Ellen van Dijk finished third overall at Thüringen Rundfahrt on Thursday. The Dutchwoman won the stage four time trial and spent two days in the yellow jersey.
“The girls rode hard today to keep me in third place,” said Van Dijk. “They worked hard all week. I have to thank them. We were only a small team here but everyone did everything they could to help me.”
Van Dijk toed the line in Gera for the start of the seventh and final stage of Thüringen Rundfahrt. Overnight race leader Elena Cecchini (CANYON//SRAM) had more than three minutes on Amanda Spratt (ORICA-AIS) in second, but only 44 seconds separated second place from fifth place. Boels Dolmans Cycling Team expected the competition for the lesser spots on the podium to be fierce.
The first 60-kilometres of the hilly 131-kilometre race were relentless.
“The attacks were non-stop,” said Van Dijk. “Over the steepest climb, which was already pretty hard, ORICA started attacking again, and we reached the top with only five riders: Annemiek Van Vleuten (ORICA-AIS), Amanda Spratt, Ashleigh Moolman (Cervélo Bigla) and Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5). Annemiek and Spratt went one by one with the attacks and they never stopped until one got away.”
It was as attack from Van Vleuten that finally broke the rubber band beyond its stretching point. She opened up a small gap on Van Dijk, Spratt, Moolman and Johansson. The escape by Van Vleuten, who started the stage in fourth overall, 10 seconds off the podium, threatened Van Dijk’s third place position.
“But then the girls in the bunch got back to the four of us, and I had teammates again,” said Van Dijk. “And my teammates closed the gap straightaway.”
Several riders reacted immediately, countering the catch. The group size fluctuated for about ten kilometres until a group of five established a gap. Fifty kilometres from the finish, Rachel Neylan (ORICA-AIS), Amy Pieters (Wiggle High5), Nicole Hanselmann Cervélo Bigla), Tatiana Guderzo (Hitec Products) and Coryn Rivera (Unitedhealthcare) had two minutes over the peloton.
“It’s a shame we missed the move, but for the GC it was fine to have that group go on,” said Van Dijk. “For a day win, it would have been better to have someone in it.”
Rivera won the five-up sprint. Twenty three seconds later, Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv) led home the chasers.
“Before the Olympics, you want to test out how you’re doing,” said Van Dijk. “I’ve got a lot of confidence this week in my shape, and that’s what I take home. I’m really happy.”