A strong team effort behind Lotta’s close finish in the Belgian semi-classic.
Lotta Lepistö just missed the win in Omloop van het Hageland Sunday after a strong, cohesive Trek-Segafredo team helped her arrive to the finish to contest the win from a small group. Marta Bastianelli (Virtu Cycling) sprinted to the victory, and Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb) rounded out the podium.
As a small group was led into the final few hundred meters by Ellen van Dijk, it was Bastianelli who jumped first and played a crafty sprint. As the road curved right, she kept Lepistö on her left, the long way to the line. Lepistö ran out of real estate before she could overtake the Italian and settled for second.
“I am very, very disappointed. Ellen (van Dijk) was a machine in the front, the whole team gave it their all and really worked hard to protect me and then to finish second… so frustrating,” exclaimed Lepistö after the finish. “I should have opened [my sprint] a little earlier, but Marta was smart and closed my way. So, congrats to her. Let’s try again on Tuesday!”
While Lepistö was dissatisfied with the second place, a mentality of all sprinters, Ellen van Dijk was pleased with the result and how the team raced after they came up short in Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
“Lotta said that she had a little mistake in the sprint, but still she got second,” pointed out van Dijk. “We didn’t win in the end, but I think we had a really strong team effort. Everyone gave their all, everyone was in the front quite often, and we shared the work. It’s good for the team spirit, especially after yesterday when everyone was a little down. We didn’t win but our spirit is high again, and we got a lot of confidence out of this race. On to the next one!”
The Trek-Segafredo women really came to the fore when the race entered the local circuit. Together the team worked to control and reel in the breakaways, and Tayler Wiles turned herself inside-out in the final 25 kilometers, patrolling the front on the climbs and covering attacks.
“It was an exciting race,” continued van Dijk. “When the local laps started, we were on the front for most of the time with the girls, which was really good. Tayler was really strong on the climbs, she was able to be there with the first riders and could cover the attacks. And then we really wanted to go all-in for Lotta in the sprint. It’s a really nice final, but also a dangerous final with the small roads where a lot of attacks can happen, so we knew we had to be up front on the narrow roads.”
And then Van Dijk – racing with number one designating last year’s winner – went to work, from the final climb with eight kilometers to go until the last few hundred meters.
Van Dijk explained: “On the last climb, there was an attack by Sunweb. It was funny actually because Sunweb did the same tactic as last year when I was on the team. Then it was me, and I was solo, and this time I didn’t want to try and go solo, and so I covered the attack. When I saw that Lotta was back, I covered more attacks and then I just started to ride a hard pace so that we could bring it to the finish. I think Lotta had a good leadout with that. She was in the wheel of Bastianelli who’s in really good shape at the moment, and we knew that.”
Van Dijk shoved aside any personal ambitions to try and win the classic again and went all-in for Lepistö, pulling the group for the final five kilometers to thwart more attacks, and then upping the pace to launch Lotta in the sprint. It was an incredible show of strength and self-sacrifice.
It’s what a team’s all about.