Ellen van Dijk has worn the Thüringen Rundfahrt race leader’s yellow jersey since her time trial win on Monday. On Wednesday she slipped down to third place as a two-rider breakaway gained nealyr five minutes on a 14-rider chase group and stayed away to contest the finish.
Amanda Spratt (ORICA-AIS) won stage six while Elena Cecchini (CANYON//SRAM) moved to the top of the general classification with one day left to race. Van Dijk will start stage seven sitting 3:20 behind Cecchini and 15-seconds down on Spratt.
“From the start on, there were five million attacks today,” said Van Dijk. “I could not follow every one. I cannot go with everything.”
“I focused on [Annemiek] Van Vleuten (ORICA-AIS), [Ashleigh] Moolman (Cervélo-Bigla) and [Marianne] Vos (Rabo Liv) because of their positions compared to mine on the GC,” she added. “I could follow the attacks of Moolman, and Van Vleuten, she was following Moolman. I could follow them most of the time. Sometimes I had a little gap over the top of the climb but I could get it back. I was pretty happy because I’m not the strongest climber, and I wasn't in a position where I could attack the others.”
“I needed to follow and hang on as long as possible,” Van Dijk said. “And that’s what I did. It's a shame after all that to let a breakaway go and the GC to go with it."
The queen stage of Thüringen Rundfahrt was the hardest, hilliest and the hottest – and the most active. At the mid-point of the 130-kilometre day in and around Schleiz, the bunch shattered on the lengthiest climb of the stage.
“Spratt and Checchini attacked over the top of the climb, and we didn’t think it was a bad situation at first,” noted Van Dijk. “Spratt was on more than four minutes, so we didn’t think ORICA would like her going away with Cecchini, who was on 1:30.”
“We also thought Bigla would chase because they also want a podium spot,” added Van Dijk. “Ashleigh is the strongest climber here. She could have won this race. But they were fine with everything. Everyone was and nobody chased.”
The gap quickly blew out beyond the minute mark. Then it stretched to two minutes.
“Kasia was riding tempo on the front all the time,” said Van Dijk. “She was the hero today. She rode on the front, she was dropped, she came back. She was on the front, dropped, come back. She did it so many times. With only two girls in the front – Kasia and me – there’s not so much you can do.”
“Probably they thought it was up to us to chase, but they should have seen we couldn’t do it alone,” said Van Dijk.
“Once they let the gap get so big, it was gone. We could keep chasing, but it didn’t make sense anymore. Even if I could close it from five minutes to four minutes, they would have attacked me in the hills and I would get dropped there.”
“We talked about it,” Van Dijk added. “What should we do? What could we do? In the end, if no one else wants to work, that’s it. It’s a shame to let the GC go like that.”
Spratt took the stage win two seconds ahead of Cecchini. Van Vleuten led home a nine-strong chase group at 4:39. Fifteen seconds behind Spratt, now second overall, Van Dijk has 10 seconds on Van Vleuten in fourth and an additional 19 seconds on Vos in fifth. With only 44 seconds separating second from fifth, Van Dijk expects a hotly contested fight for the lesser spots on the podium on Thursday.
“It would be nice to stay on the podium,” said Van Dijk. “A stage win for the team would also be nice. Tomorrow is also really hard, and we’re not here with so many riders anymore. Kasia worked so hard today, so she’ll be a little tired tomorrow. We’ll have to see how everyone is feeling before we come up with our plan but for sure we’ll try to get the most out of tomorrow.”