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Ronde van Drenthe: Lorena Wiebes sprints to victory after break gets caught in final moments

Wiebes defends Drenthe title, bettering Balsamo and Kopecky in dramatic final.

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Lorena Wiebes (DSM) was just too fast in the final sprint as she retained her title at the Ronde van Drenthe ahead of world champion Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) and WorldTour leader Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx).

Wiebes continued her brilliant form to take the win, but it didn’t look certain for the sprinters. A group of four escapees held on right up until the final 700 meters, with Anouska Koster (Jumbo-Visma) trying to solo to the line.

Starting in the town of Assen, the one-day WorldTour race took on a very tough 155.9km, including four ascents of the VAM-berg, a 500-meter kicker with an average of 4.2% gradient, before a finish in Hoogeveen.

One rider went on a solo break early on in the race, with South African rider Kerry Jonker (Andy Schleck-CP NVST-Immo Losch) but was brought back on the fifth of six early cobbled sectors by Ellen van Dijk of Trek-Segafredo doing a lot of the work for world champion Elisa Balsamo.

A huge group of 25 riders got away with 60km to go just after the first passage of the VAM-berg. This included Balsamo alongside Van Dijk as well as team-mate Chloe Hosking. Alongside them were riders such as Marta Bastianelli (UAE Team ADQ), Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) and pre-race favorite Lorena Wiebes (DSM).

Swiss rider Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM) put in a big move on the second time up the VAM-berg dragging Cecchini, Balsamo, Bastianelli and Riejanne Markus (Jumbo-Visma) away, but on the descent it all came back together.

The difficult gradients and the sharp descent split the group yet again with about 30 riders holding onto the lead of the race with 38km to go. Van Dijk used a slow down in the bunch to attack again with Romy Kasper (Jumbo-Visma), Floortje Makaaij (DSM) and Cecchini following.

As soon as that was caught it was the champion of Luxembourg, Christine Majerus (SD Worx), who put in a move, dragging 11 other riders out with her.

Jip van den Bos (Jumbo-Visma) attacked and was joined by Canadian champion Alison Jackson (Liv-Xtra), Swiss champion Marlen Reusser (SD Worx), Mischa Bredewold (Parkhotel Valkenburg) and British champion Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM) going into the final 30km.

Some riders started taking a wrong turn around a traffic island with Eugénie Duval (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) hitting the deck. This held up multiple riders as the leaders pulled out their gap to 30 seconds with 25km to go.

Trek-Segafredo and Canyon-SRAM got organized again with 20km to go as the gap went up to 37 seconds. The work was strong and it was all brought back together just as WorldTour leader Kopecky needed a bike change.

Trek-Segafredo, Canyon-SRAM and UAE Team ADQ started taking control of the peloton with Kopecky still out of the back with just 19km to go. Kopecky used the cars and got back easily.

Wiebes had also had an issue but the team cars had dropped away from the back of the peloton leaving he to close a 200-meter gap. She did make it back in but had to use some extra energy.

European champion van Dijk led her team-mate Balsamo to the front of the race as they hit the base of the VAM-berg for the final time.

Balsamo made it over in an 11 woman group along with Kopecky and Bastianelli also involved. Last year’s winner, Wiebes, missed the move as she was still close to the back at the base of the climb.

However, with 12km to go, Georgi put in a huge turn for the chasing group, helping her team-mate, Wiebes, back in.

Majerus, Sarah Roy (Canyon-SRAM), Anouska Koster (Jumbo-Visma) and Nina Buysman (Human Powered Health) kicked clear in the final 10km and started working very well together with limited riders trying to pull it back for the sprint.

Trek-Segafredo and Team DSM started drilling the pace in the peloton into the final 2km but Koster tried one final big attack up front. The rest of the break was caught with Koster lasting a few meters more before the catch was made.

Trek gave Balsamo a perfect lead-out but Wiebes kicked hard and early with the world champion unable to get to the Dutch woman’s electric pace.

“I chose the wheel of Balsamo because my teammates were chasing the break,” Wiebes said. “I went a bit earlier than her and that was my plan, to go on the left. And I still had the space there to the line.”

Kopecky was asked if she was happy with her third place.

“I don’t know. I’ll have to watch the sprint again and see what I did wrong but I’m not completely [happy],” she said.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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