2016 Ronde van Drenthe winner Chantal Blaak headlines the six-strong Boels-Dolmans squad for Ronde van Drenthe. The defending champion will line-up in alongside Olympic gold medallist Anna van der Breggen, who will make her delayed road debut for Boels-Dolmans on home soil on Saturday. World champion Amalie Dideriksen, Karol-Ann Canuel, Amy Pieters and Jip van den Bos round out the team for the second round of the UCI Women’s WorldTour.
“As always, we have a lot of options with the riders we bring,” said Blaak. “Any number of us could be the one going for a result.”
Ronde van Drenthe is the longest one-day race on the women’s calendar. The 152-kilometre course includes seven cobble sections which total 13.2 kilometres. The last sector comes more than 60 kilometres from the finish in Hoogeveen, Holland.
Amid the cobble sectors, the riders face three ascents up the short but painfully steep VAMberg. The man-made climb was built over an old garbage dump (yes, really) and includes gradients of over 21 percent. The first ascent comes 10 kilometres into the race. The last two ascents follow the final cobble sector.
Weather can often play a role in this race with wind splitting the peloton over exposed roads and wet, mossy roads providing an additional challenge through the sheltered sections. The race ends with 1.5 laps around an eight kilometre local circuit.
“Racing in Holland is always stressful,” said Blaak. “The bunch is big. The speed is high. The fight for position is very important. This makes the race hard all day.”
A LOOK BACK
Chantal Blaak won Ronde Van Drenthe last year from a four-rider breakaway that slipped away from a reduced peloton with 55-kilometres still to race. Joined by Trixi Worrack (CANYON//SRAM), Gracie Elvin (ORICA-AIS) and now-teammate, then-competitor Anna van der Breggen, Blaak was the second to open her sprint, jumping on Elvin’s wheel on the run-in to the line.
“I remember the last 200 metres the most,” said Blaak. “It was then that I knew I could win. That’s always the best feeling.”
A LOOK AHEAD
The inclusion of Ronde van Drenthe into the Women’s WorldTour last year has helped the Dutch classic attract a deep, motivated field. Although two of the top three place getters in Strade Bianche, including 2014 Ronde van Drenthe winner Lizzie Deignan, have opted out of the 11th edition of the one-day Dutch classic, teams are bringing stacked line-ups and big ambitions. It makes for an unpredictable and exciting race.
“I don’t know what to expect exactly and that’s the whole point of Ronde van Drenthe,” said Blaak. “It’s impossible to know. There are a lot of strong teams, and they all have different options to make the race hard.
“In this kind of race, everything can happen,” Blaak added. “Last year we were in the early breakaway after the cobbles, but it can also happen on the VAMberg or split in the echelons or end in a bunch sprint. You never know, so you always have to pay attention.”
DRENTSE ACHT VAN WESTERVELD
Drentse Acht van Westerveld (UCI 1.2) on Sunday rounds out the weekend of Dutch racing. The 143-kilometere race is run over many of the same roads used in Saturday’s race. Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team’s Ronde van Drenthe team will all line-up for ‘Drentse 8’ the following day.
“It’s more cobbles, more times the VAMberg,” said Blaak. “It depends on how we race it but if there is wind and we race hard, then the day will be hard.”
For the past two years, we’ve had a live stream for both Ronde van Drenthe and Drentse 8. This year, the final 50-kilometres of the Women’s WorldTour race will be broadcast live on RTV Drenthe and RTV Oost, which can also be watched online. We’ll share live links on team social when we have them on team social, so keep an eye out for that.
Additional resources include:
- Visit the Ronde van Drenthe website.
- Follow the official Ronde van Drenthe Twitter account.
- Use the official race hashtags - #RondevDrenthe and #UCIWWT on Saturday, #Drentse8 on Sunday
Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team for Ronde van Drenthe/Drentse Acht van Westerveld
Jip van den Bos
Anna van der Breggen