Van Vleuten moves into the lead of the Women’s WorldTour after fifth at Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Sun 23 Apr 2017

In form Dutch star Annemiek van Vleuten moved into the lead of the UCI Women’s WorldTour rankings after sprinting to fifth place for ORICA-SCOTT in today’s maiden edition of Liege-Bastogne-Liege Femmes.

A tough race played out in chilly conditions over a challenging parcours that saw a valiant chase led by ORICA-SCOTT behind an elite lead group that made the winning move over the day’s final climbs.

Australian national champion Katrin Garfoot suffered yet another badly timed mechanical in the last 15kilometres before fighting back into contact and heading the pursuit for Van Vleuten alongside Amanda Spratt.

Despite the valiant effort the leaders stayed away, with Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) taking her third straight victory of the Ardennes classics and Van Vleuten in fifth.

“I felt that I just need that extra two or three percent to be able to go with the leaders,” said Van Vleuten. “I’m almost there. Kat and Spratty did amazing work to bring back the group on the San Nicholas climb, but then they attacked again before the final.”

“It’s nice to have the leaders jersey and to have raced so consistently over the WorldTour events, but it’s not the major goal of the team. We have really stepped up this year with our results throughout the spring classics campaign and I’m proud of the fact that we have been up there in every race.”

Sport director Gene Bates praised the hard work of the team in the final race of what has been a positive spring for the Australian outfit.

“To be honest we wanted to win today,” said Bates. “That’s what we were after and we planned our race around trying to achieve that. The girls did a really good job and we just got caught out at a bad moment and then had to do a tonne of work to bring back the leaders over the final climbs.”

“Katrin and Spratty were tremendous today and then it was up to Annemiek to try and get back in the race, but It was always going to be a big ask and she did really well to get fifth.

“I was still hopeful and I thought there was still maybe a chance for Annemiek as she chased, she seems to get stronger after a big effort, but it wasn’t to be today. We have been super consistent throughout the spring and it’s nice for us to be able to say that we have the WorldTour leader in our team.”

How it happened:

The first half of the course was filled with uncategorised climbs and this made for an exciting first hour of racing. Numerous attacks off the front as riders tried to initiate a breakaway move over the undulating terrain and numerous nullifications by the attentive peloton.

Strung out with the high pace, the peloton was still together after 50kilometres had been covered before a pair of riders took advantage of a lull in proceedings and started to create a small gap.

At the food stop at 75kilometres the duo had managed to create an advantage of one-minute over the bunch with the first real climbs of the day, the Cote de La Vecquee and the iconic Cote de La Redoute up ahead.

The peloton increased the speed on the first ramps of the Vecquee and the breakaway pair was caught almost immediately, before another hike in speed saw splits begin to form and the creation of a lead group of around 40riders.

Garfoot, Spratt and ORICA-SCOTT led the race onto La Redoute with just over 40kilometres remaining and more riders losing contact with the pace up the fierce climb as Van Vleuten led over the top.

Around one minute separated the first two groups approaching the penultimate climb Cote de La Roche-aux-Faucons with only 20kilometres left to race and most of the favourites in the first group.

An attack by Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3) on La Roche split the lead group and created an elite quintet with a 25second gap over the ORICA-SCOTT led chasers and 15kilometres to go. The group included Van der Breggen and Boels-Domans teammate Lizzie Deignan.

Misfortune struck again for Garfoot as a mechanical halted her progress on the approach to the final climb as the gap to the leaders stretched out to 50seconds.

With less than five kilometres remaining the front of the race had completely shaken up as Van Vleuten chased hard over the San Nicholas climb with the leaders now at 20seconds and Van der Breggen on the attack.

Van der Breggen took 30seconds into the final kilometre and held on for another solo victory with Van Vleuten sprinting to fifth from the chasing bunch.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege Femmes results:

1. Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) 03:42:17

2. Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans) 00:00:17

3. Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3) 00:00:19

5. Annemiek van Vleuten (ORICA-SCOTT) 00:00:31

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