Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team successfully protected the yellow jersey of race leader Ellen van Dijk on an active day of racing at Thüringen Rundfahrt. Although Van Dijk lost 11-seconds to several general classification hopefuls in the stage five technical finale, the time penalty she was issued in Monday’s time trial was overturned, leaving her with a net gain of nine-seconds on Tuesday evening.
“We went early to the race today to speak with the jury,” said Van Dijk. “Of course, we did that already last night but we couldn’t speak to the right people, so we had to do it again this morning. The head officer explained that another official told him that I had ridden on the wrong side of the road. I asked to speak with the person who said that because it just was not true. I never, ever did that, and I wanted to understand why he said that I did.”
“The head official told me that they would speak together without me first and he could come back to me after the discussion,” Van Dijk continued. “In the end, he said it was some kind of miscommunication in the race jury. The commissaire had said I was on the line, or on the limit, or something like that – I don’t know exactly because I could not speak with him myself – but he never said I crossed the line.”
“The head officer said that with the new information, it wasn’t the right decision, so they returned my 20-seconds,” Van Dijk added. “I was relieved to get the time back, because I had to dig really deep for those seconds yesterday, but it was more important to me to get confirmation that I didn’t have a penalty for something I didn’t do. I can live with a penalty when I do something wrong, but that’s not what happened in this case. It was a good way to start the day.”
Emma Pooley (Lotto Soudal) launched the first escape attempt on the 99-kilometre stage in and around Greiz. While her move was ultimately unsuccessful, her catch inspired a fresh wave of attacks, which continued until the peloton had reached the first intermediate sprint. By that point, only 40 remained in the front group.
“The race was really active all day,” said Van Dijk. “We expected it to be this way. We knew it didn’t make sense for the team to go in the break because most teams would not let a Boels rider stay away, and it wasn’t good for the general classification situation. The tactic was to control the breakaway – look at what could go away and what not.”
A two-rider move with Gracie Elvin (ORICA-AIS) and Linda Villumsen (UnitedHealthcare) proved both the longest-lasting and the most dangerous. The duo stretched out their advantage to nearly two minutes before the peloton began to give chase in earnest with around 30 kilometres left to race.
“Linda is a good time triallist and can ride uphill really well, and Gracie is strong too,” said Van Dijk. “That move was a bit dangerous for us. Other teams were interested in keeping their spots on GC, and those teams started chasing before us actually. They brought them back with maybe 10 kilometres still to race.”
Rachel Neylan (ORICA-AIS) countered the catch and had an eight-second gap when she hit the five kilometre to go marker. The remnants of the peloton caught Neylan just inside the final three kilometres.
“I felt good after yesterday; my legs were really good,” said Van Dijk. “I was happy with that. In the last three kilometres it was a very technical downhill, and some gaps opened in the group. I was too far behind. I had to close the gap, and I couldn’t get to the leaders anymore. I lost 11-seconds because of it.”
“My legs were good but my position was not,” said Van Dijk. “It was a stupid mistake.”
Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv) won the stage, pocketing ten bonus seconds along with the victory, ahead of Ellen Cecchini (CANYON/SRAM Racing) and Annemiek Van Vleuten (ORICA-AIS). Van Dijk came 12th in Greiz, leading home a group of 13 riders at 11-seconds.
“Tomorrow and Thursday are much longer days, 130 kilometres or longer, and they have lots of metres of altitude,” said Van Dijk. “These last two days are going to be really decisive for the general classification.”
“ORICA has a really strong team with lots of good climbers here,” she continued. “They can play lots of different cards. They have six and we have only four left. It makes it harder to fight. This may leave me a little isolated in the hills, but it the end, I think it’s going to come down to mano a mano or woman by woman, if you want to say that. It’s not going to be numbers.”
“It will be really challenging the next two days,” Van Dijk added. “I’m happy to still have the jersey today. I’m going to fight with everything I have to keep it tomorrow again.