The reigning world champion pulled clear on the Bosberg in a dramatic tactical play by SD Worx in her final season. Wearing the rainbow jersey, the 2015 Omloop champion dug deep to carve up an unstoppable gap to an elite group of chasers.
Van der Breggen powered to the line all alone in the photo, with Emma Norsgaard (Movistar) coming across second, and Amy Pieters (SD Worx) snagging the final podium spot with third.
“I am really happy. It’s the best way to start a new season, especially when the team is riding like this,” she said. “It gives a lot of confidence of the upcoming races. For sure, we had six strong girls, it was really nice racing in this way.”
Anticipation was high ahead of the race, in what was the first major event on the women’s calendar that’s seen several early season races canceled or postponed.
SD-Worx seemed intent on taking the race by the scruff of the neck from the beginning, and reconfirm its place in the hierarchy of the peloton.
The pace was aggressive, and the new-look team (formerly called Boels-Dolmans) helped fracture the group with 35km to go. An early surge from Demi Vollering (SD Worx) was dwindling under pressure from Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Longo Borghini, and the front group was reduced coming into the final hour of the race.
As always, the Kapelmuur proved decisive, and provoked a major selection, with two major groups forming in the aftermath. Van der Breggen jumped on the Bosberg with less than 15km to go, and opened up a slender but decisive gap. Despite a headwind on the road back to the finish, van der Breggen used her world time trial champion skills to widen the gap to quickly turn it into a race for the podium.
Defending champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) and perennial favorite Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) toiled in chase groups, and neither finished in the top-20.
Once van der Breggen made her move, it was too late. There was no way the group of differing interests could find cohesiveness to post a serious challenge to van der Breggen, who hammered the pedals in smooth efficiency to open the 2021 season with an exclamation point.
SD Worx had power in numbers, and put riders marking wheels in the chase group if van der Breggen was reeled in, and set up Pieters to round out the podium.
“I’m just over the moon! I feel a bit surprised about the result, but above all, really happy,” said Norsgaard, who kicked to second. “I tried to remain as calm and focused as I could all day, since our plan was going on the attack with Annemiek or Leah and, in my case, try to save those legs for the sprint and play a second card for the team. When we got told on the radio that I was alone into a selected first group, it was time for me to ‘wake up’ and put all of my energies into trying to stay there until the sprint.”
Despite some attacks out of the chase group, the main group came in to contest for the podium spots. SD Worx made it 1-3 to send a signal to their rivals.
“Victory is always important. It’s the first race of the season, and everyone is insecure on how they are,” Pieters said. “We had a good winter with the team, and if you can start like this, it feels really good.”
— OmloopHetNieuwsblad (@OmloopHNB) February 27, 2021
- Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx)
- Emma Norsgaard (Movistar)
- Amy Pieters (SD Worx)
- Lotte Kopecky (Liv Raving)
- Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM)
- Marta Bastianelli (Ale-BTC)
- Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT)
- Grace Brown (BikeExchange)
- Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope)
- Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo)