Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège. She has won them all. The first Ardennes week in the history of women’s cycling has one name: Anna van der Breggen. And one team: Boels-Dolmans. Both the rider and the squad had a somewhat slow start of the season compared to previous years, but they peaked at the right moment to get an impressive hat-trick, backed by the same amount of second places by Lizzie Deignan.
Again, Van der Breggen’s win was a perfect mixture of tactics and strength. She was able to follow the first really big attack of the day by Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3) on the Roche aux-Faucons, along with teammate Deignan, Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla). Then she was the strongest on Saint Nicolas and the section after that climb.
Before that, Jeanne Korevaar (WM3) and Aude Biannic (FDJ-Nouvelle Acquitaine-Futuroscope) had animated the race with an early breakaway. Orica-Scott and Boels-Dolmans decimated the peloton on the first climb of the day, La Vecquée, and the second one, La Redoute.
After Niewiadoma’s attack on the Roche aux-Faucons, the five-strong lead group headed towards Liège with a considerable gap that was up to 50 seconds. A relentless chase from Orica-Scott ended up with the leaders almost being caught before the Saint Nicolas climb — in fact, Longo Borghini and Moolman, who struggled on the climb, were caught by the small group of chasers.
Deignan was also on the verge of being dropped. Eventually she fought back to stay there despite Niewiadoma’s desperate attempts to drop her rivals. Then Van der Breggen got a small gap on top of Saint Nicolas and never looked back. Same style, another win. Deignan and Niewiadoma completed the podium. Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott), 5th today, is the new Women’s WorldTour leader after her extremely consistent classics campaign.