Amy Pieters took her first win of the season at the the Healthy Ageing Tour on Wednesday.
The Dutchwoman attacked in the closing kilometres of the opening day road stage and held off a fast-charging peloton by five seconds. It’s the first victory for Pieters in Boels-Dolmans orange and the third win of the year for the Dutch-registered squad.
“I’m really happy with it,” said Pieters. “I’ve felt good all spring. I know that I’m in better shape than last year and the years before that. I’m really happy I could show that and get the win today.”
Boels-Dolmans had a strong start to the day with Anna van der Breggen coming in second place in the morning time trial. Van der Breggen opted to start early so spent most of the morning in the proverbial hot seat. Only European time trial champion Ellen van Dijk (Sunweb) could set a better standard.
“It was my first time trial of the season on a new bike,” said Van der Breggen. “The Specailized Shiv has been great in training, but in a real time trial, that’s always different for me.
“I chose to start early because I don’t like waiting before a time trial,” said Van der Breggen. “That means a long wait while the other riders come in, but I prefer that.
“I’m satisfied with the result,” Van der Breggen added. “I’m not ashamed to lose to Ellen. It was a smooth ride. Next time I only need to do it a bit faster.”
Van der Breggen wasn’t the only Boels-Dolmans rider to put down a good time in the race against the clock. Chantal Blaak (7th), Christine Majerus (11th), Amy Pieters (14th) and Amalie Dideriksen (17th) all finished in the top 20.
“It was a strong showing, so we were looking forward to the afternoon,” said team manger Danny Stam.
The afternoon 77.6-kilometre road stage was a four-lap circuit race in and around Grijpskerk. Although the roads in this area are flat, wind can wreck havoc on the peloton and positioning becomes nearly as important as form.
“There was a lot of wind,” said Pieters. “We knew we all had to be at the front, and we wanted to make the race hard. We were all there and all using energy early to make that split.”
Mission accomplished. Boels-Dolmans had forced an early selection of 17 riders and had the numerical advantage with five in front. Only Kasia Pawlowska, who returned to racing last week following a ten-week recovery from a leg injury, had missed the split.
“The second peloton was never very far away, so we had to keep the speed high the whole time,” said Pieters. “It wasn’t a bad thing. It meant the race stayed hard. It was good for us.”
Van der Breggen won the only intermediate sprint and leads the Boels Rental sprint classification.
“I was already on the front when we passed the sprint point,” Van der Breggen said. “So why not go for it?”
By the start of the final lap, around a minute separated the first two groups on the road.
“We had the plan to attack in the last ten kilometres,” noted Pieters. “We didn’t need much communication. We all knew our jobs.”
Before the attacking began in earnest, Blaak, who had suffered a mechanical during the morning time trial, flatted out of the breakaway.
“We knew we lost her,” said Pieters. “We tried to wait for her, but we couldn’t wait long enough. We had to keep going so the second group didn’t return.”
Three kilometres from the finish, Van der Breggen jumped.
“Anna is second in the general classification, so we knew that they would react to that,” said Pieters. “When they caught her, it was the perfect moment, so I went. I knew if it didn’t work, there was still Amalie and Christine behind me. If I was caught, they would counter or Anna could go again.”
The perfectly timed-move may have been predictable but it was also effective. Pieters immediately gained a gap that she successfully sustained to the line. Barbara Guarischi (CANYON//SRAM) led home the chasers, outsprinting Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo Bigla) for best of the rest.
Van der Breggen remains second overall, 27-seconds behind race leader Ellen van Dijk (Team Sunweb).
The Healthy Ageing Tour continues on Thursday with the team time trial. It is Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team’s first team time trial appearance since winning the team time trial world title at the 2016 Road World Championships.
“We start from zero,” said Stam. “We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do. I’m confident the girls can ride a good race.”