RAINBOW TURNS TO BLAAK
Chantal Blaak caps dominant Dutch display with debut Worlds win
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