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Bastianelli fires ahead of Van Vleuten to win women's Tour of Flanders shootout

In-form Team Virtu rider matches Dutch rival's attacks then kicks on to claim victory

Maria David
8 Apr 2019

Photography: Pressesport, Maria David

Marta Bastianelli (Team Virtu Cycling) continued her impressive sprinting form and showcased her climbing credentials too to edge ahead of Annemiek Van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) in the finish and win a sun-drenched Tour of Flanders.

The heartstopping finish came down to a shoot-out between two real heavyweights in women’s cycling – world time trial champion Van Vleuten against European road race champion Bastianelli; UCI women’s Worlds leader  against current UCI Women’s WorldTour leader.

The decisive business of the newly lengthened race began with around 30km to go, when Bastianelli led a select group of around 30 riders over the Oude Kwarement, including names such as Gracie Elvin (Mitchelton-Scott), Kasia Nieuwiadoma (Canyon-Sram), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla), Ellen Van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), and Bastianelli’s teammate Sophia Bertizzolo.

After they crested the climb, Uttrup Ludwig broke away, to be joined by Bastianelli, Van Vleuten and Nieuwiadoma.

Polish national champion Niewiadoma was then dropped on the Paterberg and the race became a three-way shoutout for the win, the fast-approaching bunch from behind adding an extra layer of tension. 

Despite her repeated attacks Van Vleuten could not break free from the grip of the Team Virtu firebrand Bastianelli.

Then in the final dash for the line Bastianelli was able to kick so hard that Van Vleuten had no answer, and she crossed the line a couple of bike lengths clear of the Dutchwoman after four and a quarter hours and 100 miles in the saddle.

The win provided a late birthday present for Team Virtu Cycling co-owner Bjarne Riis and delight for sports director Carmen Small given that Bertizzolo’s fourth place meant both riders stayed atop the UCI Women’s World Tour rankings in the seniors and youths respectively.  

Views from the riders 

Marta Bastianelli

'This year has been really been good, but I haven’t changed anything in what I’m doing. For me it’s just my natural conditioning.

‘I think I am having better days and winning more and it’s not such a surprise for me. I am very happy for my team.’ 

Annemiek Van Vleuten

'Last year I celebrated with third place, but today I am a little bit disappointed with second, but I am proud of my team and I didn’t leave anything.

‘I tried everything, and I went full gas, but I think it was just not the race that suited me so well.

‘There are not many girls like me who like a hard race on every climb. Many teams would like a conservative race and to be there in the final, and then it is hard to drop girls like Bastianelli.

‘I never look back when I race, I just commit and go for it. I just go for it and attack on the climbs and also in the descents. I didn’t necessarily want bad weather, but I just wanted a harder race in terms of pace.

‘I will take confidence from this race, and the Ardennes week is a really big target for me.’

Cecile Uttrup Ludwig

‘There was so much screaming, and I heard nothing. I just went full gas and that was it. It was so cool.

‘I was so stressed because the whole team worked so hard for me the whole day. I kept telling myself – one more, one effort, one more. When you have the whole team pulling you up like this, I just think “now is my chance I must put the hammer down!”’

‘It was so good, and the atmosphere was so cool. This race is also about the soigneurs, the people who do the massages, the mechanics.

‘The bike was excellent, and the sports director guided me over, motivating me all the time, so I’m really happy I can give them a podium back.’

… And from the team staff:

Carmen Small, Team Virtu Cycling sports director

‘It’s not very often that the plan goes to plan, so I was super-happy when we were able to have the girls at the front who needed to be in the front to help Marta again and again.

‘We took our time and we were pretty patient until we needed to go. We planned for her to go at the Kwaremont, she did and it was good.

‘We kept the pressure on because we didn’t want it to come back together, though we had Sofia as a back-up plan in case it did come back together.

‘All the girls rode really, really great today. Everyone did their job as planned and we didn’t really have any obstacles or crashes aside from Barbara Guarischi, but she came back with plenty of time, so it was a good team effort and we are really happy with the work from the girls today.’

Bjarne Riis, Team Virtu Cycling and Waoo co-owner

‘Marta is a big professional and she knows what it takes to be up there to be among the best. She’s talented, we know that. She’s fast in the sprint, but she can climb too, in those steep climbs here.

‘She’s smart tactically and knows where to position herself and I think that’s the key in this. I told her already that at 30 or 40km to go that there’s one girl you need to look out for today – whenever she moves you are there, and that’s Annemiek [Van Vleuten] and that was the right tactic today.

‘Sofia is young but so so strong. I told her to just stay calm, and stay near Marta.

‘Cecilie [Uttrup Ludwig] is a great rider, so it was no surprise to see her there. She’s a great athlete and she’s a devil on the bike you know, so she can do that stuff.

‘In the sports director’s car in such a nail-biting finish I can say I’ve been there before, so I can stay a little bit more calm than Carmen. You need to stay calm, you need to keep the focus, listening to what’s going on on the radio, what you can see from the race and you guide your riders from there.’

Martin Vestby, Mitchelton-Scott sports director

‘For sure you always want to win but I think the team rode really well together and showed some strengths and there wasn’t much more we could do.

Cecilie [Uttrup Ludwig] is good and I think she was doing better than she had done for a long time and showed some real strengths and with Ardennes coming up and all those races they will suit her even better so she is really really good.

‘I am a bit surprised that Bastianelli survived the climbs as she did and was that strong at the end but we know what she can do now and has proved herself to be able to do everything.

‘We expected her to be up there and we had the hope that we could drop her in the climbs but she had the legs today.

‘For Annemiek, the target is more Ardennes and still is a target but when you have good races like this [Tour of Flanders] and with extra kilometres to make it a long race that can suits her well.

‘The race can be lost almost everywhere but I think this year’s version was down to the ones with the legs in the last 30-40km for sure. The ones with the biggest condition and engine that could survive that distance and have that little extra.’

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