How the race finished
Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) rode away to the win in Gent Wevelgem, with Megan Jastrab (Team DSM) taking the bunch sprint from Maike van der Duin (Canyon//Sram Racing).
Full results are available below.
How it happened
On a miserably cold, wet day in Flander’s Fields, the women set off to race 155km from Ieper to Wevelgem. Within the opening kilometres, Pien Limpens (Parkhotel Valkenburg) set off solo, quickly gaining an advantage of over 1 minute 45. In the tough conditions no one else joined her, and her breakaway did not last long.
Despite the cold and wet, the typically treacherous sector through De Moeren was not as windy as we have previously seen, with no echelons forming and the peloton rolling along relatively slowly in a compact formation. On the slippery roads, particularly coming in and out of cobbled corners, the mid-section of the race was marred by a number of crashed, with Pfeiffer Georgi (Team DSM), the winner of Brugge de Panne earlier this week, among the many to find themselves on the pavement.
The mid-section of the race was pebbled with short, steep climbs. On the first ascent of the Kemmelberg, Lotte Kopecky (Team SD Worx), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//Sram Racing) and Anna Henderson (Jumbo Visma) rode a high pace, pulling a group of around 13 riders clear. Despite being a strong group, the peloton brought them back quickly, and almost immediately another crash meant the front group was once again significantly reduced.
At around 41km to go the peloton of around 25 riders hit the Baneberg. Marlen Reusser set the pace on the front for SDWorx. Appearing to be riding in support of a teammate, she slipped off the front, leaving Shirin van Anrooij and the rest of the peloton out of sight as she crested the climb. The chasing bunch struggled to find cohesion and organise a chase, particularly as Canyon//Sram Racing were waiting for Kasia Niewiadoma, who had been held up by an earlier crash, to come back to the front.
Reusser already had a one minute gap as she hit the cobblestones for the second ascent of the Kemmelberg, the final climb of the day. Behind her, Grace Brown (FDJ Suez) attacked the climb with Lotte Kopecky in the wheel, and a small group almost went clear, but again the impetus went out and the chase group swelled again. With teams not prepared to work together to commit to the chase, despite Grace Brown using her power on the front, the gap increased to over two minutes.
With cooperation between teams lacking, the next strategy the peloton employed was to use the crosswinds to split the group. After a few minutes of full-gas racing, with the peloton completely strung out, a slight regrouping gave Shari Bossuyt (Canyon//Sram Racing) the opportunity to attack. She drew clear Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma), Pfeiffer Georgi (Team DSM), Shirin van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo), Elinor Barker (Uno-X), and Eugenia Bujak (UAE Team ADQ), with Christine Majerus following the wheels for Team SD Worx.
The group were joined shortly after by Megan Jastrab (Team DSM) and Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Team Jayco AlUla) – but the gap to leader Marlen Reusser held at over two minutes. The only cause for concern for Reusser in the closing kilometres was when she missed a turn, losing some time as she quickly rerouted back onto the course.
Realising they were not going to catch Reusser, the chasing group came to an almost complete standstill as they approached the line. Bujak launched but the bunch behind were coming fast, and it was all back together in the sprint for the line. Nothing was lost for Team DSM though, whose duo of Georgi and Jastrab quickly shifted from breakaway to leadout mentality. Jastrab found the legs and a gap to take second across the line, while Maike van der Duin continued her strong month of racing to come home in third for Canyon//Sram Racing.
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