Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling's Jolien D'hoore and Giorgia Bronzini finished an incredible first and second in the Crescent World Cup Vårgårda Road Race, in Vårgårda, Sweden, in a sprint at the head of a much-reduced peloton. World Time Trial Champion Lisa Brennauer (Velocio-SRAM) was third. The victory was D'hoore's second in the 2015 World Cup series, after the Ronde van Drenthe in March, giving the Belgian Champion the overall lead in the season-long competition.
"It's amazing. I really didn't expect to win," D'hoore said afterwards. "I didn't expect it to be a sprint actually, so I'm pretty happy!
"There were the first two girls of Rabobank, before the last corner, and then three girls of Velocio," the Belgian Champion explained. "So I knew that I had to pass the lead out of Velocio before the corner or we are too late, so that's what I did. I came into the last corner in third position, so that was perfect, but I didn't know Giorgia was in my wheel!
"Crossing the finish line I looked behind and I saw Giorgia, so it was really cool!
"We were one-two in Flanders, and now one-two here, so it's pretty amazing!"
The attritional 133.5km race, differing from previous years, was made up of a 56.5km loop around the Swedish countryside, followed by seven laps of the usual 11km finishing circuit. Despite several attempts - usually from single riders - the only successful escape came from Elena Berlato (Alé-Cipollini), who was allowed to gain just over a minute on the peloton before being brought back shortly after crossing the finish line for the first time.
The finishing circuits then saw plenty of attempted breakaways, but the effect was to see more riders dropped off the back of the peloton; shrinking it to less than fifty riders as the race entered its closing stages. Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling's Dani King and Emilia Fahlin were a constant presence at the front of the bunch, helping to prevent any of the constant stream of attacks from getting away.
"I think in the past it was raining all the time, and today was sunny, so maybe that played a role in it as well," D'hoore said. "I had a feeling that a few girls were afraid to attack. There a few attacks on the hill, but nothing really serious, there was just a hard pace. A few girls were dropped, but I felt really good, and comfortable in the first part of the bunch, so I could still hang on and I still had the legs for a sprint.
"It's a course that's always up and down, so you have to stay focused the whole race. It was just a matter of saving as much energy as I could for the last lap because I was expecting an attack of Anna van der Breggen [Rabo-Liv], or Lizzie Armitstead [Boels-Dolmans], or someone like that.
"There was an attack, but nothing serious - or that's what I saw. I felt really good in the final as well."
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling's Elisa Longo Borghini got clear with a small break on the final time up the climb and, as the group reformed, D'hoore and Bronzini were able to comfortably make it into the leading group. Many of the other sprinters were forced to try and chase back up to the group on the fast descent back into Vårgårda. Longo Borghini was again among those keeping the speed high at the front, to ensure that the damage she'd done on the climb paid off.
D'hoore was comfortably nestled in third wheel as the bunch took the final corner with 400 metres to go. The Belgian Champion then opened up her sprint, and only Bronzini and Brennauer were able to follow.
"We had a plan before the race, and everything went perfectly for us," D'hoore said. "[Giorgia and I] were talking in the second-last lap, and she said 'you can do your own sprint, and I will be in your wheel. If you slow down I will take over, but you can do your own sprint.' So that's what I did: I went from 200 metres, full gas, but really I didn't know Giorgia was behind me; I didn't look behind me.
"Apparently I didn't slow down so much!" she laughed.
D'hoore's victory is the fourth in the World Cup for Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling this season, following her Drenthe victory, Longo Borghini's in the Tour of Flanders and Bronzini's in the Tour of Chongming Island. It is also second one-two for the black and orange team, after D'hoore took second behind Longo Borghini in Flanders.
The Belgian Champion now has a total of 391 points with one race to go, six points ahead of Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv). Longo Borghini sits in fourth place, on 320 points, ahead of next week's GP Plouay-Bretagne.
"The plan was not to do Plouay, I just want to have a proper training next week for the World Championships," said D'hoore. "But [Directeur Sportif Egon van Kessel] said to me 'you've got three days to think about it,' so it's not 100% sure yet. But there's a big chance I'm not doing Plouay.
"I think we have a big chance with Elisa next week and, if she wins Plouay, she can take the leader's jersey. It's not up to me."
1. Jolien D'hoore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
2. Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
3. Lisa Brennauer (Velocio-SRAM)
photos Janos Schmidt