News: Liege-Bastogne-Liege Women

Demi Vollering sprinted to her first prestigious success in a Monument after being selflessly helped by Anna Van der Breggen in the selection that sprinted for the victory

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News: Liege-Bastogne-Liege Women

After perfectly helping out her SD Worx team mate Anna Van der Breggen in her quest last Wednesday of a seventh Flèche Wallonne, the roles were reversed on this 5th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège with the World Champion leading out Demi Vollering to her first prestigious success. At 24 years of age, the Dutch rider triumphs in Liège after outsprinting her compatriot Annemiek Van Vleuten and Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini.

The podium in Liège. (c) Photo Gomez Sport

It was once again on the Place du General McAuliffe, named after the commander of the troops of the 101st Airborne Division of the US army defending Bastogne at the end of World War II, that the 127 riders gathered together for the start of the 5th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But this time, this now traditional start location was warmed up by a bright sunshine after two years of rain and freezing conditions. Certainly good news before the fierce battle that would take place on the 140kms of the course including 7 hills through the Ardennes area of Belgium on the way up to Liège.

Despite quite a few attempts, the peloton had to wait until kilometre 9 to see Luxemburg’s Faber (ASC) break away. She was rapidly caught by Zanardi (BPK) and both ladies enjoyed a minute lead as they entered the village of Houffalize (km 19,5). Going through Vielsalm (km 46), the breakaway could count on a maximum gap of 3.25″. That was the moment chosen by teams Trek – Segafredo and Movistar Team Women to start putting the pressure on as they intensified the chase. At the top of the Côte de Wanne, Faber made it first to the summit with a 10″ lead over Zanardi and 40’’ on a pack of around 100 riders.

The escapees were eventually caught at kilometre 62 going up the second climb of the day: the Côte de la Haute-Levée. On the following difficulty: the Col du Rosier, present for the first time on the course of the women’s race, Chapman (FDJ) managed to pull away. The Australian was rapidly joined by six other riders: Fisher-Black (SDW), Wiles (TFS), Kennedy (BEX), Koster (JVW), Chabbey (CSR), Thomas (MOV). The group led by Koster reached the summit with a 15″ advantage over the peloton. On the long descent, the front seven become six after Kennedy sadly crashed and had to retire from the race.

The lead group was finally caught at km 80. Once again, Fisher-Black gave it a go by powering off on the Côte de Desnié that had never been visited by ‘Liège’. The young New-Zealander reached the summit with a slim 10” advantage over the peloton but was later caught at km 102. As expected, more action occurred on the famous Côte de la Redoute when Moolman-Pasio (SDW) shook up the peloton. The South-African made it clear to the top alongside Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ) with a lead of five seconds on Brand (TFS) and ten seconds over a group including World Champion, Van der Breggen (SDW) and European Champion Van Vleuten (MOV). The front two were immediately caught by Brand on the descent. At the top of the Côte des Forges, they could enjoy a 30″ advance but failed to get along and were caught at km 120.

On the final difficulty of the day, the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, Van der Breggen first and then Van Vleuten tried to break clear. Eventually a group of five remained at the front including Van der Breggen, Vollering (SDW), Longo Borghini (TFS), Newiadoma (CSR) and Van Vleuten. They would never be caught all the way to the finish line set on the Quai des Ardennes.

Perfectly led out by her team mate and recent winner of La Flèche Wallonne, Demi Vollering flew off to the first big success of her young career by beating to the line Van Vleuten and Longo Borghini. After having claimed the Giro Dell’Emilia back in 2019 and finished second of the Amstel Gold Race just a week ago, the new SD Worx recruit conquers Liège-Bastogne-Liège and seems promised to a very bright future dand probably bigger responsibilities when her leader Anna Van der Breggen retires at the end of this season.

Demi Vollering: “It’s a dream come true!” Vollering said with tears in her eyes. “The whole team did such a good job. That I can finish like this, that’s awesome! I’m very grateful. ” She says about the race: “It was really hard on the climbs. First we came upfront with those 5 riders, but Marianne Vos had the chance to come back. It’s better to not sprint with her, so I’m happy that it broke again. Anna did a great lead out. It’s fantastic how she worked for me.

