Just millimeters separated first and second place at the Women’s WorldTour Gent-Wevelgem this weekend. After 150 kilometers of fast and aggressive racing, Lotta Lepistö of Cervélo-Bigla edged out Belgian favorite Jolien D’hoore of Wiggle-High5 in a photo finish. Lepistö’s win marks the fourth team to snag a WWT win in as many races this season, pointing to the growing depth and quality of women’s racing.
UCI race highlights
Patience paid off for Cervélo-Bigla’s Lepistö as she tucked in behind last year’s winner Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) on the sprint to the finish. The Finnish national champion targeted this race as her shot to win a WWT round, and she had a strong team working for her all day. Five Cervélo-Bigla riders made it over the race’s five climbs in the front group and helped chase down late attacks to ensure a group sprint. With the win at Gent-Wevelgem and with last week’s sprint victory at Dwars Door Vlaanderen, Lepistö has quickly established herself as the fastest woman in the peloton this spring.
Team Sunweb presented the only real lead-out train into the sprint finish with Ellen van Dijk and Lucinda Brand pulling for American sprinter Coryn Rivera. The team was also extremely active in the final 30 kilometers of racing with relentless attacks coming from the three riders as well as teammate Floortje Mackaij. Unable to get a break to stick, Sunweb lined itself up for the sprint finish but just missed the win. Did the team use up too many matches on those late-race attacks?
Sensing Brand’s tired legs, Rivera jumped around her teammate with 200 meters to go. This proved a bit too early for the small sprinter, especially when facing a strong headwind. She couldn’t hold off the charging D’hoore who came around Rivera in the final meters or Lepistö who used Blaak as her lead-out. “A win is always sweeter but I still couldn’t have accomplished the podium without the help of the girls,” Rivera said after the race.
Coming around Rivera in the final meters, D’hoore hesitated slightly as she neared the barriers, costing the Belgian a win in her home country. “The last 3km I was behind Sunweb — they had a full lead out — and I was just boxed in on the left side,” she said. “I was flirting with the barriers and the road furniture on the left side, it was really hectic!”
Boels-Dolmans also missed out as its fastest sprinter and current world champion, Amalie Dideriksen struggled on the early climbs and lost contact with the front group. Despite Dideriksen’s absence, Boels kept the pace high throughout the race, looking to last year’s Gent-Wevelgem winner Blaak. Without a lead-out from her team, Blaak opened up the sprint early but was quickly overtaken by the faster sprinters. “I went early because I had to go early,” Blaak said. “I wanted to give the girls, who worked really hard, better than this, but it is what is, and I’ll take the positive things out of the day.”
The pinnacle of WWT cobbles season hits next week at the Ronde van Vlaanderen voor Vrouwen — better known as the Tour of Flanders for Women. We’re expecting the same aggressive and unpredictable racing that we saw at Gent-Wevelgem, but this time, you can actually watch the action with a live race broadcast.
UCI points updates
Elisa Longo Borghini held onto the leader’s jersey while Elena Cecchini closed the gap in second place. Only five points separate the two Italians with Cecchini’s ninth place this weekend. Rivera jumped to third after two podium weekends, moving van Vleuten and Brand each down one spot.
1 – (1*) Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) – 220 points
2 – (2) Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM) – 215 points
3 – (6) Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) – 205 points
4 – (3) Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) – 170 points
5 – (4) Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) – 155 points
Wiggle-High5 bumped Boels-Dolmans out of the lead with D’hoore’s strong finish this weekend. Sunweb got bumped down to third but only six points separate the top-three teams. Canyon-SRAM and Orica-Scott are also in a close race for fourth with another six points separating the teams.
1 – (3*) Wiggle-High5 – 390 points
2 – (1) Boels Dolmans – 386 points
3 – (2) Team Sunweb – 384 points
4 – (5) Canyon-SRAM – 305 points
5 – (4) Orica-Scott – 299 points
*: Ranking after the last race