Boels-Dolmans put four riders in the Festival Elsy Jacobs top ten on Friday evening. Twenty-five time Luxembourgish national champion Christine Majerus rounded out the prologue podium. Majerus stopped the clock at 4:10, three seconds slower than Ashleigh Moolman Paiso’s (Cervélo-Bigla) winning time of 4:07 for the 2.8 kilometre effort.
“Three seconds, four seconds – it’s nothing at this race,” said Majerus. “For a four-minute effort, yes, maybe it’s a lot, but it’s still less compared to last year. I had a look at my watts, and they’re way higher than last year, so I’m happy about that.
“I don’t consider myself a prologue specialist,” Majerus added. “Amalie [Dideriksen] and Kasia [Pawlowska] come from the track. This is like a three-kilometre pursuit. I don’t have any experience in that. For me, it’s trying to do the best out of something that I don’t usually do. I’m happy I could do that tonight.”
Cessange played host to the opening stage of three-day Luxembourgish stage race. The 2.8-kilometre course was identical to the one used last year. The route is both undulating and technical.
“Anyone who watched could see that the first 200 metres are pretty steep,” said Majerus. “From there it’s a fast downhill and then a long false flat up against the wind. There are some turns in there and another quick decent toward the finish line.
“It’s really intense,” she noted. “You cannot really keep anything for the end. You start with the climb and you cannot ride slow on the climb or you’ll go backwards. It’s sprinting up the wall to start and trying to keep the watts to the end.”
Majerus was the final starter in Cessange. Leaving her ride until late proved to work her in her favour. The early starters raced in the rain.
“The conditions became better by the middle of the race,” said Majerus. “It was raining a lot at the beginning when Kasia started. With a technical course like this, you’ve already lost time before you’ve started if it’s raining for you and not for the others. It started getting better from Amalie’s place on. I was happy to be lucky enough to stand last on the start line.”
With four riders within nine seconds of the race lead and two hard road stages ahead, Majerus is excited for the weekend of racing.
“It’s going to be hard to get three seconds or more back on Ashleigh because she’s one of the best climbers here,” said Majerus. “It’s not impossible with how hard the laps are – especially the lap on Sunday. Maybe we race aggressively to try to get the seconds back for me or Amalie or Jip [van den Bos] or even Megan [Guarnier] if she’s feeling good. We have the numbers, and we have the good climbers.
“I think it’s a good thing that Bigla has the jersey tomorrow,” Majerus added. “They will need to control. We can act, and they have to react. We can all play the game.”