No Ronde van Vlaanderen repeat for Grace Verbeke
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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

No Ronde van Vlaanderen repeat for Grace Verbeke

by Ben Atkins at 7:43 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Tour of Flanders
Race’s only Belgian winner has to settle for seventh in frantic finale

Grace VerbekeHer victory in the 2010 edition made Grace Verbeke (Topsport Vlaanderen 2012-Ridley) one of the big names to watch in this year’s Ronde van Vlaanderen. Early season form pointed towards another top performance from the Belgian number one, including eighth in last month’s Trofeo Alfredo Binda, the first round of the World Cup. In the frenetic final kilometres of Sunday’s race though, Verbeke found herself alone in the group of favourites and unable to do anything to stop the victorious breakaway.

“Yes, it was possible,” the 26-year-old said to VeloNation on the day after the race about the chances of a repeat victory, “but [we were] looking to each other; in the last three-k everything was back together with the small group and then it’s ‘ping-pong’!

“So [we’re all] looking to some other girls, and also at the end you have to have a little bit of luck.”

Without that little bit of luck Verbeke finished seventh in the sprint for the line behind breakaway pair Annemiek van Vleuten (Nederland Bloeit) and Tatiana Antoshina (Gauss); she finished as top Belgian once again, one place ahead of Ludovine Henrion (Lotto Honda), who’d been in the long breakaway, and remains the only Belgian to have won the race.

Over the winter Verbeke left the Lotto Ladies team (now Lotto Honda), where she had been since 2006, to join the expanding Topsport Vlaanderen 2012-Ridley team. Also to join were former teammates Lieselot Decroix and Belgian champion Liesbet De Vocht, and the all-Flemish line up seems to be working.

“Yeah, it’s okay,” she said, “we are all motivated and we have all got good shape and we are positive for ourselves; so we give everything, we tried to be [that way] on the start of every race.”

As a rider that can perform over virtually any terrain, Verbeke is now looking towards the next round of the World Cup, and as a Flandrienne, she is keeping one eye on her next big local race.

“My next target is Flèche Wallonne,” she explained, “and also a big UCI race in Belgium: the [GP Stad] Roeselare. It’s for my own people, the West-Flemish part of Belgium, so it’s [really] exciting.”


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