The women’s opening weekend of racing in Europe took to the Belgian roads at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Spar-Omloop van het Hageland — both UCI 1.1 races.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Saturday saw an all-Dutch podium with Lucinda Brand (Sunweb) taking the top step and compatriots Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) second and third, respectively.

Highlights:

Key race action:

Things heated up with a crash atop the Paterberg at the front of the field that took down several riders and forced other to run their bikes up the climb. Ellen van Dijk (Sunweb) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) escaped as the field pulled itself back together.

With the two experienced riders out front, van Vleuten pushed the pace in the main field over the Molenberg, paring down the field to a select group of 15-20 riders. Blaak charged the Paaastraat, reducing the chase group even further to just five riders.

Four of those chasers would make contact with the two leaders with 10km to go. Brand had the freshest legs at the end of the day — benefitting from teammate van Dijk’s earlier escape up the road. In the final kilometers, Brand laid down attack after attack until, on the third try, she broke free and crossed the line 15 seconds up on the small group. Blaak won the sprint for second with van Vleuten edging out van Dijk for third.

“It was a really good day,” said Brand. “The team were great and supporting me really well by keeping me out of the headwind. The girls kept me in a great position, and we were in a perfect situation with Ellen up the road and good support behind. They helped me to maintain a good position ahead of the cobbles and climbs, so I didn’t have to do anything, which was great.”

American riders:
Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans): 21st
Allie Dragoo (Cervélo-Bigla): 61st
Allison Whitney (Colavita-Bianchi): DNF
Abby Mickey (Colavita-Bianchi): DNF
Amber Pierce (Colavita-Bianchi): DNF

Spar-Omloop van het Hageland

Sunday’s Spar-Omloop van het Hageland came down to a select group sprint with Belgian Jolien D’hoore nabbing the win after 126 kilometers of racing.

American Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) tangled with another rider and crashed out of the race with over 50 kilometers to go. She suffered a blow to the head and several contusions on her legs and hip. “You always hurt all over with a crash like this,” said Guarnier. “It doesn’t feel good, but I’m OK.”

Watch the full race replay:

Key race action:

With 20 kilometers to go, the racing heated up with a successful break that included Longo Borghini, Blaak, Coryn Rivera (Sunweb), and van Dijk. The firepower of this small group was hard to reign in but the sprinters’ teams weren’t going to let this flat finish get away from them. With five kilometers to go, Orica-Scott reeled the break in.

Longo Borghini wasn’t finished yet, though. She launched an attack up the final climb of the day to secure queen of the mountains prize and continued her effort over the top making for a wild chase toward the finish line. Caught with 1.2 kilometers to go, Longo Borghini left it up to her teammate D’hoore who inched out former teammate Chloe Hosking (Alé-Cipollini) and Orica-Scott’s Sarah-Roy.

Americans:
Allie Dragoo (Cervélo-Bigla): 49th
Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans): DNF
Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb): DNF
Sara Fletcher (Autoglass Wetteren-Group Solar): DNF
Leah Thorvilson (Canyon-SRAM): DNF
Allison Whitney (Colavita-Bianchi): DNF
Abby Mickey (Colavita-Bianchi): DNF
Amber Pierce (Colavita-Bianchi): DNF