How the race finished
Demi Vollering (SD Worx) took the triple crown in the Ardennes Classics, winning again at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Elisa Longo-Borghini, unable to deny Vollering in the two-up sprint, took second place, with Marlen Reusser fastest of the chasing bunch behind.
Full results are available below.
How it happened
After another early start, the women rolled out from Bastogne to race across 140km of brutal, rolling terrain from to the finish line in Liège. Within the opening kilometres,
135km to go Séverine Eraud (Cofidis) attacked and went solo. Her gap slowly grew to over two minutes, while in the peloton riders continued to attack. As they hit the first of the listed climbs for the day, the Côte de Mont-le-Soie, Eraud was reeled back in.
The next major move came deeper into the race, with 77km to go. A strong break formed on the slopes of the Côte de Stockeu, with Marlen Reusser (SD Worx), Anna Hendersen (Jumbo Visma), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//Sram Racing), Esmée Peperkamp (Team DSM) and Amanda Spratt (Trek Segafredo) going clear. The five riders all committed to the move, working hard together to hold their small gap over the chasing peloton. A puncture spelled the end of Niewiadoma’s time out front, but after a quick change she was able to rejoin the peloton behind.
As the breakaway made their way up the Côte de la Redoute, Marlen Reusser came to the front in what would be the first of many shows of strength for the day. Anna Hendersen was almost immediately distanced, and Esmée Peperkamp soon also found herself losing contact. Only Spratt looked comfortable holding on to Reusser’s wheel. But, as they neared the top, Reusser’s pace was too much even for Spratt, who had to drop back and work with Peperkamp. As Reusser crested the climb, with 35 remaining to race, she had a whole minute over the peloton behind.
Back in the peloton, Annemiek van Vleuten put pressure on the front on the next climb. Her move was marked closely by SD Worx, with both Demi Vollering and Niamh Fisher-Black climbing strongly. The increase in pace, however, reduced Reusser’s gap to 50 seconds, then to 40 seconds. A reduced chasing group formed, with Elise Chabbey (Canyon//Sram Racing) trying to rally everyone to work together to pull Reusser back. Movistar, however, had other ideas, with Liane Lippert and then van Vleuten launching attacks one after the other, perhaps hoping to jump across to Spratt and Peperkamp, who were still dangling in the gap. It was Jumbo Visma who finally took up the chase, with their numbers increase after the group swelled again. Reusser looked strong, holding her time at around 45 seconds.
With 23km remaining, on the Côte de Forge, Amanda Spratt dropped Emsée Peperkamp, continuing her pursuit of Reusser solo. Lippert led the peloton up the first part of the climb at a searing pace, before Mavi Garcia took over, the gap to the leaders tumbling. Peperkamp was swept up quickly, and shortly afterwards Spratt was also pulled back.
With their numbers restored, Canyon//Sram Racing and Trek Segafredo took up working on the front, once again bringing the gap down under 1 minute, but with only 16km to go, the race was on edge. With only one categorised climb to go, Trek Segafredo began to really drill it on the front, quickly gobbling up time on Reusser’s lead. Through a small descent, they front themselves with a small gap on the peloton, with three Trek riders and only Elise Chabbey (Canyon//Sram) on the wheel. One by one both Amanda Spratt and then Shirin van Anrooij used all their strength to do a strong turn before pulling off, launching Elisa Longo-Borghini into the base of the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons.
As Longo-Borghini flew up the base of the climb with Chabbey on her wheel, the peloton wasn’t far behind, and Niamh Fisher-Black put in a strong lead out for Demi Vollering, who set off in pursuit of the duo. Behind them, van Vleuten settled into a strong pace with Gaia Realini in the wheel. Suddenly they could see Reusser up ahead, and by the top of the climb the small chasing groups had come together and made contact with Reusser.
As they rolled into the descent, Reusser showed she was not done, pushing on with Longo Borghini on her wheel. Vollering let the gap go, and the pair quickly established a small gap. Sensing the danger, van Vleuten used a small rise to attack, but was unable to get a gap. As the group eased up slightly, Riejanne Markus joined them. Up front, Reusser was playing the card of having Vollering in the chase, refusing to come through and take a turn. On the next rise, Vollering jumped across, and almost as soon as she made contact and came to the front, Reusser dropped back. This time it was Longo Borghini who took the opportunity to sit on a little, while Vollering settled in to increase their gap.
Into the final kilometres Longo Borghini did start working with Vollering, and despite an attack from Riejanne Markus behind, their gap was starting to look unbridgeable. Under the Flamme Rouge Longo Borghini found herself stuck on the front, with Vollering refusing to budge on her wheel. The pair slowed down so much they almost came to a halt, eyeing one another up. Vollering nervously glanced behind, checking that the chasing group wasn’t about to swamp them. The pair played cat and mouse down the finishing straight, with the sprint only launching inside the final 200m. Although Longo-Borghini managed a good kick, Demi Vollering could come round her, punching across the line with three fingers held aloft, taking the triple in the Ardennes.
After racing strongly all day, Reusser somehow still found the legs to win the sprint for third, with Fisher Black the third SD Worx rider to come home inside the top ten.
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