Annemiek van Vleuten: “Another demanding race, with hard pace, the route and the winds, with all of my team-mates working again so well to follow all moves and making possible for me to go for the win in the finale. I remain so proud about the efforts of the whole team, coming together and improving in every race to get to the best we can be. I kept clear in mind that I wanted to try that one big attack to make the different, yet there was such a strong headwind at La Redoute, and so you couldn’t open a gap without the others following you.

If there was an attack, I had to be there, but I wanted to be the first to go on the move. In the end, I tried it after the Roche-aux-Faucons, but it came back together, and with Van der Breggen pulling we knew it was going to be a sprint finish. After all the wear and tear of today, and seeing how, in races like the men’s Tour of Flanders, the one who looks like the favourite in terms of raw speed doesn’t win, I wanted to, at least, launch my sprint to try and get a good result – and I got that nice podium.”

Kasia Niewiadoma: (4th) “The last climb was brutal! The first, steeper part suited me and I felt quite comfortable on it. I tried to attack towards the top but I don’t believe I caused any damage in the peloton, and I just exploded myself. So that meant the second part of that climb was a battle!” says Kasia.

“Coming into the finish I truly believed I could get a podium spot. My teammates had put in so much work and I was determined to finish it off right. I gave my best in the sprint but as you can see I’m just not much of a sprinter. That annoys me so much because it makes you feel quite sad when you cross the line after an otherwise great race. I definitely feel happy and satisfied with how my body felt this last week. My coach did an amazing job; he knew what my goals were and I trusted him 100% in my preparation!”

“The result in Amstel could have been a lot better. I’m very happy with second at La Fléche Wallonne. Today, I feel a bit angry with my weak sprint in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. That’s the results, but what has been important is that I’ve had a lot of support from my teammates in the last three races. They’ve been very committed, shown a lot of mental strength and every race they’ve been ready to go in to battle. That gave me a lot of confidence. I’m very grateful for them!”

Marianne Vos (6th)  “That is always a shame. You are into the flow of racing so much that it is a strange feeling that it is over now. Today we did a good race as a team. We were well-positioned. I broke on the last climb. I came back but then I had to let them go. In terms of results, we had hoped for more. We didn’t make any mistakes as a team so in the end we can be satisfied.”

Alena Amialiusik (Canyon SRAM): “I was feeling good with my form and my legs this week. I’ve had a small knee injury and that stopped me to be able to give more. Today, I tried to block out the pain and concentrate on doing things right to follow our team plan.”

“Unfortunately I crashed just a couple of kilometres before a lot of the action started. I spent a lot of energy to come back and then to be present at the front in order to help Kasia for the final. After La Redoute, I found myself together with Elise in Kasia’s group. We directly started to chase a three-rider group that was away. Overall, I’m happy with how we raced as a team in all three Ardennes races.”

Elise Chabbey (Canyon SRAM): “It was a hard race from the beginning. We raced nice as a group, we followed attacks and then I was in a good breakaway. Everyone was super motivated and fought hard. At the end Kasia was fourth and just missed the podium.”

“I’m happy with my racing this week. I like to race aggressively and to try to go in breakaways because I know that I can’t be there at the very end with the best climbers. I really enjoy to race like that and I think it’s a style of racing that is always useful for our team.”

Mikayla Harvey (Canyon SRAM): “It’s been a nice to feel like I’m coming back into some form these last races. After a rough start to the season, I can say that I’m back on track. The team has been really motivated and that also helps. Today, I punctured at a really untimely moment. I spent a lot of energy to come back to the bunch but I was pretty smashed from that effort. It would have been nice to have seen what I could do with that same effort at the front of the race instead of chasing it.”

“Overall, I’m feeling more confident, I’ve found my legs again and I’m looking forward to Elsy Jacobs next week!”

Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon SRAM): “I think as a team we had a good race, and it was great to see we still had the whole team in the front until La Redoute. Then to have Elise and Alena there to support Kasia even further into the race.”

“For me personally. I have mixed feelings about my race. I didn’t have the best legs today. They just didn’t want to work like they have been. So I was a little disappointed given my current run of form and what I’ve been able to do for the team recently. I was still okay on the climbs, much better than I have been on this parcours in recent years, and I was still there for the team until La Redoute which was pleasing. I was aiming for more from myself and to be able to go a bit deeper and support the team further. “

“I kept good position, rode in the win when needed, and helped cover some moves. I was able to help keep the team calm and guide them when needed, but to be honest most of the time everyone was just racing well and knew what they needed to do. It was nice to race with such a united group today and to help Kasia to another strong result.”

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