Chantal Blaak took a convincing victory in Dour on Wednesday, beating Swedish road champion Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5) in a two-up sprint to take back-to-back victories at Le Samyn. The Dutchwoman’s win, the third for Boels-Dolmans this season, was a true team effort by the five-rider squad in Belgium.
“I feel pretty strong at the moment, and Saturday [at Het Nieuwsblad] gave me a lot of confidence already but it’s not only me,” said Blaak. “It’s the team. The whole team works well together, and the whole situation in the team makes me better.”
“The girls did awesome today,” Blaak added. “I’m very, very happy.”
When Boels-Dolmans forced a split in the crosswinds around 30 kilometres into 112 kilometre race, a select group of 23 took shape.
“We had a five in that group,” said Blaak. “That the whole team. It was a good situation for us. We decided to continue working so at least the group stayed away. The girls were great.”
The front group gained more than a three minute advantage over the first chase group before the last of five local laps. The 17-kilometre lap featured several cobble sections and a cobbled climb.
“The last lap, I tried to save my energy,” Blaak noted. “The girls were attacking and reacting on other attacks. We were in every move.”
Eventually the attacks forced splits. Nikki Harris broke away in a three-rider move. Behind Harris, a chase group of five formed that included Blaak, Demi de Jong and Christine Majerus. Between the two groups, Boels-Dolmans had four of the eight riders.
“The two groups came together sometime around ten kilometres,” Blaak recalled. “The attacks kept coming. Emma attacked in the last four kilometres, and I followed her.”
“I thought it was a good situation,” Blaak said. “I had been saving myself all day. I only now had to beat her in the sprint.”
And that’s exactly what Blaak did.
“I didn’t feel pressure today to win again,” said Blaak. “Every race is new. It doesn’t matter if it’s the same course or a new course. The weather can change a lot, and also the riders and the situations make the race. It’s always different even if you’ve won before. I was focused on doing a good race again and not thinking about last year so much.”
Boels-Dolmans lines up with another defending champion this weekend when the inaugural Women’s WorldTour begins with Strade Bianche on Saturday. Megan Guarnier won the first edition of the Italian race in 2015.