Ellen van Dijk wins Stage 2 in Setmana Ciclista Valenciana giving the Team a perfect start to the season
In a thrilling finish to Stage 2, Ellen van Dijk out-gunned her breakaway partner Soraya Paladin (Canyon SRAM) to give Trek-Segafredo a perfect record to start the new season.
“Second win in a row for the team, it’s a bit of an unbelievable start to the season,” said Van Dijk. “We couldn’t wish for anymore really. The bar is set pretty high now, but we will enjoy this for as long as it lasts.”
It was a tactical two-up sprint, and Ellen pulled off a rare one. Let’s face it, Ellen is not known for her sprinting legs, so when she powered over the line it was extra gratifying.
“It’s actually an amazing feeling to win in a sprint because I never do that,” agreed Ellen. “I think it’s been 10 years or so. Usually, when I’ve won, I’ve won solo, which is also nice, but this extra adrenaline is extra special.”
Trek-Segafredo went on the offense in a hilly Stage 2 of Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, a race peppered with opportunity for antagonists. First Elisa Longo Borghini slipped into a short-lived move after the category 1 climb early in the race. When that was caught back, Shirin van Anrooij joined three others in the first significant breakaway of the day.
The quartet gained over 45 seconds before they were brought back on the big finishing loop. This spurred off a flurry of attacks, including another dangerous attack by Longo Borghini, before Van Dijk and Paladin finally snapped the elastic.
“It was once again a really fantastic day of teamwork. We had Shirin in the break before Elisa [Longo Borghini] set up really good attack in the descent,” Van Dijk explained. “Then, when we reached the hill, the race really exploded. It was a really hard part of the race and then when everybody came back together, I thought, ‘this is the moment to attack’ so I wanted to make my move, but [Soraya] Paladin was kind of doing the same and, in the end, we went together.”
The pair worked well together and with 10 kilometers remaining had pulled out a sizeable gap. They had time in the final kilometers to play a tactical finish, with each attempting to force the other to take the lead in the two-up sprint.
With the bunch in view coming into the finishing straight, Van Dijk was the first to call uncle, taking pole position.
Van Dijk explained: “That was little bit difficult for me because I felt really strong, and I felt stronger than [Palladin], but I knew that I don’t have a good sprint, so I was thinking, ‘how do I get rid of her?’
“With just two riders, it’s really hard to attack but I knew the finishing straight was slightly uphill, so I thought, ‘OK let’s give it a go there,’ and then from the car they said that I had to do a long sprint which, for sure, made sense for me. I didn’t 100 percent trust my sprint, but I was just very happy that she was too tired to sprint against me.”
In the end, positioning was mute. Ellen went long and powered up the gradual rise to the line and Paladin had no answer. The strongest legs won.
“For me, personally, it’s also very good feeling to win so early in the season and actually, it’s really nice because I don’t win that many road races,” Ellen continued.
“Overall, it was another really nice day and the team spirit is super high.”
Paladin took over the race lead from Elisa Balsamo, But with Van Dijk in a close second place, two seconds in arrears, and Elisa Longo Borghini in fifth at nine seconds, the team has plenty to play with over the next two stages.