Paternoster shines in Boels Ladies Tour

Coming off a stellar fourth place in the prologue, Letizia Paternoster sprints to third in Stage one against some of the world’s best.

Letizia Paternoster has not done a lot of road races this season, but the 20-year-old showed for the second straight day that her talent transcends lack of experience, and her track form has carried over exceedingly well to the tarmac: fourth in the prologue Tuesday, the young Italian was positioned perfectly by her strong Trek-Segafredo team and sprinted to third in Stage one today behind two proven, world-class sprinters.

I am a little bit disappointed for the 3rd place, but on the other hand, I have not done a lot of road races this year, so I am also satisfied with the third - I arrived behind two very strong sprinters.

I had a good position because of my teammates – Ellen (van Dijk) was incredible. I did all I could and congrats to Lorena Wiebes for the win because she was clearly the strongest today.

Lorena Wiebes (Parkhotel Valkenburg) won the furious finish into Weert ahead of Kirsten Wild (WNT-Rotor) in second and Paternoster third, moving Wiebes into second place overall and into the Best Young Rider jersey that Paternoster held after the prologue.

Paternoster is now third GC and changed out the white jersey for green, overtaking the lead in the points competition. She also gained a one-second bonus in the intermediate sprint, something that may prove worthwhile in a race that likely will be fought in time bonuses. Prologue winner Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) still holds the race lead, but with no hills and additional time trials this year, she is not expected to defend the overall title.

Trek-Segafredo teammate Lizzie Deignan and Ashleigh Moolman of CCC-Liv were the sole aggressors in the final 20 kilometers of the 123-kilometer race and gobbled up the time bonuses the first time over the finish line, leaving a mere second on offer to the GC contenders that Paternoster grabbed. Both riders would eventually be caught, but Deignan’s feistiness during the race earned her the red jersey for most combative.

The lack of wind and with most teams happy to have a bunched finish resulted in little action until the closing kilometers, and once Moolman, the last of the two antagonists, was caught with just under eight kilometers remaining, the fight for positioning increased the pace and likelihood of crashes on the narrow, twisty Dutch roads. At five kilometers to go, Trek-Segafredo decided to take control, perhaps a little early, but with the nervousness and chaos at a high, and the power of Ellen van Dijk pulling for over three kilometers, Paternoster stayed safely upfront. In hindsight, the right decision.

“Letizia did great, sprinting to third place,” said van Dijk. “I think it’s a great achievement against the best sprinters in the world. We started the leadout too early, but it was a hectic final, and it was actually hard to get to the front. Once I was at the front and saw the others were there I thought we’d better start it because then at least we are safe. I knew it would be too early, also because Lizzie did a great job with her attack and would not really have the power anymore.

“The last three kilometers were super fast with a tailwind, and I knew we needed a lot of speed for that. To be honest, I was thinking, let’s start it, and we see how far we can get and then Letizia could jump on another train and do the last kilometer by herself.

“It was such a hectic lap that it was better this way than being in the back and not able to get to the front. I think she did great in the last kilometer and a great sprint, so it all worked out. It was a great race from the team, maybe not the best leadout, but we are happy with how it went.”

"The team did a very good job today. Yes, maybe they started [the leadout] too early but sometimes it is better than being swarmed again and never seeing the front. They delivered Letizia to a good wheel - she is getting stronger now with more road miles in her legs.

- Ina Teutenberg, director

Van Dijk won the Ladies Tour in 2013 and since then finished in the top three over the next years, including second overall in 2018. This year her six-year streak of finishing on the podium ended with a crash in the prologue putting her well out of contention.

But with the tour altered this year – the race targeting sprinters rather than time trial specialists – a podium placing was never assured and van Dijk’s role had changed; she is possibly the best support her young Italian teammate could have in the Boels Ladies Tour.

“I was feeling pretty good today, thanks to the great support we have in the team,” answered van Dijk, about how she is feeling after her crash. “We have an osteopath here, and I have had treatments two times a day. I was feeling stiff this morning, and muscle soreness everywhere, and also my back is a bit hurt again, but with the good treatment here I felt good today on the bike.”

A good sign as van Dijk will play a key role for the rest of the week. The tour continues tomorrow with a 114-kilometer stage, also expected to end in a sprint.