Amy Pieters has won the Ronde van Drenthe on Sunday, the second race in the Women's WorldTour. Just like the opening race last week, the Strade Bianche in Italy, the race was held under epic conditions. Although the temperatures were slightly higher, the muddy faces that crossed the finish line said enough. Pieters won the sprint of a thinned-out peloton.
“I won today, but I don’t think that I fully realise it yet,” said Pieters. "I really wanted to win a big race at one point. I never managed to do so in recent years. I did have good races, but the victory wasn’t always there. I am very happy with the win today!”
Rain and crosswinds played a decisive role in the race through the Drenthe landscape, in the same way that the crashes did. In one of them, world champion and winner of the 2016 Ronde van Drenthe Chantal Blaak was involved, who never got back into the game. With the right side of her body completely covered in mud, she crossed the line at 3:40 from Pieters. “I’m okay,” Blaak said. “I’m hurt, but I barely have any road rash and no broken bones. Getting out of bed tomorrow will be fun though.”
Amalie Dideriksen, last year’s winner of the Ronde van Drenthe, had bad luck too when she punctured at an unfortunate moment. She never saw the front of the race again, but she had already won the sprint classification by then. In the final, Boels-Dolmans was represented in a large front group by Luxembourg champion Christine Majerus, Pieters and Women’s WorldTour leader Anna van der Breggen. All three managed to avoid a crash in the last kilometres and Pieters was attentively in the front. She opened her sprint early against Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM), but held it until the line and crossed it first.
"The final kilometres were chaotic," said Pieters. "There was a crash in the last kilometre, just behind me. It was something I knew was going to happen, because it was very hectic and sprinters don’t use their brakes in the final. It was unavoidable. I had to open my sprint early after that. I had to go from the last corner. I saw Alexis Ryan coming, but could accelerate a second time and kept on going. We rode great as a team today.”
Only a week ago, Pieters won silver on the madison with Kirsten Wild (Wiggle-High5) at the World Track Championships in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands. She couldn’t have predicted to be doing so well in her first races on the road, but it’s not really a surprise either.
"I didn’t really know what to expect from my first races on the road," said Pieters. "I had mainly focused on the World Track Championships this winter. Of course, I knew that my form was good, but I didn’t know that it would go so well on the road. Especially a race as long as today’s race, where we did almost 160 kilometres.”
"We had already done Drentse Acht van Westerveld on Friday and it went well there, the same thing happened today," continued Pieters. "And when I look back on the last few weeks, I can say that I already noticed I was doing really well on the track. I also really felt that my efforts on the track had a positive effect on my training rides in Spain. Last year, I sometimes lacked that final punch during spring. I think that track season really helped me get it this year.”
Pieters won the mountain classification in the Drentse Acht on Friday and she was also active throughout the Ronde van Drenthe today. "Anna [van der Breggen] came to me a hundred times during the race to tell me: keep calm, go slow. But when I feel good, it feels like I can do anything without effort.”
The race was slightly altered along the way, the last two cobble sectors being skipped for safety issues. A small diversion led to a different kind of final, but Boels-Dolmans quickly adapted to the new course. "This alteration in the course made the final a bit different, because we wanted to do a final push on the last cobbles," said Pieters. "Danny [Stam, director sportif] is very good in his communication with us in a situation like that. It kept us calm and confident. We didn’t have any stress about it. We had a good plan. We kept to it and it worked out well.”
Van der Breggen and Majerus crossed the line in the first group and Van der Breggen keeps the leader's jersey in the Women's WorldTour classification. We return to Italy for the next round in the Women's at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda on Sunday 18 March.