After two weeks without racing our Women’s program came back to racing in style. At the Belgian classic, GP Eco-Struct, the team showed a dominant performance, seeing Charlotte Kool taking her first win in our colours, after being led out by Lorena Wiebes, who finished third, and Pfeiffer Georgi who also crossed the line in sixth place – meaning that the team has won that race for all three of its editions so far!
At the same time, the Men’s program went to the start line at the French stage race 4 Jours de Dunkerque. On the opening day Nils Eekhoff finished third, getting his first podium spot of the season after coming back from injury and a break of two months away from racing. On that day the Development program showed some great racing as well at Ronde van Overijssel where Pavel Bittner sprinted to a nice fifth place after some bad luck for Casper van Uden in the finale.
In the meantime, our Men’s program headed over to Hungary to kick off the first Grand Tour of the season, the Giro d’Italia. After not losing any time on the punchy final in the opening stage, our climbers delivered a good TT on a technical parcours through Budapest, seeing Romain Bardet staying in striking distance with the other GC contenders and Thymen Arensman finishing in strong tenth position. After the first sprint stage, where Alberto Dainese could achieve a solid top ten result the first rest day, although cruelly for the riders it was denoted as a “travel day”, was on the menu for the guys as they made their way to Sicily. Back racing in Italy the following day, the Giro headed to the famous Etna where the first mountain test for the GC guys took place. While a breakaway fought out the win, Romain was second from the GC group and stayed in contention for the bigger goals we were aiming for.
Nils and Niklas Märkl sprinted to another two top 10 results and finished the 4 Jours de Dunkerque on a positive note. While the Giro was back in Italy, racing in Hungry continued with the Tour of Hongrie. Our young group that contained riders from both the Development and the Men’s program showed some good racing, where they worked well together and could achieve three solid top ten results on what was hilly terrain.
Back in Italy the sprint duo kept finding its rhythm and Alberto sprinted to a seventh place on stage five, continuing the upwards trajectory. While the team was doing a great job in keeping Romain safe and without losing time at the Giro d’Italia, our Women’s program were back in action at the first edition of Itzulia Women in the Basque country. The team showed an amazing performance on the difficult terrain seeing Liane finishing fourth on stage one and second on stage three and Juliette claiming a fifth place on stage two. After three hard days of racing Juliette, Liane and Floortje finished fifth, sixth and eighth in the general classification; rounding off a massive team performance in Spain and a sign of things to come…
At the Giro another big stage for the GC contenders took place, seeing the race finishing on top of the climb to Blockhaus. The guys brought Romain in a nice position on the climb, where he went into attacking mode, both following and going in the moves himself. Coming oh so close to the win in the reduced sprint from the GC group, he finished in second place on the stage and moved up to third on GC ahead of the following rest day.
The women’s team stayed in Spain for the Vuelta a Burgos, with yet more climbing on the menu. Floortje got the team off to a good start and came in in sixth position in the punchy finale of stage one. After a win for the late attackers on stage two, another punchy final saw Liane achieve another podium and Juliette seventh, rounding off another nice team performance and staying in contention for the GC battle. The final stage would ultimately decide the overall classificaiton with a tough mountain top finish, where the team fully committed to the goal of setting up Juliette for the climb. Pushing all the way to the line, Juliette gave it everything to reward her teammates, claiming second place on the stage – a result which was good enough to see her claim the overall win; her first ever GC title with the team!
The first stage after the second rest day at the Giro d’Italia was a hard one on hilly terrain, but Romain could show his shape again, getting another top ten result for the team. One day later he even became a lead-out man, helping to bring Alberto into position for the sprint. Giving his all, the young Italian could deliver a perfectly timed kick to the line, surging past the opposition late and taking home an emotional stage victory for the team at this year’s Giro; and Alberto’s first in his home Grand Tour.
From the joy of that stage win, two days later the team had to deal with a massive disappointment. Romain had unfortunately become sick and his condition hadn’t improved overnight. After being given the all clear by the team’s medical staff to start the stage, he ultimately had to step off his bike and end his time at the Giro. A sucker-punch for the team who had all prepared to give the GC their best go with Romain as finisher. Nonetheless, everyone regrouped and shook off that disappointment, changing our approach to hunt for stage victories thereon with that good form.
With the last rest day around the corner, Martijn Tusveld showed a strong fight against the mountains and brought home a nice fifth place from the break – showing the team’s resilient spirit. Returning to racing after the rest day, the team were back in the break too. After seeing an impressive climbing performance from Chris Hamilton on the Passo del Montirolo, Thymen came close to finishing it off the best way possible, coming second after gutsy performance on the last climb and a strong chase in the final descent. Two days later the sprinters would get their last chance of the race, but with a strong break of four staying clear the victory unfortunately was claimed up the road, while in the bunch Alberto “won” the sprint to take a bittersweet fifth place in his home region.
The team also headed to the breathtaking Norwegian countryside to continue their racing in Europe. After staying in striking distance on the first two days, Marco Brenner showed a great performance on the Queen stage. Competing with the very best he crossed the line in eighth place, his first top ten result of the season, which moved him up to fifth position in the general classification. Unfortunately, the team’s bad luck continued as Marco became sick and wasn’t able to start the following day.
Heading towards the end of the month, the Women’s program traveled to Great Britain for RideLondon Classique, a now three-day stage race. Dominating from flag drop to finish line on each and every day, Lorena took a clean sweep of stage victories and the overall classification after some super teamwork from everyone to deliver her in the finale. That was no more evident than on the final day where the team expertly marked out the breakaways on the London street circuit before pushing the speed in the finale. Charlotte led Lorena out from around 600 metres to go with no one coming around her, with Lorena then opening the taps to take the win with ease.
Our Giro d’Italia campaign ended on the weekend with Thymen taking fifth place from the breakaway on Saturday before all attention turned to the TT on Sunday. An almost identical route that the team had success with in 2019 where Chad Haga took the win, Thymen set out with a similar pacing plan to smash the opening section and the climb. Unfortunately, one rider would be faster at that point and that’s the way it would stay to the line; with Thymen claiming his second second-place of the race. Overall, the team can look back on a Giro that us take one stage win, three second places and a handful of other top tens; plus a spirited effort to bounce back and refocus after our main goal was taken away.
We hope you’ve enjoyed all of the racing and the first Grand Tour of the year? Next month sees us continue our stage racing block at races such as the Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse as we head into the next part of the season.
Until next time,