The former TT World Champion wins stage 4a but falls short of claiming the leader's jersey.
Sporting her TT suit of European Champion, Ellen van Dijk took victory in Stage 4a of the Healthy Ageing Tour, an individual time trial of 15 kilometers in Winsum, The Netherlands.
As well as a battle against the clock, the riders had to contend with a battle against the elements with temperatures as low as one degree (Celsius), intermittent snowfall, and the ever-present Dutch wind.
Time trials are not frequent in the women’s calendar with this stage being the first opportunity for van Dijk to test herself in the discipline this season. As one of the pre-stage favorites, all eyes were on her to fight for the victory, and she did not disappoint. At the intermediate time check, she already held the fastest time, which she held until the finish.
I felt pretty good, and I think it was a decent TT. It was the first TT on my new Trek Speed Concept, and it felt really good, so I’m happy with that. Overall, I have a happy feeling, but I’m a little disappointed to not take the lead.
- Ellen van Dijk
As van Dijk was only 17 seconds behind GC leader Lotta Lepistö, she had hoped to take the yellow jersey from her teammate’s shoulders. However, it was not to be as Lisa Klein (Canyon SRAM) rode an impressive time trial to finish just two seconds behind the European champ and take the overall lead in the process.
“I think it was a good ride. This was it for today; I just didn’t expect Lisa Klein to be this strong, but it’s a time trial and times never lie. I’m satisfied with my time trial, but I was hoping to get the lead in the GC with it. Lisa was just super strong, and that’s outside of my control. It’s a surprise to me that she did such a good time trial, but she deserves it,” added van Dijk.
“The gap is not too big, it’s eight seconds. But the problem is I’m not a good sprinter, and she is, so it will be hard to get seconds back – but for sure we’re not going to give up! There are still two stages to go.”
Trek-Segafredo came into the short 74-kilometer stage wanting to make a hard race and try and split the bunch, but despite its best efforts could only reduce the peloton to around 80 riders. With the general classification contenders keeping a close eye on each other, it turned into an opportunity for riders further down in the standings.
Eventually, two riders attacked followed by one chasing rider and, finding the right moment, Anna Plichta jumped out of the bunch in pursuit. She was able to catch Jip van den Bos (Boels-Dolmans), but together they were unable to close to the pair out front, who had 40 seconds in hand.
Lisa Brennaur (WNT Rotor) won the stage in a two-up sprint and Plichta was outgunned by van den Bos to settle for fourth.
“There was one moment and a chance to go and I tried and it worked,” explained Plichta. “We didn’t have anyone in the front so we knew we needed to try something.
“I knew it would be hard to make the podium because van den Bos is very fast, and also we couldn’t close the gap between us and the two in the front. Anyway, for me, it’s a good result for this year. Until now I have not had a lot of luck and was getting sick a lot so finally I could show something and do a good job for the team here.
“I really like to race aggressively like this. Honestly, in these type of races I had always a problem, suffering a lot with the positioning, and today we all were riding strong from the beginning, super hard in the front, so the peloton split already after 10-15 kilometers and that made it easier to keep good position. We were hoping to put Ellen in the front, but the GC riders were watching her closely and didn’t let her go.”
With one stage remaining, Ellen van Dijk continues to hold onto second overall, eight seconds behind race leader Lisa Klein (Canyon SRAM).