Anna van der Breggen won the 15th edition of the women's Tour of Flanders, as Boels-Dolmans finished first and second.

Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) attacked out a select group after the Kruisberg with 26 kilometers still to go and time trialed through the remaining climbs to win the 2018 edition of the Tour of Flanders on Sunday in Oudenaarde, Belgium. The Dutchwoman had won nearly every other major race on the women’s calendar except the Ronde van Vlaanderen prior to Sunday. That is no longer the case after an incredible solo ride to victory on Easter Sunday.

Boels-Dolmans finished 1-2 with Amy Pieters taking the sprint for second out of a select group. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) rounded out the podium.

Instead of the winning attacking coming during the exciting finale of the Oude Kwaremont-Paterberg double, van der Breggen capitalized on a moment’s hesitation that came after the Kruisberg climb with just under 30 kilometers remaining. Eight riders went over the top of the climb with a small gap and it included many of the race’s heavy hitters. World champion Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) was present along with her teammates Pieters and van der Breggen. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) also made the front group with her teammate Pauline Ferrand-Prevot. Ellen van Dijk was present for Sunweb.

Van der Breggen attacked the group and no one was able to follow. It helped that she had two teammates behind that could mark any riders that tried to bridge to her. The chase group was not organized and would be caught by the reduced peloton with 22 kilometers to go.

The Olympic champion powered through the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, while the peloton battled behind. Van der Breggen summited the final cobbled climb of the day with over a minute’s advantage. She only had 13 kilometers left before she became a Flanders champion.

Niewadoma, Pieters, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo-Bigla), and van Vleuten emerged over the Paterberg together chasing the lone leader. Though, they would only lose ground to the lone leader on the run-in to the finish. Pieters just followed the wheels of the other three riders, not assisting in helping chase down her teammate. In the closing kilometers, the quartet was caught by another small chasing group. This created an exciting sprint for the podium.

Pieters received a strong leadout from her teammate, American Megan Guarnier, to capture second and put two Boels-Dolmans riders on the podium. Van Vleuten finished strongly to take the final podium place.

Top 10

The 15th edition of the Women’s Tour of Flanders started and finished in Oudenaarde, but along the way the riders tackled 11 of the famous “hellingen” over a 151-kilometer course. There were also five flat cobbled sectors on the route. The first cobbled climb came 60 kilometers into the race and then the women finished, just like the men, with Oude Kwaremont/Paterberg double.

The race started in the rain, which has been the case for many of the Women’s WorldTour races this season. The first solid breakaway emerged after about 25 kilometers, but the leading group of six struggled to gain a sustainable advantage over the peloton. The big teams were keeping them close at hand. The leaders were shut down after about 10 kilometers when the riders hit the Lippenhovestraat and Paddestraat cobbled sectors. The two sectors in quick succession stretched out the peloton and the high pace brought back the breakaway riders.

Natalie van Gogh (Parkhotel Valkenberg) then attacked 47 kilometers into the race, but no other riders followed. She powered on alone for about 20 kilometers before the peloton brought her back after the second “hellingen” of the day, the Wolvenberg.

The key moment of the race came with about 60 kilometers to go with the riders tackling the famous Muur-Kapelmuur. Heading into the base of the horrendously steep climb, the pace was high and the road was incredibly slick. Just before the cobbles began a massive crash occurred in the peloton. Riders were on the ground all across the road and a group of only about 20 tackled the Muur together.

Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) led the group over the Muur and the riders screamed down the steep descent. However, the group was disorganized, which allowed many riders to get back and the peloton swelled greatly in size.

As the kilometers ticked down, many riders attacked with Boels-Dolmans showing their strength and marking every move. They pushed the pace immensely over the Kruisberg with less than 30 kilometers and managed to put three riders in the select group of eight that led over the top. A kilometer later, van der Breggen made her winning move.

Van der Breggen’s incredible power and time trial ability was on display for the final 20 kilometers of the race. She powered over the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, keeping her lead intact. Despite a strong chase from behind, van der Breggen’s lead stayed locked at over a minute.

After sweeping the Ardennes classics last year, the Tour of Flanders remained one of the few major races that van der Breggen had yet to win. She soaked up the applause from the crowd as she coasted across the line to win the 2018 edition of De Ronde. Boels-Dolmans would have a virtual perfect day on Sunday with Pieters claiming the sprint for second. Boels-Dolmans also put four riders in the top 10.

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