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Lorena Wiebes wins in a bunch sprint at a wind ravaged women’s Scheldeprijs

Lorena Wiebes took the first win of her season after a scrappy sprint at the first ever women’s Scheldeprijs on Wednesday. The Dutch sprinter benefitted from a strong and determined lead out from her DSM team, patiently hiding on Norwegian team mate Susanne Andersen’s wheel until the final 100m.

A number of teams had tried to impose themselves on the final, with Movistar particularly visible, though Emma Norsgaard opened up too early, finishing second. Continental team Valcar Travel and Service are another squad with a proven lead and Elisa Balsamo managed third place.

As is so often the case in the men’s race in Schoten the final was particularly messy, with other teams also getting in the mix in the final. Sarah Roy was placed well in the closing kilometre by Bike Exchange team mate Teniel Campbell, but was stranded in the wind too early, was the first to start her sprint and only managed seventh.

British squad Drops Le Col bagged an excellent fourth place with Emilie Moberg backing up the squad’s third place result at Ronde de Mouscron on Monday.

It’s been a tough opening to the season for Wiebes. The former Dutch champion crashed hard on the opening stage of the Healthy Ageing Tour, and she has failed to reach the podium even in races she would expect to win, her best result to dat fifth at Nokere Koerse.

How it happened

First run in 1907, after 108 editions the men’s Scheldeprijs is one of the oldest races held in Flanders, however this was the first edition of a woman’s race. The new addition means organiser, Flanders Classics’ entire road cycling portfolio now has both men’s and women’s events.

All of these are now UCI classified at either WorldTour, ProSeries or, like Wednesday’s race at 1.1 level, and a major step forward for the women’s sport, especially as all the company’s events are televised or live streamed.

At 136km, with high winds and and rain the race provided a real challenge, despite the entirely flat parcours, which began with an opening loop of 86km into the countryside, before heading back to Schoten, near Antwerp for three 16km local laps.

Such were the conditions that some riders were dropped very early on, and by the time 25km were done a group of 16km women had formed at the front.

This included some of the pre-event favourites, with Elisa Balsamo (Valcar Travel and Service), 2016 world champion Amalie Dideriksen (Trek-Segafredo) and British champion Alice Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) all present. However, with three women there, Lorena Wiebes’s DSM squad were the best represented, though also in the group was German champion Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT), a hugely capable sprinter, and second at Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.

However, despite their strength with so far to go the will seemed to go out of the leading group, and they were caught, with 94km remaining. Around 10km later the peloton split in half, a crash finishing what the wind had started, though even the consequent 30 second gap was soo closed. The race then entered a period of relative stasis, frequent villages and trees meaning the route was never exposed to the elements long enough to make a real difference.

A huge crash when a rider hit a pothole on a short cobbled sector just before the race hit the closing circuit caused another split, and though the peloton re-formed another pile up wreaked havoc, with Alice Barnes the highest profile casualty.

However, even then a full peloton crossed the finish line at the start of the closing three laps, 48km from the finish. Just one kilometre later though, Daniek Hengeveld (GT Krush Tunap) attacked the race just as as she did during stage one of the Healthy Ageing Tour in early March. That day she was only caught inside the final 200m, but despite the threat posed by the the 18 year-old, the peloton let her build a lead.

Even inside the final 30km Hengeveld’s lead was growing, the bunch only reacting when she led by 1-20, DSM, Ceratizit-WNT, Trek-Segafredo, Movistar and Valcar Travel and Service all contributing to bring her back.

As Hengeveld took the bell, with one lap to go the gap was down inside 20 seconds, sprinters’ teams eating away at the lead and she was caught shortly after.

This invited a further attack, with 2019 Giro Rosa stage winner Letizia Borghesi (AromItalia Basso Bikes Vaiano) getting away. However, her highlighter-green kit meant she could never be lost against the greyness of the day and she was left dangling until being caught four kilometres out as the lead outs went to work.

Result

Scheldeprijs Elite Women, Schoten – Schoten (136km)

1. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) DSM
2. Emma Norsgaard (Den) Movistar
3. Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service
4. Emilie Moberg (Nor) Drops Le Col
5. Lisa Klein (Ger) Canyon-SRAM
6. Arlenis Sierra (Cub) AR Momex
7. Sarah Roy (Aus) BikeExchange
8. Sandra Alonso (Esp) Bizkaia Durango

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