SD Worx-Protime and Lidl-Trek had many trump cards, but were outmanoeuvred by Visma | Lease a Bike's exceptional teamwork Cycling

SD Worx-Protime and Lidl-Trek had many trump cards, but were outmanoeuvred by Visma | Lease a Bike's exceptional teamwork

SD Worx-Protime and Lidl-Trek had many trump cards, but were outmanoeuvred by Visma | Lease a Bike's exceptional teamwork

After a chaotic day and a lengthy neutralization, the women's Amstel Gold Race all came down to three local laps around Valkenburg, totaling just 55.2 kilometers. Despite an explosive finale, the race was decided in the sprint after the Cauberg. Lorena Wiebes was clearly the fastest, but the Dutch rider of SD Worx-Protime celebrated too early and was overtaken at the finish by Marianne Vos. Time for a tactical analysis!

"Demi Vollering and Lotte Kopecky could have also been in a breakaway group and finished it off. But that didn't happen and then we decided to go for Lorena." Those were the words of European champion and SD Worx-Protime member Mischa Bredewold, who noted that the team tactics were generally good for the Dutch WorldTour squad (aside from the very last meters, of course).

SD Worx-Protime had Kopecky, Vollering and Wiebes as lead riders in Amstel Gold Race

Danny Stam's team was basically playing high-level poker in the South Limburg province in the Netherlands. Lidl-Trek in particular was racing aggressively with Shirin van Anrooij, top favorite Elisa Longo Borghini and Lucinda Brand on the narrow roads, and initially, it was other teams doing the heavy lifting. Eventually, the women of SD Worx-Protime also joined in the chase, with world-class riders like Kopecky and especially Vollering working hard for Wiebes. "For instance, I myself had a bad day, which meant I couldn't counter all the attacks I needed to. Demi had to do a lot of work. She really fought for us. That's really good of her. That kept everything together, and it was all in on Lorena," Bredewold would later explain.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Wiebes, who was ultimately outwitted in the very last feet of the race (more on that later). "The team wasn't necessarily all in on me today," the runner-up admitted. "Demi was also a very strong candidate. It was more that we decided to go for me one last time on the Cauberg, provided I was still there. And I was." Vollering, who unlike Bredewold did have a good day, expressed similar thoughts. "Ultimately, we had a pretty good scenario for us. We turned the pressure on and worked for Lorena. The plan in the finale was simply to keep the pace as high as possible and ensure no more attacks came," she indirectly describes her own hard work.

Lidl-Trek was actually planning to go with Van Anrooij

Then we have Lidl-Trek, which, according to veteran Ellen van Dijk—who we also saw leading the peloton, as she often does—initially rode for Van Anrooij. "We wanted to give Shirin a chance, provided she felt good. But she said she wasn't feeling very good," she told after the race. "But with the race being shortened, it was already quite unusual. Eventually, we wanted to go for Elisa. But things ended in a sprint with a large group, and that's not what we wanted. It was not to our advantage."

Longo Borghini ultimately finished fifth. "Should we have done things differently? I don't know. We wanted to make the race tough, but we couldn't quite manage it. It also proved very difficult to move to the front. And if you're not at the front on the narrow roads, you can't do anything. In the end, we still rode a strong Cauberg and provided a good lead-out, but unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Making a difference on a short climb is also not easy." In short, realism prevails for the seasoned Van Dijk.

Continue reading below the photo!

The women's race was paused for a long time due to an accident involving a motorcycle

It goes without saying that Visma | Lease a Bike in particular had cause for celebration after the race, since a cunning Marianne Vos managed to add yet another victory to the team's list. Eva van Agt was part of the breakaway for the team, always keeping in mind the strong finish of Vos. "I was constantly riding with the idea that I had Marianne behind me. We knew she was super strong. And that ultimately turned out to be true, haha! In the breakaway, I pushed on, but always rode smart. With the idea in mind, of course, to finish it off in whichever way possible."

Cunning Vos mentally very strong, says fellow Visma | Lease a Bike member Van Agt

"The plan was to stay with Marianne on the last Cauberg and, if necessary, to bring her back. But she was so strong that it wasn't needed. Marianne is also incredibly mentally strong. She always rides until the end. That's not normal. I have a lot of respect and admiration for that," concluded the 27-year-old Van Agt, perfectly matching Vos' own words. "I didn't think I would catch Lorena. But when she was celebrating, I noticed I had more speed. Even then, I didn't think I could still win. What I did know was that I had to go full speed ahead. And that turned out to be a good idea. I myself almost celebrated too early in 2021. I know all too well how important it is to keep sprinting."

Tough luck for Wiebes, who, after a solid dose of anger and sadness, returned with a healthy dose of realism to address her rookie mistake. "That is, of course, a very dumb mistake, one that you only make once in your life. I think I'll lose sleep over this for a few nights. Demi told me that next year I would be even more determined to win. I myself felt mostly very stupid after the finish. It's a big disappointment, especially since the girls worked so hard for me. In the final kilometers, Demi did very well."

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