Lorena Wiebes rounded off a dominant performance from her DSM team with victory at the Ronde van Drenthe, the final WorldTour race of the season.
Inside the closing 10 kilometres the Dutch sprinting superstar was guided into a leading group of seven women, with three team-mates and was able to out sprint her rivals to take her 13th victory of the season.
With such strength in the final Wiebes was able to take an armchair ride to the final 300m, opening her sprint and instantly gapping SDWorx’s former Italian champion Elena Cecchini, who was second. Valcar Travel and Service’s 19 year-old, Eleonora Gasparrini come home third.
Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM) and Cecchini had been part of a three woman group with Wiebes’s compatriot and team mate Floortje Mackaij, which emerged from the fourth circuit of the VAMberg with a small lead. However, when Mackaij realised she had three team mates just off the back she sat up and they were caught.
Franziska Koch then went to work for DSM, the German riding into the final kilometre before another DSM rider, newly crowned British champion Pfeiffer Georgi finished off the lead out.
Indeed Georgi’s was the day’s outstanding performance, the 21 year-old part of a breakaway with compatriot Alice Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) which was caught with 13km before instantly going to work for her team. She finally finished sixth.
The race brought the Women’s WorldTour to a close, with an injured Annemiek van Vleuten the series’ best rider overall. Not only was she absent from the Dutch race, her Movistar team withdrew late in the week citing injuries and a lack of riders, as did FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope.
How it happened
Cancelled when Covid-19 began to take hold in March 2020, then delayed from its customary date on the second weekend of March, the Ronde van Drenthe is not only the final race of the 2021 Women’s WorldTour but, at 159.1km, one its longest.
And while the parcours between Assen and Hoogeveen is almost flat, the route offers a number of obstacles, including 10 cobbled sectors, the brutal keien sets more like huge rounded pebbles than normal stones. There are also four circuits around the VAMberg, a hill built on a rubbish tip which the owners boast is 4,800cm above sea level. Yes 48 metres.
It might not be high, but short sections of 15% gradient and more keien made sure the laps around the climb always help make the race both gnarly and entertaining.
The race is rarely decided in a bunch sprint, a group of fewer than 10 women normally contesting the win, the peloton often shattered by high winds blowing across the twisting roads of the Dutch far northeast.
However, though gales and affected the Drentse 8 sister race on Friday, for Saturday’s WorldTour event Drenthe was unseasonably calm, with occasional sun and little in the way of wind. This allowed Dutch rider Lieke Nooijen (Parkhotel Valkenburg) to get away alone, quickly building a lead of 1-45.
She was chased by compatriot Janneke Ensing, the BikeExchange rider going clear passing through her home town of Gieten in what was her final race before retirement. While Nooijen’s advantage was cut slightly, with 50km done both her and Ensing were together with a lead of 1-30.
However, a mechanical put paid to Nooijen’s hopes, the 20 year-old dropping back to the bunch, while Ensing ploughed on alone, though her advantage began to drop and she was caught for the last time in a 20 year career with 84km remaining.
With 80km to go first SDWorx then Canyon-SRAM came to the front, lifting the pace on one of the cobbled sectors and stretching the peloton to breaking point. This period of aggression led to another Parkhotel Valkenburg rider, Kirstie van Haaften getting away and building a lead of more than one minute.
While she was eventually caught by Margaux Vigie (Valcar Travel and Service), as the VAMberg circuit approached for the first time their lead was brought down to 20 seconds, team DSM’s Fraziska Koch attacking hard and catching the leaders.
The circuit shattered the peloton but, with the leaders caught a reduced but aggressive peloton re-forming at the front. A group of eight then escaped, though, with SDWorx placing two in that leading group cooperation was not good and they were caught ahead of a first sight of the finish in Hoogeveen, with 44km to go.
Still there was no calm, repeated attacks punctuating the return to the VAM circuit, until eventually recently deposed British champion Alice Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) got away with her conqueror, Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM), leaving SDWorx to chase.
The British duo made it over the double ascent of the VAM twice more, each time the chasing group was smaller, but still big enough that any effort to chase would contain one of the leaders’ team mates sitting on. Barnes and Georgi were finally caught immediately before the final ascent, three women, going clear.
Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM), Elena Cecchini (SDWorx) and Floortje MAckaij (DSM) Seemed to be making good progress, but with DSM’s sprinter Lorena Wiebes just off the back with three team mates, Mackaij sat on. Eventually a group of seven, including four from DSM, came together and set about taking Wiebes to the line, nine kilometres further on.
Miron Ronde van Drenthe: Assen – Hoogeveen (159.1km)
1. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) DSM in 4-07-34
2. Elena Cecchini (Ita) SDWorx
3. Eleonora Gasparrini (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service
4. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon-SRAM
5. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) DSM
6. Pfeiffer Georgi (Gbr) DSM all at same time
7. Franziska Koch (Ger) DSM at 06 sec
8. Susanne Andersen (Nor) DSM at 1-15
9. Chiara Consonni (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service
10. Nina Kessler (Ned) Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank all at same time