Luxembourg champion Christine Majerus sprinted to second place behind Liv-Plantur’s Leah Kirchmann in Dwingeloo on Sunday. The 140-kilometre Dutch classic ended in a 13-up sprint following the group’s mid-race escape.
"I started my sprint too late because I had to come up in the wind," said Majerus. "In the end, I came up faster than the others - even the winner - but I could only move up to second place. This was my first race where I could go for the sprint and with the work done yesterday and today during the race, I'm really happy with what I could with my sprint in the end. It shows that it is slowly coming back after sickness."
Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team had three riders make the elite selection that proved the decisive moment in Sunday’s race. Megan Guarnier and Kasia Pawlowska joined Majerus up the road – and on the podium. Guarnier won the Drentse 8 cobbles classification while Pawlowska won the sprint classification.
"It just happened,” said Guarnier. “We weren’t targeting the jerseys, but because we were on the front and working really hard to keep the group away, we got them.”
Drentse 8, like Saturday’s Ronde van Drenthe, included the VAM-berg. The peloton tackled the infamous man-made landfill two times mid-race. The first ascent split the peloton into several small groups, which all came back together. The splits that formed over the second ascent were the splits that stuck.
"[Tiffany] Cromwell (CANYON//SRAM) attacked the second time over the VAM-berg, and I followed,” said Guarnier. “Christine was right behind me, and Kasia was there, too.”
"We came over the top of the VAM-berg and down it and then immediately starting echeloning,” Guarnier added. “You could see the separations happen right away.”
Boels-Dolmans had three riders in the leading group compared to two each for Wiggle-High5, Rabo-Liv and CANYON//SRAM.
"There were a few singletons, too, but they took a lot of time sitting out, but you’d expect that,” Guarnier said. “With our numbers in the break, the weight was on us, but we needed to be smart with how we played it as well.”
"Most of the girls in the group did work,” Majerus added. “The gap kept getting bigger and bigger.”
With only 10 kilometres left to race, the gap had stretched out to over 90 seconds, and the focus shifted. The group would stay away. Now how would Boels-Dolmans approach the finale?
"We had two cards to play,” explained Majerus. “We had Kasia for the last attack and me for the sprint. Megan was really awesome on the last local lap. At that point, no other team wanted to work anymore, and she rode on the front the entire time to avoid attacks from other teams.”
"I was anticipating attacks in the final six kilometres, but they never came,” Guarnier added. “It was extremely surprising that the other teams didn’t attack us. If they each had two, two people weren’t going to sprint from each team. Why not use one to attack?”
Fifteen hundred metres from the finish, it was Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team’s Pawlowska who jumped.
"It was a brilliant attack,” said Majerus. “It made everyone else suffer and work. And when it all came back together, I concentrated on the sprint.”
Having been ill in late February, Majerus missed out on nearly a week’s training and sat out the first two races of the European road season."
"I didn’t have so much guarantee about my sprint with my sickness,” she said. “I couldn’t do the training I wanted, and I lost quite a lot of explosiveness. But when the girls work so hard the whole day and have trust in me, I have to forget all that and have confidence in myself.”
"Even if I might be a behind schedule with a little extra motivation from my teammates, I can be good,” Majerus added. “It’s not news that it would be better to win, but with my shape at the moment, and the way the last two weeks have been, this is kind of like a win for me. My teammates were happy, so I was happy, too.”
Her teammates were happy. Guarnier added: “We’re really proud of Christine. The feeling is good. We raced as a team and we raced for each other. I’m super happy about the whole weekend and really proud of how Christine took her chance today. A win is always a nice thing, but a podium is extremely great, too.”