World road champion Chantal Blaak has honoured the rainbow jersey by winning the last race in which she wore it, stage five of the Boels Ladies Tour. Having attacked from the break of the day, Blaak arrived solo at the line which was drawn in the Tom Dumoulin Bike Park in Sittard-Geleen.
"I am very happy with this," said Blaak with a broad smile. "It was a very long day in the break."
Stage five of the Boels Ladies Tour formed the Queen stage with 158 kilometers covering the Limburg hills. With a chance for the break to make it to the finish, there was a hard fight to get off the front. Four riders eventually managed to breakaway: Blaak, Roxane Knetemann (Alé Cipollini), Eugenie Duval (FDJ-NA-Futuroscope) and Pernille Matthiesen (Team Sunweb). All attempts to bridge across in the early stages of the race were neturalised.
"I was actually just in the break to put the pressure on the other teams, because we hoped to be able to jump up in the GC,” Said Blaak. “Megan [Guarnier], Anna [van der Breggen] and Amy [Pieters] were still in the top 15 overall, so we were mainly concerned with forcing other teams to work. It was just my job today to keep on riding."
The maximum advantage that the quartet had was a little over three minutes, but it came down again when the race entered the last fifty kilometers. At that point, Guarnier and Amalie Dideriksen began to attack from the peloton in an attempt to bridge across to Blaak. Dideriksen succeeded in joining the leaders, together with Janneke Ensing (Alé Cipollini) and Charlotte Becker (Team Hitec).
"It was great when Amalie joined, because she was a great back-up," said Blaak. "Then everyone started to look at each other. I knew Amalie was in good shape, so you know you can attack, because it's controlled from behind.”
“In the final, I was already feeling that it really wasn’t going to work,” explained Blaak. “So I was told: 'Chantal, just go and try one more time'. That last climb was a perfect moment. So I attacked and got off the front on my last day in the rainbow jersey."
While Blaak switched to the biggest gear and quickly gained a half-minute lead, Dideriksen single-handedly neutralised all attacks by Ensing, Duval and Knetemann.
"It was super tough, because you just give everything and I had already been off the front the entire day,” said Blaak. "So I was completely empty. But I knew how strong Amalie is at the moment, so I knew there was control behind me. And further back, there was a strong team in the bunch. So when you're gone, you know they support you.”
Blaaks’s stage win is the third victory of the Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team in three days, after two wins by Dideriksen in a bunch sprint. "That says something about the teamwork," Blaak responded. "We work together really well and are all in good shape. It makes racing even nicer, so I complete this race with a very good feeling. Being able to finish off my year in the rainbow like this, that's just cool.”
For another team member, today was very special too. Former American champion, Giro Rosa winner and Women’s WorldTour winner Megan Guarnier had her last road race with the team today. Tomorrow, there’s just a 18.6 kilometer individual time trial left for Guarnier in Boels-Dolmans colours.