RAIN­BOW TURNS TO BLAAK

Chantal Blaak caps dom­i­nant Dutch dis­play with de­but Worlds win

Procycling - - Debrief -

The Dutch team had al­ready turned Ber­gen, Nor­way, a shade of or­ange be­fore the road races at the World Cham­pi­onships rolled around, thanks to vic­to­ries for Tom Du­moulin and An­ne­miek van Vleuten in the time tri­als. One look at the eight-rider line-up the team had for the women’s road race and it looked likely that an­other rain­bow jersey was go­ing back to the Netherlands.

With Anna van der Breggen, Van Vleuten and Mar­i­anne Vos among those start­ing, the Dutch had as­sem­bled their own ver­sion of the Avengers to take on the rest of the world. The team had 39 race wins be­tween them in 2017 – the next most pro­lific squad was the USA with 25. Van Vleuten had 11 of the wins, Vos nine. They had op­tions ev­ery­where on the 152-kilo­me­tre rolling route, to the point ques­tions would have been asked if they failed to score a medal.

So when the race-win­ning split con­tained three Dutch riders - Van Vleuten, Van der Breggen and na­tional cham­pion Chantal Blaak - a Dutch win was the likely out­come, though not many saw it com­ing from the do­mes­tique, Blaak. The 27-year-old dis­ap­peared up the road with seven kilo­me­tres to go while her team-mates were be­ing marked. It was a canny tac­tic that wrong­footed their ri­vals, al­low­ing Blaak to solo her way to a maiden rain­bow jersey.

With eight laps of a 19.1km cir­cuit that fea­tured Sal­mon Hill to com­plete, the fi­nal time up the climb seemed the like­li­est place a move would stick, so the favourites didn’t panic too much when Blaak launched her first move with 23km to go. She was still sport­ing a blood­ied leg and rip in her shorts from a crash ear­lier in the race that had also left Megan Guarnier with a bro­ken jaw.

Han­nah Barnes and Au­drey Cor­don-Ragot joined Blaak and the trio floated around 30 sec­onds ahead of the pelo­ton into the fi­nal lap. Be­hind, the at­tacks started on Sal­mon Hill, as ex­pected. Ka­sia Niewiadoma was the first to up the pace, surg­ing ahead as Van Vleuten, Ka­trin Gar­foot then Van der Breggen all went with her.

They quickly caught the trio to cre­ate a for­mi­da­ble lead­ing group of seven from which the race win­ner was sure to come. With num­bers in their favour Van Vleuten was the first Dutch rider to try some­thing. But when that was cov­ered Blaak coun­tered. The other riders hes­i­tated, and by the time Niewiadoma started the chase a cou­ple of kilo­me­tres later, Blaak was too far down the road to be caught.

World Cham­pi­onships women’s road race 23 09 17

Chantal Blaak had her mo­ment to shine at the Worlds, win­ning the rain­bow jersey

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