Marianne Vos won the uphill sprint to take the victory at a hugely entertaining fourth stage at the Simac Ladies Tour on Saturday.
Vos had been part of a three-woman breakaway, which had led for the final 35km, and outclassed her fellow escapees to put two seconds into them in the Limburg village of Sweikhuizen. After a characteristically aggressive performance, Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) was second, ahead of Chantal van den Broek-Blaak in third, the SDWorx rider assuming the overall lead.
The trio had a lead of around 40 seconds with three kilometres to go, but when Niewiadoma attacked on a slight incline 1600m out, briefly dropping Van den Broek-Blaak, they began finessing, the gap to the chasers coming down.
It was a cagey final climb, Niewiadoma leading as the gradient kicked up before launching her own move. Van den Broek-Blaak went next but was unable to get past Vos who kicked hard to take victory
In what had been an all-action, gnarly stage, SDWorx led the chasers home, with Amy Pieters and Demi Vollering rounding out the top five and moving themselves up on GC.
While they failed to defend the overall lead of Marlen Reusser, the day was excellent rearguard action from Alé-BTC Ljubljana who, despite losing riders to Friday’s crash battled gallantly throughout the day, despite sending most of it on the back foot.
The Swiss woman eventually finished 23 seconds down and retains second overall.
How it happened
For the penultimate stage, the race moved further south, into the main part of the Limburg province and the town of Geleen, just north Maastricht. From the start the race headed the small village of Sweikhuizen before taking on eight laps, making for a total of 148.9km racing.
Not only was each of those laps quite technical, they also tackled the Watersley climb, a regular for the race, which though only 400m at 5 per cent, was likely to have an effect.
Friday’s crash-marred stage had seen a significant rearrangement in the general classification, with Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (SDWorx) surviving the carnage to move to 10 seconds off Marlen Reusser’s race lead.
And shortly after Saturday’s stage began the Swiss Alé-BTC Ljubljana rider was under further pressure when Van den Broek-Blaak and third-placed Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) moved clear as part of a large group.
While Reusser was able to bring the leading group back it was not before her Dutch rival had taken three bonus seconds, narrowing her deficit.
Starting the day in ninth overall, 1-29 behind Reusser, former Dutch national champion Anouska Koster was one of two Jumbo-Visma riders in the top 10 overall, and shortly after the bunch re-formed she managed to escape, allowing team-mate Marianne Vos, who started two places above her, to sit happily in the group.
Behind her the SDWorx squad, who also had Demi Vollering and Amy Pieters in the top 10 within 1-28 of the lead at the start of the day, led the chase. But even with other teams appeared on the front the narrow, wet and muddy roads on the circuit allowed Koster to extend her lead to nearly three minutes into the final 50km.
Among the chasers Canyon-SRAM was particularly aggressive, putting in repeated digs and breaking the chasing the group with around 40km to go, a move continued by SDWorx, distancing Reusser once again, and taking huge chunks out of Koster’s lead.
Once again Reusser got back on, but as soon as she did so the group split again and she was not part of a three woman group which went away, catching Koster with 35km remaining.
Here Van den Broek-Blaak claimed two further bonus seconds, and with a wonderfully aggressive Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), Koster and her team mate Vos set about building a gap.
Behind, Reusser and her team mate Marta Bastianelli were forced to lead a chasing group, and even when they were joined by Laura Tomasi, they could not close the gap.
With Koster dropped, Van den Broek-Blaak, Vos and Niewiadoma entered the final 18km lap with a lead of 50 seconds. However, with the Alé-BTC Ljubljana trio exhausted, DSM set about setting up Brit, Pfeiffer Georgi who began the day sixth, 1-07 behind Reusser.
With 10km go Georgi attacked the chasers, briefly splitting the group but also closing the gap to the leading trio. With Reusser seeing a glimmer of hope she headed to the front but the gap again began to expand until the leaders began to look to each other on the final climb.
At 150.3km, Sunday’s final stage is the longest of the week. Starting and finishing in Arnhem the route takes on 19 laps of a lumpy 7.9km loop, and while the Zijpensdaalseweg climb is only short the repetitive nature of the course is likely to cause splits, though whether they will be enough to effect the general classification remains to be seen.
Simac Ladies Tour, stage four: Geleen – Sweikhuizen (148.9km)
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Jumbo-Visma in 4-15-08
2. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM at 2 seconds
3. Chantal van der Broek-Blaak (Ned) SDWorx at same time
4. Amy Pieters (Ned) SDWorx at 17s
5. Demi Vollering (Ned) SDworx
6. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Alé-BTC Ljubljana
7. Alison Jackson (Can) Liv Racing all at same time
8. Pfeiffer Georgi (Gbr) DSM at 19s
9. Eugénie Duval (Fra) FDJ-Novelle Aquitaine Futuroscope at same time
10. Ella Harris (NZ) Canyon-SRAM at 21s
General classification after stage four
1. Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Ned) SDWorx 10-58-38
2. Marlen Reusser (Sui) Alé-BTC Ljubljana at 20 sec
3. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 30 sec
4. Demi Vollering (Ned) SDworx at 1-03
5. Marianne Vos (Ned) Jumbo-Visma at 1-04
6. Pfeiffer Georgi (Gbr) DSM at 1-23
7. Amy Pieters (Ned) SDWorx at 1-42
8. Alison Jackson (Can) Liv Racing at 2-08
9. Jeanne Korevaar (Ned) Liv Racing) at 2-30
10. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Alé-BTC Ljubljana at 2-39