Armitstead wins World Cup opener Ronde van Drenthe

Lizzie Armitstead uses late bridge, tactical deftness to notch win ahead of Anna van der Breggen at World Cup opener Ronde van Drenthe

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British national champion Lizzie Armitstead won the Boels Rental Ronde Van Drenthe, the first round of the women’s UCI World Cup, on Saturday, taking victory ahead of Dutch rider Anna van der Breggen in a two-up sprint.

From a select chase group, Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) bridged across to van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) with about 10km remaining in the 146km Dutch race. With a 25-second advantage, victory seemed assured for the pair, who worked together to the finish line.

Van der Breggen had built up a lead of one minute after escaping with teammate Iris Slappendel; part of that lead was due to the fact that race officials momentarily led the chase group the wrong way.

Armitstead attacked alone on the final climb, putting in an impressive solo chase to bridge across to van der Breggen.

Inside the final kilometer, Armitstead, a former track racer, edged van der Breggen onto the front, then came around to easily win the sprint, crossing the line two seconds ahead of the Dutch rider.

American Shelly Olds (M Cippolini) took the bunch sprint for third, 29 seconds back, just ahead of Chantal Blaak (Specialized-lululemon), Annamiek van Vleuten (Rabo-Liv), Kirsten Wild (Giant-Shimano), Ellen Van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans), Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS), and Amy Pieters (Giant-Shimano).

The World Cup win was the biggest yet in a string of top results for Armitstead, the silver medalist of the 2012 Olympic road race — she finished third at the women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on March 1, and won the Omloop van het Hageland-Tielt-Winge on March 9.

World champion Marianne Vos was the major absentee from the Boels Rental Ronde Van Drenthe.

The leader of the Rabo-Liv team decided to skip the event that she has won for the last three years. After a hectic 2013 season, an intense 2013-2014 winter and a few physical problems, in particular with her back, Vos will delay the start of her road season a few weeks, returning to action at the Flèche Wallonne on 23 April. “One of my major objectives is the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Recent seasons have been long and tough and I want a bit more rest,” Vos said.

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