Rain, wind, and cold temperatures made for a grueling edition of the WorldTour race.
Ellen van Dijk was in her element in a cold, wet, and windy Ronde van Drenthe and played her cards to perfection, but in the end, two riders were able to pull back her bold attack, and still had aces up their sleeves for the three-up sprint. Marta Bastianelli (Virtu Cycling) claimed the win over Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) leaving van Dijk – who never really contested the finish against her speedier rivals – the third and well-deserved podium step.
“It was a really hard and challenging race, so I knew it was in my favor. I am satisfied for today, of course, I wanted to win, and I went all-in for the win, and in the end, I got third. I played the game, I gave it my all, and we had a good team effort today. I am satisfied – like I said I gave it my all and it’s a solid result in the end. Not what I wanted, but solid,” said van Dijk, who was overall pleased with her race but definitely hoping for more.
The 165.7-kilometer race was the longest women’s WorldTour race to date, another step in the right direction in women’s cycling, and it was a thrilling battle of echelons, breakaways, attacks, and groups spitting and rejoining, from the drop of the flag to the last meter.
When the race began to enter its final part, a regrouping saw Trek-Segafredo with four riders in the chasing group behind a solo Grace Brown (Mitchelton-Scott), who led with around a two-minute gap. The team then lost Lauretta Hanson to a crash, but Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Lotta Lepistö were still in the mix with Ellen van Dijk, who was always present near the front.
But the wind and cold coupled with the hard pace were taking a toll, and the race split again in the crosswinds ahead of the final cobbled sector with 12 kilometers to go. Brown’s lead disintegrated into a stiff headwind, and she was caught before the road turned again. As the wind blew from the side again, a group of 12 riders moved clear and entered the final sector together.
Coming out of the last muddy cobbled road, van Dijk made her move.
Van Dijk: “In the finale, I just waited for the moment to attack. I was happy I got a little gap, but I think it was never a big gap; I just went all-in and didn’t look back. I heard Ina (Teutenberg, director) shouting in my radio that it was 10 seconds and I thought, ‘oh shit 10 seconds is not a lot.’
“But I never looked back, and I just kept riding, riding, riding and then I got caught by Blaak and Bastianelli. Of course, I was disappointed because I really wanted to win, and I thought this is the moment, and this is the way I need to do it when I want to win. But yeah, they caught me back, and there’s nothing I can do about it – they were strong as well. I also knew that it was going to be hard to win from the little group because they are both strong sprinters, especially Bastianelli.”
With four kilometers to go, Marta Bastianelli and Chantel Blaak pegged back van Dijk, and the game was over for the former time trial World Champion, who knew her only chance for glory was to go it alone.
“Ellen was great, and her attack was awesome,” added Teutenberg. “We were hoping, but it didn’t work out for the win. It was a bummer that Audrey and Lotta couldn’t make that last split, but Ellen did all she could, and I think we should be really happy with the third place today.”
Lepistö (18th) and Cordon-Ragot (26th) arrived with a group 1 minute and 18 seconds later.
“It was a crazy race all day,” Teutenberg continued. “Lauretta and Lotta had tumbles today, they are fine, but they came at bad times. We were too often caught at the back with not enough up front, but I have to say that the girls were freezing – it’s been a long time since I have seen riders come back [to the cars] nearly crying because they are so cold.”