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HARELBEKE, Belgium (VN) — Chantal van den Broek-Blaak is hoping that the hillier terrain of this Sunday’s Tour of Flanders will help break Trek-Segafredo’s current stranglehold on the Women’s WorldTour.
Trek has won the last three WorldTour races with Elisa Balsamo in imperious form in the sprints. SD Worx has one WorldTour win to its name so far this year after Lotte Kopeck’s brilliant ride at Strade Bianche, but the Dutch squad has not been able to replicate that since.
Despite the team’s best efforts in last week’s Gent-Wevelgem, SD Worx was unable to shed the top sprinters from the bunch with Balsamo storming to the win. However, De Ronde will be a far tougher parcours with 11 climbs and six cobbled sections, and van den Broek-Blaak believes that will play into the team’s hands.
“I think what we can learn from this race is that we are super strong, and it gives us a lot of trust between each other. We are looking forward to next week, but not only next week. Next week is just a little bit more hilly and I think that’s our strength,” van den Broek-Blaak told VeloNews. “We will always be aggressive, we like to race and we have the power to race so it’s not a secret that we will try something.”
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SD Worx was one of the major instigators in what was, at times, a chaotic finale to Gent-Wevelgem. The team had a rider in almost every move that went off the front in the final 30 or so kilometers, with just about every member of the squad having a go, except for Kopecky.
“With this race, you really don’t know beforehand because you don’t know how the wind is. We wanted to have an aggressive race because that’s our strength,” she said. “So, we were trying to make it aggressive. It’s always hard because there was a lot of wind it was hard to stay out and it’s a long straight road but everyone was on the limit so it was the best we could do.”
Van den Broek-Blaak said that the team’s tactic was to capitalize on either a reduced bunch sprint with Kopecky or a breakaway getting up the road, but the headwind and the long, straight road made getting away too hard.
“We always hard the card of Lotte for the sprint. Because it’s really hard to beat Balsamo and the good thing was that [Lorena] Wiebes was not there anymore so we just kept attacking,” van den Broek-Blaak explained. “If the group is smaller and you don’t have the sprinters anymore then that is good because then Lotte is the fastest, but we could all also finish it off, so, if any of us could get into a breakaway then we could still go for it.
“This was the kind of race where it was super aggressive and really hard, but everyone was following each other so then you can never get away. If you hesitate in one moment then you are out and that didn’t happen.”
The 2022 race was the toughest yet with the steepest side of the Kemmelberg added in as well as an extra 17 kilometers on last year’s route. Van den Broek-Blaak said that the new race length was a good thing, but she did not want to see race distances going up and up.
“I think this is good for the race, it makes it harder and I’m happy with it. Slightly longer is good. I think that this distance is good for us, and it makes the races harder but longer is not really necessary because then the race gets boring,” she said. “Of course, we can do 200 kilometers but then the race is getting boring then. I think women’s cycling is just fun because you can see this kind of races, aggressive racing. The wind was not strong enough in the beginning of the race but when the wind is also good then you have fireworks for the start.”