Ellen van Dijk also finishes in the select lead group after a demanding stage 3 of the Healthy Ageing Tour.
Lotta Lepistö finished in third place in day three of the Healthy Ageing Tour, grabbing enough time bonus seconds to hold onto the leader’s jersey for another day as Kirsten Wild (WNT-Rotor) sprinted to the win and moved into second place overall.
“It was an eventful stage today, starting with echelons already in the first lap and we had around 20 or so riders in the front group,” explained Lepistö. “We worked pretty well together until the second-to-last lap when the Boels-Dolmans’ rider attacked. We didn’t chase her right away, but we came back together in the last five kilometers. Then it was attack after attack, and that was hard work for Ellen. I tried to sprint in the end but got a little bit boxed, and I am a little bit mad at myself about that. But I felt good today, and I am happy to get third after such a hard stage.”
How it unfolded
The winds created another punishing day, and the race split into five groups after 25 kilometers. The leading group numbered 24 riders with Letizia Paternoster, Ellen van Dijk, and race leader Lotta Lepistö all represented. Teammate Lauretta Hanson was in the second group that almost made contact, coming within 20 seconds at one point, before they faltered and fell further behind.
With two laps to go, the attacks began in a crosswind section and a fatiguing Letizia Paternoster, still trying to find her road legs after a long track season, lost contact to the leading group leaving Lepistö and van Dijk to contend with four aggressive Boels-Dolmans’ riders.
When Christine Majerus’ attacked 25 kilometers from the end and quickly opened a gap that grew to a minute within a few kilometers, it turned into a worrisome situation for Trek-Segafredo.
“It was for sure a hard race today, and not easy tactically,” agreed van Dijk. “It was echelons from the first lap, and we had to ride the whole day. It was difficult because Boels (Dolmans) had five riders there, and in the end, we only had two. Christine Majerus had a pretty big gap, and no one wanted to help us, so yeah, that was a bit frustrating. But we had the leader’s jersey, so we had to work.
“I knew there was still a long way to go and strong winds but then also noticed no one wanted to help us and I thought that if we just need to do it by ourselves and bring the whole group there, that’s also not a good situation for us. So it was a bit difficult to know what to do. But in the end, it worked out well.”
The winds played into Trek-Segafredo hands as the group quickly bit into Majerus’ lead as she tired after nearly 20 kilometers out front. Finally with four kilometers to go, they had the Boels-Dolmans rider back in the fold.
“It was good in the end that Christine was back, but then the other Boels’ riders started to attack one by one, and I had to follow everything,” continued van Dijk. “I thought at one point I can’t possibly do this! I was happy I could keep it together, but for sure it was not an easy day!”
Van Dijk showed her strength in the final kilometers, keeping the group intact for a sprint.
“Ellen put the hammer down in the last 2kms, but there were still some attacks,” added Lepistö. “When Anna van der Breggen attacked and Ellen followed I thought that was perfect, they could go, but then someone closed it and I got little bit boxed, and I was a little bit hesitating in the last 200 meters. I feel like I didn’t really even open my sprint and I was third…Maybe I needed to be a little bit more aggressive in the finale.”
After such an exhausting and tactical day, reaching the podium, defending the leader’s jersey, and keeping van Dijk in the hunt for the overall was a significant achievement for Trek-Segafredo, who were outnumbered.
With a decisive time trial scheduled for stage 4a Saturday morning, specialist and former time trial World Champion van Dijk is in prime position to fight for the stage and overall win.
“I had good legs today, but for sure I had to do a lot of work,” admitted van Dijk. “But I think for most of the others they will also be a bit tired. So a good recovery now and tomorrow morning full gas again!”