Anna van der Breggen broke the Boels-Dolmans/Women's World Tour winning streak today, as the Rabobank Liv rider crossed the finish line first after the final ascent of the Mur de Huy at La Flèch Wallonne.
The win was the second for van der Breggen, who was victorious last year as well. The Rabo Liv line-up was promising from the get go - featuring 2014 winner Pauline Ferrand Prevot, and five time winner Marianne Vos - who was also making her first WWT appearance after a long break recovering from injuries.
Boels-Dolmans were well represented on the podium, with Evelyn Stevens in second and Megan Guarnier in third.
The race in Belgium covers 136 and 11 brutal climbs, the most famous of which is the Mur de Huy, which maxes out close to 25 per cent. Made harder for last year's edition with an additional ascent of the Côte de Cherave - a 1.3 km slog of an eight per cent gradient just six kilometers before the Mur - the same format was repeated this year.
The women's event takes place on the same day as the men's, over the same course - guaranteeing the crowds and attention that our sport needs and deserves.
An early breakaway did form, but to no success and the peloton was largely together again until the final kilometers. At this point, five riders - van der Breggen, Guarnier, Stevens, Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo Liv) - appeared at the front end of the race.
Niewiadoma attacked before van der Breggen made her move, taking with her Stevens. The two battled it out over the final ascent of the Mur de Huy, but it was van der Breggen who finally flung her arms in the air.
Following the event, she told reporters: "We tried to make the race hard. The team work was exceptional."
Stevens, who won the race in 2012, was apparently bitterly disappointed to have taken the second step, and not the first on the podium. Boels-Dolmans reported: "Evie is understandably disappointed. The top step was her aim, and although she missed out, her sense of humour is still intact."
However, with time to reflect, she later commented: “The team is so incredibly strong right now. We’ve shown that we can deliver on the days that matter most. There are several other teams with riders that could pose a real challenge. Whoever comes out on winner will have really earned that top step."
We were also excited to see Vos in the top ten, after her long injury lay off. World Champion Lizzie Armitstead - who has won three of five WWT events so far this year - was in 28th position, whilst fellow GBR rider Dani King was 25th.
The race also served as a come back for Hannah Barnes, of Canyon//SRAM, who has had months off the bike after breaking a bone in her ankle. She came in 16 minutes down, but the first race back was always going to be an immense challenge and we can't wait to see her get into the swing of things.
Want to see the action? Check out these stunning pictures from Velofocus...
Here's the top ten:
|1.||VAN DER BREGGEN Anna||RABOLIV WOMENCYCLINGTEAM||03h 50' 36''|
|2.||STEVENS Evelyn||BOELS DOLMANS CYCLINGTEAM||03h 50' 44''||+ 00' 08''|
|3.||GUARNIER Megan||BOELS DOLMANS CYCLINGTEAM||03h 50' 58''||+ 00' 22''|
|4.||NIEWIADOMA Katarzyna||RABOLIV WOMENCYCLINGTEAM||03h 50' 59''||+ 00' 23''|
|5.||LONGO BORGHINI Elisa||WIGGLE HIGH5||03h 51' 01''||+ 00' 25''|
|6.||AMIALIUSIK Alena||CANYON SRAM RACING||03h 51' 14''||+ 00' 38''|
|7.||JOHANSSON Emma||WIGGLE HIGH5||03h 51' 19''||+ 00' 43''|
|8.||GARFOOT Katrin||ORICA - AIS||03h 51' 21''||+ 00' 45''|
|9.||VOS Marianne||RABOLIV WOMENCYCLINGTEAM||03h 51' 24''||+ 00' 48''|
|10.||NEFF Jolanda||SERVETTO FOOTON||03h 51' 24''||+ 00' 48''|
We'll be bringing you a gallery of pictures from race photographers Velofocus soon - stay tuned!
The next race in the WWT is The Tour of Chongming Island in China - from 6 to 8 May - check out all the events in the UCI WWT here.