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Simac Ladies Tour stage 4: Riejanne Markus soloes to stage win in Landgraaf

Lorena Wiebes second and holds on to race lead on hilly queen stage

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Riejanne Markus (Jumbo-Visma) won the queen stage of the Simac Ladies Tour after attacking a reduced peloton in the final 5km of the stage.

After a tough day of climbing on the roads of the Amstel Gold Race, the Dutch champion powered away on a flat section in the finale and held on until the line to take the win.

Behind, race leader Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) sprinted to second to retain the race lead, with Karlijn Swinkels making it two in the top three for Jumbo-Visma.

How it happened

Stage 4 saw the Simac Ladies Tour head to roads and climbs best known for the Amstel Gold Race, taking in a hilly parcours around Landgraaf and Valkenburg. After three flat days, stage 4 looked like a chance for the more classics-suited riders in the bunch. Only two climbs — the Cauberg and the Gulperberg — were categorized, and only on the first and third laps, but the multiple uncategorized climbs packed into the three laps made for a tough day in the Netherlands.

When the racing got underway, Chloe Hosking (Trek-Segafredo) and Kirstie van Haaften (Parkhotel Valkenburg) were the first to successfully attack after 12km and built a 44-second lead. The weaker climber, Hosking was dropped by Van Haaften on the first climb — the Cauberg — and the Dutch rider went over the top alone whilst Hosking rejoined the peloton. From the bunch, race leader and mountains classification leader Wiebes won the sprint for more mountains points, extending her lead in the classification and showing her form ahead of a hilly day.

The peloton seemed happy to let a lone leader up the road, and Van Haaften’s lead had grown to a minute and 20 seconds after 35km, taking maximum points on the second climb, the Gulperberg. Going over the Cauberg for the second time splits started in the peloton as some riders struggled to hold onto the high pace being set.

Between the Cauberg and the Gulperberg, Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) attacked from the peloton and bridged across to Van Haaften, making it two leaders at the front, which saw the gap start to grow again. However, Henderson posed a threat to the general classification, sitting only 24 seconds down on Wiebes, so the peloton did not want to allow the British rider to get too far up the road.

On the second ascent of the Gulperberg, Van Haaften took maximum points again, earning her enough to take the lead in the mountains classification. Despite Henderson’s GC threat, the DSM team was not catching the leaders quickly and heading into the last 45km, Julie Van De Velde (Plantur-Pura) escaped the peloton to make it three at the front going into the final lap. DSM’s efforts were not helped by the fact that Pfeiffer Georgi crashed and had to abandon the race before the last lap.

With 35km remaining, the trio had a 30-second advantage, though day-long attacker Van Haaften was struggling on the climbs and was dropped on the last ascent of the Cauberg. Behind, the peloton had shrunk significantly, with fewer than 50 riders able to hold on over the relentless circuit.

After Van Haaften was dropped, the next Parkhotel Valkenburg rider went on the offensive as Mischa Bredewold attacked out of the peloton, taking with her Nina Kessler (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Tamara Dronova (Roland Cogeas Edelweiss). With 20km to go, the chasers were 30 seconds behind the leaders and 45 seconds ahead of the peloton. However, on the Gulperberg, the peloton accelerated and caught the chasers, coming within 20 seconds of the two leaders up front.

In the ever-shrinking bunch, race leader Wiebes was working on the front, seemingly working for herself as she had no teammates left in the group. The two leaders were just holding on with 10km to go, but an injection of pace on one of the final climbs saw them caught by a small group that included Amanda Spratt (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Soraya Paladin (Canyon-SRAM). These six riders briefly had a slight gap, but the front of the race came back together with 7km to go.

Several riders tried to attack going into the last 5km, but it was Markus who timed her move well to attack from the back and ride away from the group on a rare flat section of the stage. Markus’s time trialing strength, combined with the lack of an organized chase behind, allowed her to build up a solid advantage that she held all the way to the line.

The Dutch champion took victory on the stage, with Wiebes sprinting to second behind, just 14 seconds down and thus holding on to her race lead. Markus’s teammate Swinkels took third, a few bike lengths down on Wiebes.

Wiebes’ performance on the race’s toughest stage sees her extend her overall lead, and she now leads the race by 20 seconds with a time trial and one road stage remaining. She also continues to lead the points classification, whilst Kirstie van Haaften takes over the polka dot climber’s jersey.

Tomorrow, the peloton will take on a 17.8km individual time trial, one of only two ITTs on the WorldTour calendar this year. Set on a gently undulating but largely flat profile, the course suits the powerful riders and is long enough that it should start to put some decisive gaps in the general classification.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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