Orica and Specialized-Lululemon spent most of 2013 in a one-on-one slugfest, trading blows in a battle that provided a highly-entertaining sideshow all season long. We’re apparently going to be treated to more of the same this year if Le Samyn des Dames is any indication of what lies ahead: the two teams passed control of the race back and forth between them for most of parcours and fought hard all the way.
Vera Koedooder (Bigla) saw to it that there was plenty of action early on, attacking from 31km and gaining a brief advantage that made her the fastest rider through the first intermediate sprint where she was followed by Anneliese Dom (Futurmshop.nl-Zannata) and Jessie Daams (Boels-Dolmans). However, with the first climb just ahead she was hotly pursued by a bunch of riders chasing GPM points and Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS), Amy Pieters (Giant-Shimano) and Ellen Van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) were the first to the top. With several riders apparently exeriencing difficulties on the ascent, the team leaders took an opportunity to try to get rid of a few threats once on the other side of the hill by driving the peloton along at a high pace, though not high enough to prevent a solo attack by Trixi Worrack of Specialized-Lululemon; her team mate and 2013 French National Road Race Champion Elise Delzenne and Hitec’s Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio went with her, splitting the bunch for a while before the peloton regrouped with three laps to go.
Sofie De Vuyst (Futurumshop.nl-Zannata), Roxane Knetemann (Rabo-Liv) and Daams were the first three through the second intermediate sprint which split the bunch once more and gave Delzenne a chance to launch her own solo attack, but she was brought back within a minute. A few kilometres up the road the race reached the second GPM where Maaike Polspoel (Giant-Shimano), Aude Biannic (Lointek) and Knetemann took the points. A few minutes later, eight riders mounted a concerted effort to get away and looked as though they might manage it through strength of numbers alone; however, with the peloton still moving at high speed, they too were rapidly swept up.
After crossing the finish line for the second time, the toughest lead group of the day got away. Formed of strong riders Daams, Polspoel, Anna Van Der Breggan (Rabo-Liv) and Chloe Hosking (Hitec Products), the group had a 15″ advantage at the third intermediate sprint where Daams was first, followed by Hosking and Van Der Breggan; at the third GPM Biannic was first to the top followed by Van Dijk and, notably, Emma Johansson, who had been playing it safe in the bunch since the first GPM; now her presence near the front showed that the favourites were beginning to tighten their grip on the race.
Lululemon put the plan they hoped would bright them victory into action when Tiffany Cromwell went on the attack, forcing the Australian squad and other teams to exert valuable energy in making sure she was brought back by the start of the final lap; minutes after it began Delzenne somehow found enough power left in her legs for another attack, was 10″ up the road almost immediately and then kept going, getting 35″ away. Joanne Hogan (Bigla) tried to go after but, with the peloton realising it needed to react, was soon caught.
On the finishing circuit Delzenne’s impressive lead began to dwindle, falling to 30″ with 11km to go. She still looked strong, causing concern among the chasers when she was first through the final intermediate sprint with Johansson and Pieters second and third through as they worked hard to catch up. Their efforts paid off when she was brought back a couple of minutes later; then, with 4km to go, Janine Van Der Meer of Futurumshop tried to go but didn’t get far and the group approached the finish line together. Moolman-Pasio was the first rider to launch her sprint, but Johansson was ready despite lacking team support and followed her before slipping past and powering across the line to take her first victory of 2014.
GP Le Samyn 2014 Results (times tbc)
1 Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) 2h48’25”
2 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Hitec Products) ST
3 Sofie De Vuyst (Futurumshop.nl-Zannata) ST
4 Ellen Van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) ST
5 Maaike Polspoel (Giant-Shimano) ST
6 Maura Kinsella (Optum Health p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) ST
7 Amy Pieters (Giant-Shimano) ST
8 Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products)
9 Emilia Fahlin (Wiggle-Honda)
10 Joanne Kiesanowski (Tibco-To The Top)