The elite riders of AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step took on their final race of the season on Swiss soil at the Tour of Romandie. Over the course of three stages, they dedicated themselves to guiding team leader Ashleigh Moolman Pasio to a good result. This effort resulted in a Top-5 finish in the last stage, partly due to the fatigue that Ashleigh began to experience.
In the third and final day, the riders covered a distance of 131.9 kilometres from Vernier to Nyon. This stage was quickly marked by numerous attacks, including those by the team’s Spanish rider Mireia Benito, who reached the top of Mont-sur-Rolle and Le Molard first, thus concluding the weekend with a sixth place on the mountain classification.
After an intense race, it all came down to a sprint, where Ashleigh Moolman Pasio secured fifth place, just ahead of Demi Vollering (SD Worx), while the stage victory went to Liane Lippert of the Movistar Team.
“Romandie didn’t go as planned, unfortunately,” said Ashleigh after the last race of the elite team’s calendar. “After the Tour and the World Championships, I didn’t rest enough, and my recovery suffered, with low HRV, poor sleep, and general fatigue since the Tour of Scandinavia. I stayed positive, hoping for a turnaround. Despite mixed results, I felt strong on good days, like was the case in Plouay. But Romandie was a struggle from the start, feeling fatigued, with unresponsive heart rate. My body said ‘enough,’ and today’s race was a real fight. I didn’t feel good, but I pushed on to clinch fifth place, which was better than expected.”
“Now, it’s the off-season, time to rest and return stronger. Racing with my AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step teammates is always amazing. Everyone always gives their absolute best, and the vibe in the team is always good. We support each other, even when tired or struggling, we stick together and help each other during the races. Our staff is terrific, they encourage us, they are understanding, and it really helps us to keep fighting. Next year, with more experiences for a lot of our riders and a strong foundation, we’ll do even better.”
”Romandie was the last outing for our elite riders, a three-day stage race. This included a true mountain stage with two challenging climbs and an uphill finish, as well as two hilly stages where a small group battled it out,” added Sports Director Servais Knaven. “Overall, Ashley performed reasonably well, although it was evident that she wasn’t in her top form. She never found herself in serious trouble during the climbs, except for the final mountain on Saturday, where she finished 13th and ended up in 12th place in the general classification. I believe the other riders also did their best to support her.”
“Yesterday was a good day, with Mireia spending a long time in the breakaway and only being caught in the final 40 kilometres. All in all, it was a successful race, especially considering that we have some young riders in our team. Nonetheless, I think everyone is relieved that the season has come to an end! It has been a demanding season, and some riders are now moving on to the European Championships next week. After wrapping up this season, they can all take some time to relax and begin preparations for the upcoming year.”
The team’s junior squad, meanwhile, were racing in Belgian and Dutch territory. Following her stage win on Saturday, Nanoi van Wettere claimed a second podium spot in the Oost-Vlaamse Stekene Koerst.
We had a flat course with a slightly uphill finish, which was ideal for punchers. Numerous attacks were launched, and I was able to be part of each one. Unfortunately, the breakaways never gained a significant advantage, and we ended up with a sprint of a large peloton again. When the sprint started, I suddenly heard a heavy crash behind me, but fortunately, I was positioned at the front as we entered the last corner. I was in prime position, but in the final 50 meters, Laerke Expeels came flying past with incredible speed. She was really strong today and a deserved winner”, Nanoi said.
Lore De Schepper secured a sixth place in the Watersley Ladies Challenge, which took place on Dutch soil.
“The race was calm with little action, and a large peloton stayed together. Although I had initially planned to attack before the final climb to the finish, I couldn’t position myself well enough. Therefore, I focused on securing a good position for the last climb, where the finish line was located. In the final four kilometers, I was involved in two crashes, and in one of them, I even had to put my foot down. This forced me to close two gaps, but fortunately, I managed to get back to the front just in time. I entered the final climb in a “favorable position and passed several other riders, ultimately finishing sixth at the top”, Lore explained after the finish.