A fantastic weekend of racing from 18 year old Lizzie Armitstead has seen her reputation in European racing rapidly rise. Her Global Racing Team started the Omloop Borsele, a UCI 1.2 ranked race. Lining up again GRT was World Champion Marianne Vos of the Team DSB so the race was sure to be hard. To add to it, the very strong winds on the open course made it really tough for the 160 riders who took to the start.
From the gun the race was flat our and with the Dutch riders being specialists in these kind of races set about reducing the size of the field. However it wasn’t long until a break of 32 riders escaped the bunch including Lizzie and Nikki Harris from Global Racing Team.
On the third of the 5 laps, the breakaway group split when Marianne Vos put in an attack. Only 10 other riders managed to hold the pace and soon after that the group was down to just 9 rider. Lizzie Armistead was one of those 9 and was riding very strongly, helping the group to gain over 6 minutes on the main bunch. In the closing stages 4 riders managed to escape the group leaving Lizzie in a sprint for 5th place. Again world class sprinters like Kirsten Wild, it seem unlikely that the inexperienced Armitstead would be able to gain that place, but Lizzie powered pass all of her breakaway companions in the sprint and took 5th place.
With the confidence from this, Lizzie and team started Circuit Wallonne on Sunday in Fleurus, Belgium. The top ranked national event was run on a hilly course in the south of the country and also included the Wallonne Championships so was sure to be a fast race. At the end of the first long lap, Lizzie managed to make the crucial break again, and found herself away with 6 other riders who worked hard together and increased their lead to over a minute before the finish.
In the uphill finish, Lizzy powered away from the others. Lizzie dominated the sprint and took the win with both hands in the air. It was her first win in Europe on the road and backed up her superb win in the Cheshire Classic last week.
Lizzy now returns to the UK to continue her final college exams and will be focusing her efforts now on preparation from the National and European Championships in June and July.
These results are great morale boosters for the team ahead of the Tour de L’Aude, which starts on Thursday.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS