Anna van der Breggen went into the second edition of the women’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège as the number one favourite. The Olympic champion confirmed her class by crossing the finish line first, wearing the purple leader’s jersey of the Women’s WorldTour classification and therefore strengthening her position in the overall. She was joined on the podium by the Mitchelton-Scott duo Amanda Spratt and Annemiek van Vleuten.
“I felt quite good today,” was Van der Breggen's first reaction after the finish.
Round nine in the Women’s WorldTour started with a three-rider breakaway early in the race. The initial break consisted of Maaike Boogaard (BTC City Ljubljana), Louise Norman Hansen (Virtu Cycling) and Rachel Neylan (Movistar), but while Boogaard was dropped after 20 kilometers, Norwegian champion Vita Heine (Team Hitec) was able to bridge the gap to the other two leaders to replace her.
The trio increased their advantage to well over a minute, but on the Côte de Vecquée, at around 50 kilometers from the finish line, their time was up. The peloton had been reduced drastically at this point and on the Col de la Redoute, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Canyon-SRAM) attacked.
She had a short stint off the front, but with 20 kilometers to go, she was caught and dropped by a new lead group with Van der Breggen, Megan Guarnier, Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla). As some ten riders joined them later on, including Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott), ‘Spratty’ didn’t wait and attacked immediately. It was a serious move, as she built a lead of around a minute.
“It was quite hard, [Amanda] did really good,” said Van der Breggen. “I was there with Megan in the second group, but Canyon-SRAM was there with a lot of riders as well. So it was a bit of a gamble, whether we were going to ride or not.”
“You don’t want to react too early, because that’s really hard,” continued Van der Breggen. “But you don’t want to be too late, so it was quite tactical. And in the end, it was just really hard. I was happy I could catch her on the penultimate climb.”
On the Côte de Saint-Nicolas, crested at around 5 kilometers from the finish line, Van der Breggen reached Spratt. A victory was not a certainty yet at this point, according to the Olympic champion.
“[Amanda] is in great form,” she said. “When I caught her, she was straight on my wheel. I know that finish climb is pretty hard and she had already done quite an effort up front, but you never know. Still, I felt good today, so I was quite sure I could drop her on that last climb.”
And that she did. With great dominance, Van der Breggen left Spratt behind on the final climb and completed the Ardennes triple for Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team for the second time.
“It has been a good week for us,” said Van der Breggen. “With Chantal [Blaak] winning the Amstel Gold Race and I won the other two races. It has also been a tough week, with three hard races in one week. There was a lot of pressure, so I’m really glad we could finish it off like this. I’m happy the girls were riding like this today. They kept me at the front on the downhill and they chased, and they gave me confidence. That’s worth a lot.”
Van der Breggen continues to lead the Women’s WorldTour with just under 400 points ahead of Spratt in second place and almost double the points of Moolman-Pasio in third place. Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team won’t travel to China for round ten in the Women’s WorldTour, but opts for the three-day GP Elsy Jacobs in Luxembourg instead.