Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling's Mayuko Hagiwara took her second podium finish in as many days in Sundays Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik, despite travelling several hundred kilometres after yesterday's race in Plumelec. The Japanese Champion managed to bridge across to a late break from Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) and Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) but was unable to compete with the two faster sprinters on the slightly uphill finish.
"I wanted to try some attacks before we were caught by the peloton, so I tried one or two times," Hagiwara said. "In the final kilometre there were the three of us; if I wait behind them I will be third, so I tried to do something. It was very hard, but I attacked in the final kilometre, and I was caught at maybe 300 metres; the two riders went for it, and Gracie Elvin won."
The 136.8km race, run in typical Belgian Spring Classic weather, saw the peloton stay largely together for its opening two loops around Gooik. As it hit the hilly mid-section, based on the climbs of Geraardsbergen's iconic Muur-Kapelmuur, Bosberg, Congoberg and Bergstraat in Oetingen, however, breaks began to form.
The first break involved Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling's Tour of Flanders winner Elisa Longo Borghini escape over the Muur with Swedish Champion Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS). The two were joined by Elvin, van Dijk and Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) and Italian Champion Elena Cecchini (Lotto-Soudal). This group was able to stay clear for very over the hill zone, but was joined by 17 more riders as it began the three 10km finishing laps around Gooik.
"Today the race everyone was always to the front, and also Elisa tried many attacks and breakaways," said Hagiwara. "In the end some groups were together, and Gio [Bronzini] told me I have to follow the wheel of van Dijk, because she is always attacking."
Longo Borghini escaped with Johansson for a second time, joined by Katia Niewiadoma, but the trio was caught by the rest of the group as it began the second lap. Elvin then escaped with van Dijk, with Hagiwara in pursuit, and the Japanese Champion managed to join the two time trial specialists as shortly after they took the bell.
"In the end Gracie Elvin attacked, and also van Dijk was going," Hagiwara explained. "I was able to follow van Dijk, but I was dropped on the cobbled section, so there was two in the front, and me, and then the bunch. It was not a good situation, but I kept going and I could catch the riders, but I'm not a sprinter. I could breakaway, or I could wait, because we had a strong sprinter in the bunch.
"It's not so good that I am always third, but it not so easy for me to win," she smiled modestly. "But I try to be third, then second, and then first! We are a strong team, and lots of riders are able to win, so to be third is not so good, but I am developing!"
1. Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS)
2. Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans)
3. Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
Courtois Straight Through to the Semis
– Pauline Courtois leads after first day