Marianne Vos opens 2012 World Cup campaign with Ronde van Drenthe sprint
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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Marianne Vos opens 2012 World Cup campaign with Ronde van Drenthe sprint

by Ben Atkins at 10:37 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Race Reports and Results
Dutch champion finishes three lengths clear after AA isolates her in the closing stages

The Stichting Rabo Women Team has started the 2012 World Cup in the manner that its previous incarnation, Nederland Bloeit, finished the 2011 series, with Marianne Vos taking her second straight victory in the Ronde van Drenthe. The Netherlands champion took her first victory of the season - having finished third in her first race of the year in the previous Friday’s Drentse 8 - in a similar fashion to last year’s edition, outsprinting Dutch sprint rival Kirsten Wild (AA

Vos’ season-long rival Emma Johansson (Hitec Products-Mistral Home) - having only recently returned to racing herself after a double collarbone fracture - went six places better than her ninth of last year to take the third place on the podium.

The sprint was only possible after Vos’ Stichting Rabo team had chased down a lone attack from Wild’s AA teammate Chantal Blaak. Despite pulling the 22-year-old back on the third and final ascent of the steep VAMberg, with just over 12km to go, the chase cost the orange and blue team dear.

Vos found herself short of teammates in the finale but, despite a flurry of attacks in the closing kilometres, as well as the numerical superiority of the green and blue jerseys of AA, the World cyclocross champion surged past Wild at the finish to win by three lengths.

"I went to a training camp with the rest of the team immediately after the cyclo-cross season, but the road is different to cyclo-cross racing," said Vos at the finish. "Then I had to see how it would go for me in the bunch sprint, but it worked out fine.

"In the sprint, I joined Kirsten Wild’s train," she explained. "When she started it, I went along with her immediately and rode blind to the finish in the hope that nobody else would get past us."

Dry weather but wet roads as the World Cup hits the flatlands of Drenthe

The 132.8km race set out from the start/finish town of Hoogeveen, in the northern Netherlands province of Drenthe, on wet roads from the morning’s rain. While the weather remained dry for the race, the surface remained damp and slippery throughout, but there were mercifully no serious crashes.

As one of the flattest parts of Europe the main obstacles of the course were, as usual, to be several sections of Drenthe cobblestones - smaller and sharper than those found in Flanders - as well as three ascents of the steep VAMberg - with its slopes of up to 23% - a reclaimed landfill site and virtually the only topographical feature in the area.

The VAM would be climbed after just 9.4km, again after 93.1km, then, for the final time, after 119.9km, with just 12.9km to go.

The peloton was all together the first time up the climb, with Martina Corazza (Kleo Ladies Team) leading over the top. As the peloton began to hit the mid-race cobbled sections however, it began to split; a group of seven riders got clear, consisting of: Vos and Sarah Düster (both Rabobank), Judith Arndt and Loes Gunnewijk (both GreenEDGE-AIS), Trixi Worrack (Specialized-lululemon), Wild, and Adrie Visser (Skil-1t4i).

Vos, Gunnewijk and Visser were all previous winners of the race.

The first chase group managed to make contact with the seven leaders, to make a bunch of around 30 riders at the head of the race. Present in the group were all of the original breakaway riders, as well as Swedish champion Johansson, World champion Giorgia Bronzini (Diadora-Pasta Zara), her rainbow jersey predecessor Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini-Giambenini), Australian champion Amanda Spratt (GreenEDGE-AIS) and British champion Lizzie Armitstead (AA

The second group on the road was more than a minute behind by now, with the race seemingly over for most of the field.

Blaak gets away and Rabobank burns itself out in the chase

On the second crossing of the VAMberg, pressure from Vos split the front group in two; it regrouped shortly afterwards, but then Chantal Blaak (AA escaped alone. She was briefly chased by Roxane Knetemann (Rabobank) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products-Mistral Home), but they were pulled back by the chase group as they entered the outskirts of Hoogeveen.

As she crossed the finish line for the first time, with the 26.3km finishing loop to go, Blaak led the group by 40 seconds; the Rabobank team was organised on the front of the peloton though, with Düster, Iris Slappendel and the recaptured Knetemann leading the charge behind her.

The Rabobank-led chasers steadily closed in on Blaak, but the 22-year-old was making the riders from her rival team work very hard. As she approached the foot of the VAMberg for the final time, she still had 20 seconds, but was finally caught as she began to tire over the steepest part of the climb.

Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Rabobank) attacked over the top, followed by Visser and Megan Guarnier (Tibco-To the Top), but most of the group managed to get back up to them. With just 12.9km to go, the group had shed some riders, but there were still 24 riders all together as they hit the descent and the flat roads to the finish.

The GreenEDGE-AIS team tried to force some breaks in the field as the race headed towards the finish, but nobody was able to get away with so many in the group wanting a sprint.

Vos is now isolated as the attacks begin

Vos appeared to have a problem however, with all of her teammates, bar Ferrand Prevot, now missing after having done so much work to chase down Blaak. The AA tactic appeared to have paid off; Blaak herself had not managed to stay away, but the resultant chase had isolated the race favourite and handed the advantage to Kirsten Wild.

The attacks continued as Hoogeveen approached; first from Trixi Worrack (Specialized-lululemon), then from Gunnewijk, and then from Armitstead. Vos was marking a number of these herself however, and the rest of the group was on her tail.

With 5km to go Armitstead surged forward and began to string the group out, along with Tiffany Cromwell (GreenEDGE-AIS). They were unable to break free however, nor put anybody in trouble at the back, and so it settled down again. Alessandra Borchi (MCipollini-Giambenini) had another go at breaking clear, followed by Gunnewijk, and when that move was unsuccessful Guderzo tried her luck.

Suddenly, on a slippery roundabout with just under 4km to go, Guarnier, Borchi and Laura van der Kamp (Dolmans-Boels) came down. Guarnier had a technical problem and took an age to get going again; by the time she was remounted the group was long gone.

Up ahead Guderzo was having another go at the front, and she was joined before she reached the final kilometre by Arndt and Charlotte Becker (Specialized-lululemon). Ferrand Prevot pulled back up to them though, with the rest of the group in tow.

Alexsandra Burchenkova (Michela Fanini-Rox) tried in the final kilometre, but was swept up as Armitstead led Wild into the finishing straight. Monia Baccaille (MCipollini-Giambenini) opened up her sprint first however, showing the initial kick that so devastatingly led out Bronzini at the World championships in Copenhagen last year.

Vos suddenly kicked on the opposite side of the road however, pulled in front of the former two-time Italian champion and, with Wild desperately trying to get on terms, sat up to take an easy-looking victory by three lengths.

Last year’s third place Bronzini came through with a customary late surge, but could only make fourth, with Worrack just edging out Visser for fifth place.

Result Ronde van Drenthe
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Stichting Rabo Women Team
2. Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA
3. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products-Mistral Home
4. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Diadora-Pasta Zara
5. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized-lululemon
6. Adrie Visser (Ned) Skil-1t4i
7. Martine Bras (Ned) Dolmans-Boels
8. Monia Baccaille (Ita) MCipollini-Giambenini
9. Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) GreenEDGE-AIS
10. Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Fra) Stichting Rabo Women Team


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