Van Dijk solos to victory in the mid-week Belgian Classic.
Ellen van Dijk put her stamp on the mid-week warmup classic to the Tour of Flanders, winning for the second year in a row. Van Dijk made her winning attack from an 11-rider breakaway 16 kilometers from the end and soloed to victory.
“I think it’s my favorite race from now on!” laughed van Dijk. “Although it’s a bit of a short race and normally I like it a bit longer. The other riders want to ride it full gas as it’s the warmup for Flanders so they wanted to go, so I was really happy we went with a group today. I knew we were not the fastest out of the group, so we had to attack.
“I tried already once, but couldn’t really get a gap and then on top of a climb it was pretty hard and I said okay let’s just give it a try and I think I directly got a bit of a gap, but it was still 16kms to go!
“But I like it that way, it’s the way I like to race and need to win races. So I just put my head down and went for the finish. I knew that Elisa (Longo Borghini) was really supporting me from the back and Ina (Teutenberg, director) from the car, and that was really motivating. I knew I just had to give it all until the finish. It was a long way, and I am really happy it was enough.”
Lotta Lepistö won in 2017, Ellen van Dijk in 2018, so Trek-Segafredo came into Dwars door Vlaanderen with high hopes and motivations. The forecasted rain never materialized, and a sunny but chilly day prevailed, creating a more untroublesome race, but this is still a Classic and anything can happen.
While a few breakaway attempts shot clear, all were tamed until a strong 11-rider move containing most of the race favorites – including Ellen van Dijk and Elisa Longo Borghini of Trek-Segafredo – separated on the Knokteberg inside the final 48 kilometers.
The break quickly gained a minute’s lead with most teams happy with the combination up front. The attacks in the leading group began with the hills as Sunweb, Mitchelton-Scott, and Trek-Segafredo began throwing in a few hard digs as the road pitched upward.
It was a well-timed counterattack by van Dijk that finally succeeded with 16 kilometers to go as the group was trying to catch its breath from Annemiek van Vleuten’s (Mitchelton-Scott) acceleration, and it was all she needed.
Give van Dijk an inch, and it’s likely you’ll never see the former time trial World Champion again, and she proved this for the second year in a row.
Getting an immediate gap, van Dijk never looked back. Her gap hovered around 25 seconds, and with the always dangerous Elisa Longo Borghini taking a free ride in the chase, and the group unable to claw back even a few seconds, eventually the fight sizzled out behind. With four kilometers to go van Dijk’s lead grew to 40 seconds, and it was apparent the battle in the chase group would be for the minor places.
It was like a 16-kilometer time trial. It’s what I like. It was a perfect scenario because we had Elisa behind, and behind that Lotta in the next group. I was really happy we raced full on today and we could finish it off with a win. I have been feeling good the last couple of races so I am very happy that I could pull it off today! And I wanted to get another horse for my nephew!