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Birthday Girl Jolien D’hoore Wins the Ronde van Drenthe World Cup

Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Jolien D’hoore celebrated the occasion of her 25th birthday with victory in the Boels Rentals Ronde van Drenthe, the opening round of the 2015 UCI Women’s Road World Cup, in Hoogeveen, Netherlands. The Belgian Champion was expertly delivered to the finishing straight by a lead out from teammates Chloe Hosking, Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Elisa Longo Borghini at the end of a fascinating 138km race that saw several breakaway groups get away. Amy Pieters (Liv-Plantur) finished second, with Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) third; such was the pace of Hosking’s lead out that the Australian crossed the line in fifth.

“Today was pretty good so far, I had an amazing birthday!” D’hoore laughed. “We rode as a team again, it was super-great. We were there at the important moments. We haven’t rehearsed the lead out or anything, it just came naturally! Audrey did the first part, then Elisa took over, and Chloe did the lead out. It was great!

“It was not easy! It is never easy!” D’hoore added. “But still I felt good today, I had good legs, and I was confident about my sprint, and that’s what I told the team. I’m very thankful for the trust in me.”

The 138km course is characterised by the sharp, bumpy cobbles of the Drenthe region, the narrow winding roads, and three climbs of the the short, but steep VAM-berg; a reclaimed landfill site, which is virtually the only hill in the area.

The early kilometres were attritional, as the peloton crossed the several cobbled sectors, but unfortunately Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Swedish powerhouse Emilia Fahlin was taken down by a crash in the bunch and forced to abandon. After the final climb of the VAM-berg, with 28.6km to go, however, a group of 16 riders were clear of the rest, with four Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling riders present.

Although Giorgia Bronzini had not made the split, the former two-time road World Champion was working hard in the chase group to disrupt its progress as best she could.

On the flat approach to the race’s 7.9km finishing circuit Longo Borghini got clear in a breakaway group, with Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans), Roxane Knetemann (Rabo-Liv) and Tiffany Cromwell (Velocio-SRAM). The four riders gained almost 30 seconds, which might have been a race-winning lead under normal circumstances. Longo Borghini was in the break to protect D’hoore, however, with Cromwell also riding for her own teammate Barbara Guarischi, so only the two Dutch riders were working.

“The race was very close because there was not much wind,” D’hoore explained. “And then the second time on the VAM-berg the race kind of exploded and we got away with a group. I don’t know how many were there – maybe 15 – and I was there, Chloe was there, and Elisa and Audrey.

“Eventually Giorgia also came to the group, so it was perfect for us, we could play team tactics.

“Elisa got away in a group of four, and she didn’t have to do anything, and we could stay in the back and say ‘we have Elisa in front,’” D’hoore added. “Then the group behind came back to us, and so it was a bunch sprint, and the team did an amazing lead out. The last two-k was amazing.”

Just after the bell the 16-strong group came back together and, thanks to the dropping of pace, the bulk of the peloton also managed to rejoin with five kilometres to go, which meant that the race was heading for a certain bunch sprint.

As the finish approached Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling seized control, with all four riders lining up at the front of the peloton behind Cordon-Ragot. The French rider pulled the bunch to just short of the final kilometre, where Longo Borghini took over, and the Italian continued to set a pace so fierce that no other team was able to challenge.

Longo Borghini handed over to Hosking, whose burst of speed initially pulled D’hoore clear of the rest of the field. Although Pieters was able to regain contact with the Belgian Champion’s back wheel, D’hoore was in the clear as she launched her sprint with 150 metres to go and crossed the line several lengths ahead of the Dutch rider.

D’hoore’s victory was her second in the space of a week, following her win in Sunday’s Omloop van Het Nieuwsblad, and the third for Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling after Giorgia Bronzini’s in the Drentse 8 on Thursday. It is a first ever victory in the World Cup for both the rider and the black and orange team, however, and earns the 25-year-old the leader’s jersey in the season-long series.

“I couldn’t believe it!” D’hoore exclaimed. “I have the leader’s jersey; I just won a World Cup; on my birthday! What else is there? I’m happy!

“We have three cakes and a bottle of wine,” she added. “I think we have enough!”

1. Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)

2. Amy Pieters (Liv-Plantur)
3. Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans)
4. Lucinda Brand (Rabo-Liv)
5. Chloe Hosking (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)

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