Chantal Blaak took her fourth win of the season in Winsum on Thursday on the second stage of the Energiewacht Tour. The Dutchwoman led an elite group of seven riders through the final two turns of a technical finish and held off her challengers in the sprint to the line. Lisa Brennauer (CANYON//SRAM) proved best of the rest while overnight race leader Ellen van Dijk rounded out the stage podium.
“I’m really proud of the team,” said Blaak. “This whole spring we’ve worked so well together. We understand each other. We don’t need so much words. A look already is enough. That’s such a nice feeling.”
“We let each other in. We give each other space. We’re always together in one spot in the peloton. We know if there’s an attack and you cannot go with it, a teammate can and will. We work so, so well together, and that’s why we win.”
The second stage of the six stage, five day Dutch race covered five laps of a 23.6-kilometre circuit in and around Winsum. The circuit took the peloton on open, rain-soaked roads through windy fields.
“It was a really hard race,” noted Blaak. “There was a lot of crosswinds. It was typical Dutch style racing with a lot of suffering, and a lot of wind. You always had to be alert.”
The race split early. Crosswinds off the start line inspired a natural selection. Fifteen riders forced their way up the road.
“We were there with three riders,” said Blaak. “It was okay for us. CANYON//SRAM had more riders, so we had to be a little careful for that, but it was ok. We were happy with the situation, happy to continue riding.”
The frontrunners worked well together until the penultimate lap when the ORICA-AIS pair of Annemiek van Vleuten and Gracie Elvin threw down the first attacks.
“It was really early to start that,” said Blaak. “From that moment, we didn’t work together anymore. It was very hectic from then all the way until the finish.”
“I really can’t say how it happened but for some reason, I went across to a break,” Blaak continued. “I was there, and we were five. The rest of the ten behind us had also split, and the next group joined our group.”
“We were seven at that moment, and we had only Ellen and me,” Blaak added. “Again, it was a good situation. We were happy riding.”
Blaak had difficulties detailing the action that followed.
“I was suffering so, so much, and the situation was always changing,” she said. “There were some riders coming back from behind and other riders losing contact. It was hard to know what was going on.”
“Romy made it back to us, which was pretty amazing,” Blaak added. “From then, we were three.”
Hectic became chaotic in the final two kilometres. The stage finished with a technical run-in to the line, including a small bridge and two corners in the last 500 metres.
“I thought: ‘Yeah, let’s go into the corner with me on the front and Ellen close behind me and then see what happens,’ ” said Blaak. “At least with Ellen behind me, if I couldn’t make it because it was too early, Ellen was there. Normally, I wouldn’t make it in a sprint to go that far, that early, but because it was a bit technical, I could handle it.”
Like Wednesday’s stage win, the win in Winsum came with the race leader’s jersey as Blaak assumed the race lead from Van Dijk. With 10-8-6 bonus seconds available on the finish line, Blaak will start stage three with a six second advantage over her teammate. Brennauer currently sits third overall at 11-seconds.
“I’m really happy to be in the leader’s jersey, and it gives you extra motivation to do better every day but winning the overall is not my first goal,” said Blaak. “I want to race well every day and make the best out of it with the whole team. We’ll see what happens. If we keep riding like this, results come naturally.”
“There’s a time trial coming on the weekend,” Blaak added. “I don’t know where I’m standing in the time trial. That’s probably a good one for Ellen. We have two to play for the overall. We want to keep the yellow jersey in the team, but if I swap it with a teammate, that’s fine for me.”