Chantal Blaak secured the first general classification win of her career in Valkenburg on Sunday. The 26-year-old moved into the Boels Rental Ladies Tour race lead following stage three of the six-day tour, assuming the orange leader’s jersey from teammate Amalie Dideriksen.
“It’s never easy to win a bike race,” said Blaak. “Today we worked together as a team, which was great. We were always in a great situation, but still you don’t know it until you pass the finish line. I’m really happy with what we could do together.”
It was a successful week all around for Boels-Dolmans who won the opening two stages of the Boels Rental Ladies Tour -- a sprint victory with Dideriksen followed by the team time trial win. By stage three, the Dutch-registered squad had secured the top three spots on the general classification and ultimately finished first, second and fourth overall with Blaak, Ellen van Dijk and Karol-Ann Canuel.
“I’m really happy,” said Van Dijk. “We won this tour as a team. We were in the lead the whole time. It’s difficult to keep that position all week, but everybody worked really hard for it so that we could do it.”
Blaak lined up in Bunde for the start of stage six with an 11-second advantage over Van Dijk and a 33-second advantage over Canuel. Lisa Brennauer was the best-placed non-Boels-Dolmans rider in fourth place at 40 seconds. Despite the enviable position, the overall win was not a guarantee. The final stage was the hardest of the week and included four ascents of the fearsome Cauberg climb.
Holland’s hills proved no match for the strength of Boels-Dolmans. Several different groups, non-threatening, animated the early action, but in the end, the race came down to the second of two 17-kilometre laps in Limburg. A leading trio reached the top of the Cauberg with a 25-second advantage over a thinned down peloton.
“Lizzie [Armitstead] was super, super strong today,” said Van Dijk. “She was riding on the front of that little group the whole time. She kept the pace so high and so steady that no one dared attack. When Lizzie time trialled past the three out front, it was obvious that it was all going to come down to a sprint up the Cauberg.”
Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv) had shown her strength in the hills that preceded the final time up the Cauberg. The Pole started the stage in sixth overall, slightly more than a minute behind Blaak.
“Kasia attacked from the bottom,” noted Van Dijk. “We all tried to follow. In the very last 300 metres, I saw she was fading, and I came up. It was close in the end, but she was just better.”
Van Dijk’s ride was good for second place on the stage. Blaak was the sixth rider across the finish line, five seconds behind Niewiadoma and three seconds behind Van Dijk
“To follow Ellen was really hard,” said Blaak. “It was allowed to go for the stage win, and she had the legs to do that. Everyone has to ride as fast as they can on the Cauberg. At that point, it’s up to me to be there and do my best to keep the jersey.”