At the first uphill finish of this year’s race, Team Sunweb’s Lucinda Brand finished in 9th place, with Ruth Winder now 2nd in the GC on 30 seconds.
It was another fast start to the stage, with plenty of attacks but all attempts neutralised in the early kilometres. Various groups enjoyed a brief advantage, but keen to keep things together until the final climb to the line, the bunch remained compacted for the majority of the stage.
After a fast run in to the climb, Team Sunweb started the ascent in prime position. As the bunch reduced the team still had Lucinda, Ruth and Leah in the select group of around 30 riders. Attacks on the climb saw a group of 16 go forward with Lucinda there for Team Sunweb. After a final push inside the final kilometre, one rider accelerated away with the group unable to follow. Lucinda held on inside the chasing group to finish in 9th place. Ruth now sits 2nd in the GC at 30 seconds, with Lucinda 4th at 44 seconds.
Lucinda said: “The first part today was hectic and together with the girls I focused on staying safe at the front. Getting to the bottom of the climb the girls were around me all of the time, and then Ellen did a perfect lead-out into the climb so I didn’t have to use any energy. Leah kept me out of the wind on the first part of the hill, where the pace was really high. I knew the climb and I could stay in the group as it became more selective which was good. I tried to attack with Annemiek didn’t let me go. Into the final five kilometres, Annemiek attacked and I just couldn’t keep that speed for long enough. I needed a moment to find my rhythm and could come back. At that point we needed to sprint for 2nd, I had a good position but an uphill sprint was just too much for me today. I’m very satisfied about my performance. It’s all new for me to go uphill with the best and the girls helped me really well, getting me as fresh as possible into the final.”
Team Sunweb coach Hans Timmermans said: “The stage started quite nervously, with a lot of roundabouts and some uphill sections. As the stage progressed it eased down.
Our lead-out before the climb was good and I think we also did a good climb. Lucinda was still in the group of favourites and Ruth did drop but didn’t really lose a lot of time. Now we have ruth (2nd) and Lucinda (4th) and we can be happy about that after the first mountain top finish.”