Demi Vollering (SD Worx) paced herself perfectly up the Mur de Huy to take a dominant win at Flèche Wallonne Femmes.
Other teams threw everything at the Dutch squad, but Vollering looked calm and collected as she burst the race apart on the Côte de Cherave before leading almost the whole way up the Huy. She didn’t look concerned by any of her rivals around her as she time trialed up the steep climb at her own pace.
Lianne Lippert (Movistar) put in a big effort to bridge over to the attacking Vollering, but she was dropped again just a few meters after making contact. A late surge by Gaia Realini (Trek-Segafredo) secured her a place on the podium.
It is Vollering’s second win in four days after she soloed to victory at the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday.
“Today was really a big team effort. Although I did it on the climbs myself, in between they really helped me. They were really important for me,” Vollering said after the race. “It was really difficult to keep myself a bit easy there [when Annemiek van Vleuten attacked on the Mur de Huy] but we have a really strong TT rider in Marlen [Reusser] and she did an amazing job by keeping the gap small and then I attacked myself on the little climb. It was really hard but, because of my teammates, I could do this.
“After that, again, groups went out and it was really difficult to take over control again because sometimes if you are ‘walking’ behind then it’s really difficult to take the power back in your hands again. Niamh controlled it really well and then Mischa [Bredewold] and Marlen came back again and then I felt we had the control back again. We did really good, I think. Before the last climb, I tried to split the group. On the last time [up the Mur de Huy], I thought I would set my own pace and I could not believe that I had a gap. I saw it very late. The gap was really big and I was surprised.”
An aggressive race
It was a super aggressive start to the day and it would take some 43 kilometers before a breakaway was allowed up the road. Caroline Andersson (Liv Racing Teqfind) and Antri Christoforou (Human Powered Health) were the duo that got the gap but they had just 30 seconds on the bunch behind as they crossed over the Mur de Huy for the first time with 74km to go.
A few more riders would join them to keep the move going a little bit longer but the attack was reeled back in with just under 45km to go.
The race exploded into life on the second, and penultimate, ascent of the Mur de Huy with world champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) driving a hard pace and forcing a small group clear. Only Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step) could immediately follow with Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) bridging across over the top of the brutally steep climb.
Van Vleuten’s effort forced SD Worx to respond behind with Demi Vollering initially forced to set the pace before Marlen Reusser took over. Reusser pulled the gap to within touching distance before being dropped with Vollering finally shutting down the move with 32km to go, five kilometers after Van Vleuten had surged clear.
There was no time for any of the riders to catch their breath as Trek-Segafredo immediately launched a series of attacks. Both Gaia Realini and Shirin van Anrooij had a go before Amanda Spratt made a move from the middle of what was now a vastly reduced peloton.
The Australian immediately got a gap and was not prepared to wait for anyone as she charged on alone. A group of three riders containing Justine Ghekiere (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step), Ricarda Bauernfeid (Canyon-SRAM), and Erica Magnaldi (UAE Team ADQ) formed behind her.
With several big teams represented up the road, the chase in the peloton took some time to form and Spratt had built a gap of over a minute with 15km to go. SD Worx took up much of the chase with Movistar and FDJ-Suez lending a hand to try and bring the gap down.
The three chasers were caught with just over 11km remaining, bringing some more teams into play as the bunch tried to bring Spratt back. The gap to the Australian quickly began to tumble following the catch and Spratt was hauled back on the lower slopes of the Côte de Cherave with seven kilometers remaining.
Vollering was pushing the pace hard on the front of the group, putting a lot of riders — including Van Vleuten — into trouble. Van Vleuten just about made the cut as Vollering’s pace exploded the group, dropping all of her teammates in the process.
Just 11 riders remained up front, including Niewiadoma, Longo Borghini, Rialini, Lianne Lippert, Veronica Ewers, Silvia Persico, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Elisa Chabbey, and Mavi Garcia. However, a lowing in the pace allowed a chase group of around 10 riders to bridge across just before the race hit the bottom of the Mur de Huy for the final time.
Once again, it was Vollering that took the pace setting going into the steeper sections of the climb, taking Niewiadoma with her. As Niewiadoma slipped back on the hardest section, Lippert moved past her and caught up with Vollering in the final 300 meters.
The German champion had no response, however, as Vollering put in another acceleration to solo to the line. Vollering had a clear gap as she posted up for her celebration across the line with Lippert taking second and Realini sprinting to the line for third.
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