Ellen van Dijk of Boels-Dolmans, runner-up last year, has won the Tour of Flanders for Women with an attack from 27km out, her team mate Lizzie Armitstead crossing the line second to consolidate her lead in the UCI Women World Cup after three events.
Emma Johannson of Orica-AIS, winner of the Trofeo Alfredo Binda last weekend, the second event in the nine-race series, finished behind the Boels-Dolmans pair – the third time she has been on the bottom step of the podium at Flanders.
Van Dijk, the reigning world time trial champion, led by 40 seconds going over the last of the 10 climbs, the Paterberg, with three riders on their own behind her – Armitstead, Johannson, and Elisa Longo-Borghini of Hitec Products.
The Dutch rider would not be brought back, and as Armitstead crossed the line behind her, she punched the air, as much in celebration of her team mate’s win as for extending her own grip on the series leader’s jersey.
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“It was our team tactics played out to perfection," said van Dijk afterwards. "I would go first and we would have Lizzie behind me. It was from the book.”
Reflecting on the flat 13km section that followed the Paterberg, she went on: “It hurt but when with a few kilometres to go I had a tailwind I knew I could win. And if you know your teammate is behind you, you can go just a little bit faster.
“Those last kilometres were really hard. I still can’t believe I did it. I wanted to win three races in my career: the world title, the Tour of Flanders and the Olympics. Now only one remains,” van Dijk added.
It’s the 27-year-old van Dijk’s third victory in a World Cup race, and follows the opening two races this season in which she worked tirelessly for Armitstead, including helping chase down attacks at last month’s Ronde van Drenthe to set up the 25-year-old Yorkshirewoman’s victory.
Armitstead, meanwhile, continues her dominance of the nine-race competition – with three events now raced, she is yet to finish outside the first two.
After finishing second today, she said: "Ellen worked hard for me in the previous races. That’s the beauty of this sport. We are a team. I was really emotional when she won.”
Last year’s winner, world road champion Marianne Vos of Rabobank-Liv, didn’t ride, although she was spotted out on the course giving encouragement to her team mates in the 139km race.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.