Luxembourgish champion Christine Majerus sprinted to fourth place in Vårgårda, Sweden on Sunday. The result belied the effort put forth by Boels-Dolmans in the UCI Women’s WorldTour Swedish one-day road race. The Dutch-registered squad launched non-stop attacks in the final 30-kilometres in pursuit of the race win.
“We knew we had a good chance to win today if we raced aggressively to create a small group,” explained Majerus. “Any one of us was free to go for the win. We had here in Sweden good climbers and good puncheurs, good technical riders and good tacticians, but in a bunch sprint, we knew our chances were not so good.
“Of course I would have preferred to podium, especially after all the work my teammates did during the race, but as an emergency plan, fourth is ok,” Majerus added. “I reminded everyone that we really committed to each other with all the attacking and the covering. It’s always better to lose trying.”
An 11-rider breakaway dominated the first 100 kilometres of the race. Dutch road champion Chantal Blaak flew the Boels-Dolmans flag in the early escape. With most major teams represented in either the breakaway or a four-rider chase group, the peloton initially seemed happy enough with the move.
“Chantal up the road was a good thing for us even if maybe it was a little bit too early in the race, but the way the race turned out, it was good she was up there,” said Majerus. “We hoped they could make it because out of the group, Chantal’s chances to win were pretty good.”
The peloton picked up the chase group before the first of the four gravel sections that featured in the middle loop portion of the 141-kilometre race. By the fourth gravel sector, the gap was hovering around the minute-mark. Alexandra Nessmar (Sweden) crossed the finish line for the start of the final four local laps with a 10-second advantage over the 10 other escapees.
The breakaway split on the first time up the lap’s main climb. Blaak emerged as part of a five-rider group that initially was able to extend its lead over the peloton.
“When it became clear the group was coming back, we tried to take create a new situation,” said Majerus. “I think everyone did the best she could with the attacks – some on the climbs, some after and some between, but it never really happened.”
The repeated attacks from Boels-Dolmans may not have had the desired effect at the front of the race, but they caused a high rate of attrition at the back of the bunch. Only 30-40 riders remained in the reduced peloton at the start of the final 11-kilometre lap. Boels-Dolmans had all six riders in the elite selection.
With strength in numbers, Boels-Dolmans continued to play offence. Majerus attacked. Amy Pieters attacked. Megan Guariner, Lizzie Deignan and Anna van der Breggen all attempted to force clear in a late race escape.
“Amy’s move was really great, and if the wind had stood a little bit differently on the top of the climb, I’m pretty sure something would have gone with Lizzie or Megan,” said Majerus. “But nothing happened. Everything came back together.”
The race would end in a bunch sprint.
“We didn’t really have a plan for the sprint,” said Majerus. “When we went into the last kilometre, Lizzie brought me to the front, and I guessed that was the sign I would sprint.
Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla) took the win from Marianne Vos (WM3 Energie). Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb) snagged the final spot on the podium. Majerus was best of the rest.
“I had a good sprint, only just missing the podium,” Majerus said. “I had good speed, but I was slightly too late.”
“This race is always a strange one,” Majerus added. “Sometimes one attack is enough, and that’s it. Other years you can can attack and attack and attack, and it doesn’t work. It was still a hard race despite the bunch sprint.”