Lizzie Armitstead of Boels-Dolmans won the Ronde van Drenthe, the opening round of the UCI Women’s World Cup 2014. She beat Anna van der Breggen of Rabobank on the finish line in Hoogeveen, the Netherlands. Alé-Cipollini’s Shelley Olds won the sprint of the chasing group to take the final podium place.
The Ronde van Drenthe is the first of nine races in the UCI Women Road World Cup. It’s a 146,6 kilometre race in the north of the Netherlands where cobbles, wind and a man-made hill of 56 metres are the main characteristics. And these elements were all lining up to make for a spectacular race.
The four cobbled sections the peloton had to cross were not doing enough damage to force a decision. Apart from a handful of punctures and an unfortunate crash the main contenders for the overall win were well-positioned at the front of the race.
It was the wind however that caused the first decisive split. The Rabobank team upped the pace and decimated the peloton to 13 riders only. With four riders from Rabobank and four from Giant-Shimano it was a strong group, but the chasers, who included former winner Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) came back in the feed zone with one hour of high-paced racing to go.
The 23-year-old Anna van der Breggen attacked just after the second passage of the VAM-berg and got company of her Rabobank teammate Iris Slappendel. With two sprints for the new UCI Sprint leader’s jersey coming up, Slappendel looked at Van der Breggen and sprinted her way into the jersey she designed herself.
The two Rabobank riders gained a substantial lead of 55 seconds and clocked up a 30 second bonus when the chasing group took a wrong road and had to turn around in the final lap.
Omloop het Hageland winner Lizzie Armitstead was in the chasing group where she had a powerful weapon in World Time Trial champion Ellen van Dijk. The tall Dutch woman paced the chasing group back into contention.
When Van der Breggen dropped her teammate Slappendel on the final climb of the VAM-berg, Armitstead attacked. The British London 2012 silver medal winner bridged to Van der Breggen and positioned herself on the wheel of the Dutch rider.
In the final kilometre the more experienced Armitstead forced the lead for the final sprint upon Van der Breggen. The Rabobank rider tried but was easily countered by Armitstead. For the 25-year old Armitstead the Ronde van Drenthe marked her first World Cup victory.
Photo: Winners of the new World Cup jerseys – Amy Pieters (mountains), Lizzie Armitstead (leader), Iris Slappendel (sprint) and Thalita de Jong (young rider), with UCI Vice-President Tracey Gaudry