van Vleuten and Elvin.
With only the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg remaining the action kicked off as riders attacked one after another all trying to force the winning move. Along with Elvin and Van Vleuten, Amanda Spratt and Sarah Roy were representing ORICA-AIS going into the bottom of the Oude Kwaremont. As the riders crested the top, the group of 25 had shattered into pieces.
Van Vleuten showed her experience to stay in contention as ten riders went clear. Armitstead and Johansson attacked and managed to gain a lead with 16km remaining heading towards the Paterberg.
Van Vleuten was not happy to let them go and led the chase over the top of the Paterberg with Elvin close behind, fighting hard to stay with the chasers.
Coming into the final kilometres the advantage to the two leaders had dropped down due to the strong chase behind. It was a tight sprint between Armitstead and Johansson with the chasers just meters behind.
Van Vleuten had a strong sprint to finish in seventh place after working hard in the final. Armitstead took the race victory.
ORICA-AIS are straight back into racing on Wednesday for the five day stage race, Energiewacht Tour (6th-10th April).
Ronde van Vlaanderen results:
1. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) 3:43:27
2. Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5) ST
3. Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) +0:02
7. Annemiek van Vleuten (ORICA-AIS) ST