Christine Majerus made history in Garnich on Sunday when she became the first Luxembourgish rider to win Festival Elsy Jacobs. The 25-time Luxembourgish champion finished in third place on stage two, closing out the three-day stage race with a winning margin of five seconds. Eugenia Bujak (BTC City Ljubljana) and Ashleigh Moolman Paiso (Cervélo-Bigla) rounded out the general classification podium.
“It was great to be a part of Boels-Dolmans today,” said Majerus. “You need to be strong to do the general classification but defending the jersey today wouldn’t have been possible without my teammates. They all did their jobs perfectly today, and they did it with a lot of passion. That makes the difference.”
The final stage of Elsy Jacobs was also the hardest. The 111-kilometre day in and around Garnich included one large lap followed by five times around a local circuit. The opening lap included the first GPM. Although only two GPM points followed on the local laps, each time around circuit featured two climbs and very few kilometres of flat.
Majerus toed the stat line in Garnich in the yellow jersey she earned off the back of her stage one win. She started the day with a three-second buffer on Moolman Paiso and seven seconds on Bujak. The gaps were small enough that bonus seconds at the finish line – ten for first, six for second and four for third – could come into play.
“The main goal was to defend the jersey,” Majerus explained. “We wanted to see how everyone was going coming into the small lap to see if it was worth racing aggressively or if it was better to defend.
“Everyone was so, so strong today on the team,” added Majerus. “They were really amazing. It was truly a team effort. When I saw how strong they all were, I decided to take it defensively because we had the numbers. It would be stupid to attack and isolate myself or reduce us to a smaller group that included only me and Megan [Guarnier].”
The hills and the endless, always neutralised, attacks eventually forced a split in the peloton. Around 40 riders made the front group selection, including five Boels-Dolmans riders: Guarnier, Majerus, Karol-Ann Canuel, Amalie Dideriksen, and Kasia Pawlowska.
“The instructions at this point were very clear,” said Majerus. “I only had to follow Moolman, the strongest climber. The other girls took care of the other Bigla riders and anyone else dangerous for the overall. The rest we could let go.”
Moolman launched several attacks on the local laps, but Majerus was never under pressure.
“Even when Ash attacked, I could follow,” Majerus said. “That gave me a lot of confidence that she wouldn’t ride away from me in the end.”
The stage ended in a reduced bunch sprint won by Elise Delzenne (Lotto Soudal Ladies).
“There was still a bit of poker there at the end,” said Majerus. “With the bonus seconds, I had to be at least on the podium and Ashleigh should not be in front of me.
“There was a lot of looking around,” Majerus added. “I was in the wind too early. It wasn’t a good sprint to win the stage, but it was a good sprint to win the jersey.”
A race at home means a hometown cheering squad. Majerus had her extended family, partner and local supporters at the finish.
“Everyone was there today – everyone,” Majerus said. “It’s nice to win in front of the family. I don’t win a lot, so to do it in front of friends and family is something really special. For Luxembourg, too, it’s nice that I won. People were really happy, I could tell, and that made me even happier…but they shouldn’t get too used to this!”
The Elsy Jacobs general classification win brings Boels-Dolmans victory tally up to 11 for the 2017 road season. Seven of the Dutch-registered team’s 11-rider squad has contributed to that total.
“I’ve been riding four months now for my teammates and doing my job for the team,” Majerus added. “For sure it might be frustrating for some people to always work for others, but I know on this team, we all have our chances. I knew that for all the work I do, the girls will pay me back someday.
“Today they paid it back in such a nice way, and I’m really thankful for that,” she continued. “It gives me the motivation to do the same for them the next time and the next time. With this team, it’s a give-give situation. It’s why we ride so strong for whoever is the leader on that day.”