Bastianelli wins three-up sprint to take Flanders victory

Lead trio hold off chase group in final stretch to Oudenaarde, with Italian outsprinting van Vleuten and Uttrup Ludwig to take the win.

Marta Bastianelli (Team Virtu Cycling) beat Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla) in the women’s Tour of Flanders, Sunday. The trio came to the final hundred meters together, with Bastianelli dominating the sprint.

“I’ve won some big races but this is a very, very important one for me,” said Bastianelli.

The field was packed with contenders, though notably, world champion and 2018 Flanders winner Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) was absent, resting after having recently taken part in the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race. The field took on a 159km route across 10 bergs, including the Muur-Kapelmuur, Oude Kwaremont, and Paterberg.

Despite a number of attacks through the race, notably by Gracie Elvin (Mitchelton Scott), and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), a large group of favorites were still all together at the front of the action as they approached the final ascent of the Oude-Kwaremont, which falls under 20km from the finish in Oudenaarde.

The action exploded on the cobbled climb, with Bastianelli repeatedly attacking, drawing out Uttrup Ludwig, van Vleuten, Niewiadoma, and Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) in a select lead group. However, Vos punctured and fell out of contention.

Uttrup Ludwig had a small gap going over the Kwaremont, however, she was brought back shortly after the descent, and went onto the Paterberg as a quartet with Bastianelli, Niewiadoma, and van Vleuten. Niewiadoma was dropped by an acceleration on the climb however.

The lead trio went into the final run-in to the line with around 30 seconds of an advantage over a chase group that included key names including Chantal Blaak (Boels Dolmans) and Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo).

With the chasers rapidly gaining time, van Vleuten attacked first from the leaders, however, Bastianelli shadowed her and easily came around her in the sprint, with van Vleuten taking second, and Uttrup Ludwig third. The chase group followed in, seven seconds later.

“I’ve got a great team. I attacked on the Kwaremont as they told me to do,” said Bastianelli. “I kept going on the Paterberg and kept working all the way to the finish. I got on van Vleuten’s wheel and gave it everything to pull off the win.”

The win enabled Bastianelli to further build her lead in the Women’s WorldTour rankings.