Jolien D’hoore won a stunning edition of Ghent-Wevelgem on Sunday, beating Belgian compatriot Lotte Kopecky in another thrilling Women’s WorldTour race in Belgium.
The two Belgians had been part of an 11 woman breakaway which had formed on the day’s final climb, the Kemmelberg 35km from the line. Despite D’hoore having her Boels-Dolmans team-mate Amy Pieters in there, and Trek-Segafredo having three women, cooperation in the group was excellent right into the final.
With Sunweb, Canyon-SRAM and CCC-Liv working in the chasing group, the closing 25km were as tense as could be, the gap less than 10 seconds as they entered the final kilometre.
Pieters launched her sprint at around 500m, drawing out Belgian national champion Kopecky (Lotto-Soudal) while D’hoore sat in, opening her sprint and coming over her compatriot in the final 50m.
Lizzie Deignan was the first Brit home, finishing on the same time in eighth place, and continues to lead the Women’s WorldTour individual standings, with just three events remaining.
How it happened
With pandemic restrictions across Belgium and organisers imploring fans to stay away, the peloton rolled out of Ypres, through the Menin Gate in eery silence, except for the wind blowing across the flat lands from the North Sea.
The 141km route first headed north into a headwind, but it didn’t take long for attacks to come, with Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank’s Emily Newson making a move, but though she was joined by four others they were soon caught.
With less than 10km ridden American, Heidi Franz (Rally Cycling) attacked, but though she was soon joined by three more, including British rider, Leah Dixon (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank) they too were caught, the pace lifting as it headed towards a section of crosswinds.
With the race turning south, a tailwind not only kept the pace high, but also the peloton all together as they headed for seven, short sharp climbs, including two ascents each of the Monteberg and Kemmelberg.
Before they reached those bergs six riders headed up the road. Ann-Sophie Duyck (Parkhotel-Valkenburg), Cathalijne Hoolwerth (NXTG Racing), Shannon Malseed (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank), Leigh Ann Ganazar, her Rally Cycling team mate Sara Poidevin, and British rider Lucy van der Haar (Hitec Products) built a lead of 30 seconds, but they were also caught, with 80km remaining.
Working for sprinter Lorena Wiebes, Sunweb led the way over the top and onto the second climb, the Vidaigneberg, but it was on the Baneberg where the pace began to take its toll, with the bunch splitting as they headed over the top.
Over the Kemmelberg for the first time and the race began to break up properly, some riders being dropped as the peloton headed to the Plugstreet sections of gravel roads, Trek-Segafredo now leading.
On a circuit which would take the race back to the Monteberg and Kemmelberg double, the speed went up and down, with various attempts to get away. The narrow ‘Plugstreets’ saw a flurry of action, what remained of the bunch once again stretched, but the peloton emerged largely intact.
While Monteberg was uneventful, the Kemmelberg proved decisive, the 11 woman group which would contest the win emerging, with three from Trek-Segafredo giving them the advantage.
Despite Boels-Dolmans being the only other team with more than one rider in the leading group the 11 women worked well, reaching the cobbles of Grote Maarkt in Ypres, and the final 25km with a lead of 37 seconds.
On the long road towards the finish in Wevelgem cooperation waxed and waned, and with Canyon-SRAM, Sunweb and CCC-Liv doing the work in the chasing group helped by a tailwind, they closed to within touching distance.
Whilst D’hoore is a prolific winner, and one of the best sprinters in the women’s peloton, the win will come as a relief. Not only is it the first of her season, she has not won since last year’s Women’s Tour, where she took two stages in an injury hit season. It is also her biggest victory on home soil, with the 2018 Three Days of De Panne her only other Belgian WorldTour victory.
Ghent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields Women: Ypres – Wevelgem (141.1km)
1. Jolien D’hoore (Bel) Boels-Dolmans, in 3-33-15
2. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
3. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Ceratizit-WNT
4. Sarah Roy (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
5. Marta Cavalli (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service
6. Lauren Stephens (USA) Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank
7. Demi Vollering (Ned) Parkhotel-Valkenburg
8. Lizzie Deignan (Gbr) Trek-Segafredo, all at same time
9. Amy Pieters (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, at 5 sec
10. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Seagfredo, at 8 sec