Road World Cup 2010
Round 2- Grace Verbeke first Belgian to win Flanders
Tour of Flanders, 119.3km
Grace Verbeke (Lotto Ladies) became the first Belgian to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen ahead of Mariane Vos (Nederland Bloeit) and Kirstin Wild (Cervelo Test Team)
Conditions were overcast, chilly and rain threatened the race. Half way through a brief shower caused a few challenges.
Vicki Whitelaw (Lotto Ladies) was the first to suffer a mechanical, puncturing at the bottom of the small hill. She had to chase back hard to get back in the race. An accident caused by a spectator on a fast descent in the early stages of the race, saw Liesbet De Vocht (Nederland Bloeit) hit the ground doing 50 km/hr. Vos, who was on her wheel crashed over her team mate. De Vocht was the most injured, suffering head injuries. Vos and a number of other riders who crashed too were able to continue. De Vocht was taken to hospital and according to the team manager she was stable.
The pace of the race was relatively steady after this until the half way stage of the race, when Verbeke attacked solo at the bottom of the Molenberg. Adrie Visser (HTC Columbia) attacked the peloton to chase and caught Verbeke just over the top. The pair worked well together and had a maximum lead of 1 minute 30 seconds on the chasing peloton. On the climb of the Muur, Verbeke kicked and Visser could not stay with her. By the time Visser went over the top, Verbeke had a 10 Second advantage.
Verbake continued to attack on the descent and by the time she had reached the final climb, the Bosberg, she had a 15 second lead. The front of the peloton was being driven by Cervelo Test Team's Sarah Duster and as she eased off the pace a third of the way up the climb of the Bosberg, it created an opportunity for another attack led by Duster's team mate Regina Bruins. The attack split the bunch. A group formed, however a number of top riders could not hold onto the chase. Nicole Cooke (GBR) and the 2009 winner, Ina Teutenberg (HTC Columbia) were amongst those who missed the break. As the chaser worked their way up the Bosberg, the chasing group of seven riders swamped up Visser and formed a group of eight to chase Verbeke. This group included Vos, Regina Bruins and Kirstin Wild (Cervelo Test Team), Noemi Cantele, Judith Arndt (HTC Columbia), Chantal Blaak (Leontien) and Emma Johansson (Red Sun).
At the 20km to go mark, Verbeke had maintained a lead of 1 minute over the chasing group. With HTC Columbia and Cervelo working to close the gap, Verbeke only held a 27 second lead with 5km to go.
At 2km, Verbeke had 20 seconds on the chasing eight riders. In the final 500m Verbeke was the clear leader and celebrated across the line as the eight riders were closing fast. The sprint for the World Cup points and the leaders jersey came from the eight and started at 300m to go. Arndt who had led out Cantele, had Vos on their wheel, like Trofeo Binda last week, Vos had jumped onto Cantele's wheel. Vos moved round to the left at 50 m to go and was the strongest, crossing the line just ahead of Wild who had sprinted right for third ahead of Johansson, Visser, Blaak, Cantele Arndt and Bruins.
Marianne Vos maintained her hold on the World Cup leader's jersey. She will take it to the Ronde van Drenthe next weekend, where she will defend it. The omens for Vos to continue in the lead are good; the past three winners have been Dutch (Marianne Vos, Adrie Visser and Chantal Beltman) and also in 2009, the World Cup leader after the Drenthe round was Dutch (Vos).
Grace Verbeke (Lotto Ladies) was overjoyed at winning the biggest win of her career. "I can't believe this, I won, I have wanted this for so long," said Verbeke as she stopped to celebrate with her team support staff.
Verbeke discussed her race, “On the Molenberg, [the major climb, after 74km] I forced it, and went hard,” said Verbeke. “It was not the plan, I wanted to go again on the Muur, but it was very muddy and very tricky, I just wanted to be first up. I forced it and when I looked back I had a nice gap, which was a surprise, my manager was in my ear saying 'Go Grace but not too hard, don't go too early', but I felt great," she added.
“On the Muur the atmosphere was fantastic,” continued Verbeke. “Everyone was chanting my name, and I didn’t even feel myself pedalling, I couldn’t feel my legs, it was as though I was being pushed. When I got away on my own I felt I had the legs to stay away. I was very strong today. It’s a race I worked very hard for so I was in good shape. It means so much to me, in the first place because I’m a Belgian girl in a Belgian race. This is Flanders, so it’s very big for me and big for the sponsor of my team. It’s amazing.”
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