Flemish-style racing is all about making the best of any opportunities the parcours offers to attack, hence many attempts to escape the peloton during the first couple of laps of the 11km circuit. None came to anything, however, and it was not until the third lap that five riders got away.
The five were Julia Soek and Amy Pieters (Giant-Shimano), Thea Thorsen (Hitec Products), Amy Cure (Lotto-Belisol) and Kim De Baat (Parkhotel Valkenburg), and the rest of the race was all theirs. Pieters launched a solo attack and rode out in front for 15km, which served only to reduce the main group’s chances even further – the other four leaders were simply too strong and worked together too efficiently for the rest of the field to catch up, and by the time the four riders rejoined Pieters they had an advantage over the next riders of 50″.
For the majority of the time left the peloton tried hard to catch the lead group and more than halved the gap to 24″, but when Thorsen decided she wasn’t going to let Pieters have it all her own way and made her rivals work with a late attack, the sudden turn of speed apparently discouraged the pack from bothering to make any further effort and it was clear that one of the five was to be the winner. Pieters, evaluating the situation and deciding that De Baat was the greatest threat, launched her final sprint from a long way out – it was a big risk and might very easily have ended in failure had one of her four rivals had a little more strength left over, but it worked: she crossed the line with a tiny gap between her back wheel and second-placed De Baat. Amy Cure followed for third.
It’s the third victory in what has already been a superb year for the Dutch rider – she also won Stage 2 at the Tour of Qatar and, earlier this month, the Omloop Het Nieuwslad. The best-placed British rider was Lucy Garner of Giant-Shimano; the Leicestershire-born rider finished 37th in the chase group that finished 40″ after Pieters. Irish rider Michelle Geoghegan (Endura Lady Force) was 63rd, equaling Garner’s time; Anne Ewing, the second British rider in the race, was 72nd.
1 Amy PIETERS (Giant-Shimano) 1h54’00”
2 Kim DE BAAT (Parkhotel Valenburg) ST
3 Amy CURE (Lotto-Belisol) ST
4 Thea THORSEN (Hitec Products) ST
5 Julia SOEK (Giant-Shimano) ST
6 Kirsten WILD (Giant-Shimano) +40″
7 Jolien D’HOORE (Lotto-Belisol) ST
8 Kelly MARKUS (Rytger) ST
9 Christina SIGGARD (Firefighters Upsala CK) ST
10 Fiona DUTRIAUX (Poitou-Charentes.Futurscope86) ST