How the race finished
Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) took the overall honours in the Simac Ladies Tour, ahead of teammate Lorena Wiebes and Jumbo Visma’s Anna Henderson.
With this race, the peloton said goodbye to a great champion, as Annemiek van Vleuten officially retired. On the final laps, she waved and blew kisses to the huge crowds who had gathered to give their thanks to an icon of women’s cycling.
Full results are available below.
How it happened
The race started with a short, technical and hard prologue of just 3km. In hot and summery weather, the course seemed to favour the sprinters over the traditional time trial specialists. Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) shot out to an early lead, but her time was quickly overtaken by compatriot Reijanne Markus (Jumbo Visma). While Markus was in the hot seat for a while, behind her the times continued to get faster and faster, with first the Australians and then the British riders putting in a good showing. SD Worx stars Demi Vollering, Lorena Weibes and Lotte Kopecky all put in strong rides, but crossed the line just behind Markus. Finally, Charlotte Kool (team dsm-firmenich) smashed everyone’s times by four seconds, winning the prologue ahead of Markus and Kopecky.
Stage One got off to a calm start. It wasn’t until 70km to go that a breakaway finally formed, with the trio of Margaux Vigie (Lifeplus Wahoo), Amalie Lutro (Uno X), Femke de Vries (GKR) clipping off the front. The three got a gap over over two minutes, but were reabsorbed with 24km to go. Femke de Vries tried to go again, but was again recaught with around 10km to go. Lotte Kopecky (WD Worx) led out for Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx), but Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) caught the SD Worx duo off guard, coming up the outside. Race leader Charlotte Kool (team dsm-firmenich) had to settle for third after being trapped on the inside.
Stage Two was the sole stage raced in Belgium. The riders took on a 7.1km long time trial through the city of Leuven. Georgie Howe (Jayco Alula) set off early, setting a strong time that saw her in the hot seat for over an hour. Her teammate Georgia Baker was the first rider to topple her time, before Christina Schweinberger (Fenix Deceuninck) came through faster still. Then young rider Zoe Bäckstedt (Canyon//Sram Racing) set a new fastest time, which even superstar Demi Vollering (SD Worx) couldn’t do better. Riding on home soil, Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) put in a stunning ride to cross the line 11 seconds ahead of Bäckstedt. Reijanne Markus had big ambitions for the stage, but this time, Markus couldn’t get the better of Kopecky. Markus finished second for the second time this week, with Bäckstedt holding on for third. With her win, Kopecky took the race lead.
With the GC positions a little clearer, Stage Three returned to the roads of the Netherlands. The long, flat stage with little wind made it hard to see anything over than a bunch sprint finish, but Anneke Dijkstra (GT Krush Rebellease Pro Cycling), Julie Sap (Lotto Dstny Ladies) and Scarlet Souren (Parkhotel Valkenburg) had other idea. The trio worked well together, extending their lead out to over eight minutes at one point. Eventually, SD Worx took on the responsibility to bring it back. With more teams joining the hunt for a sprin finish, the breakaway riders were caught just inside the final 10km. Onto the final finishing straight, Jayco-Alula were all over the leadout, and Jumbo Visma launched their riders early. After all the work of SD Worx chasing down the break, Wiebes found herself caught behind the lead out rider of Jayco and had to restart her sprint. Charlotte Kool (team dsm-firmenich) came up the outside and took the win by a full bike length, with Balsamo (Lidl-Trek) third across the line, closing out the podium.
After two sprint stages and two short TTs, Stage Four was an opportunity for the punchy climbers in the bunch. With 131km of hard racing on the cards, many were keen to be ahead of the race in the breakaway, but no one was able to stay away. At 55km to go van Vleuten launched a characteristic attack on the punchy slopes, but Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//Sram Racing) and Kopecky were quickly on her wheel. Some ten kilometres later Niewiadoma was once again active at the front of the race, this time finding a small gap with Pfeiffer Georgi (team dsm-firmenich). The pair built a lead of 30 seconds, but they too were chased back. With 5km to go Floortje Mackaij (Movistar) attacked, taking four others with her. Not happy to go with a group to the line, Mackaij attacked again, trying to go solo. The peloton behind them were working hard to bring it back, and Mackaij was caught in the final kilometre as Niewiadoma, Kopecky and Weibes came flying past. After letting Niewiadoma put the effort in, race leader Kopecky pushed on towards the line, taking the win ahead of teammate Lorena Wiebes, who took another second place.
With the General Classification still relatively tight coming into the closing stage of the tour, and a number of short punch climbs on the menu, everyone was alert to the possibility of opportunistic riding in Stage Five. An early split in the peloton saw most of the race favourites up front, with the exception of Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), for whom the day would be her final outing as part of the professional women’s peloton. AG Insurance Soudal Quickstep, who also missed the split, took up the responsibility for chasing behind, and while they were able to bring the gap down to under a minute, they were not able to close it.
Up front, things kicked off with Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//Sram Racing) attacking over the top of the QOM, as other tried to catch their breath. Niewiadoma quickly established a small lead, with a chasing trio stuck in between her and the main peloton. SD Worx put Mischa Bredewold on the front, and eventually the move was neutralised. Like yesterday, Mackaij launched another solo effort in the closing kilometres, but once again she was caught. It came down to a reduced bunch sprint, and this time, with Kopecky doing a massive lead out in the leader’s jersey, Wiebes was able to pull it off and take the win ahead of Balsamo.
Kopecky sealed the overall victory, with Wiebes in an impressive second place, and Jumbo Visma’s Anna Henderson in third overall after a consistently strong week. Zoe Bäckstetd, finishing in fifth overall, won the young rider’s jersey.
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