33-year-old Dutch rider Annemiek Van Vleuten had an incredible ride this evening to take victory in the Festival Elsy Jacobs 2.8kilometre prologue.
Having consistently placed in the top ten throughout the spring classic races, the former Tour of Flanders winner was finally able to take a well deserved victory ahead of many other big name riders.
“It’s a bit of a relief actually, I was really focused for this one,” explained Van Vleuten after her win. “I’m really happy to finish it off.”
“I saw it was a super technical course, it had a bit of everything. It was not an easy one to win and I actually thought it would be more of a sprinters course, with nine corners in 2.8kilometres you have to sprint hard out of every corner.”
Having previously won the prologue at this event back in 2012 and 2013, Van Vleuten headed into this evening’s race as one of the favourites and successfully lived up to expectation.
“This is my third time winning the prologue here,” continued Van Vleuten. “We did a recon yesterday so I was really well prepared and I think that really helped on this kind of course. It’s really nice to come back here and get another win.”
“Going into the next two stages we are in a really good position and with a strong team we can play the game a little bit. It’s my last race of this spring period so I will do everything I can to hold onto the jersey.”
Adding to ORICA-AIS’ joy, Australian time trial champion Katrin Garfoot also had a solid performance to finish in fourth place, just one second shy of the podium.
Sport director Gene Bates was delighted with the team’s results after being close to victory on numerous occasions this season.
“That was really awesome, both Annemiek and Katrin rode exceptionally tonight,” Bates said. “We really wanted to get a big result this weekend to wrap up this first part of the season, so it’s definitely a good way to start.”
“Everyone in the team is so happy and really pleased. We did a lot of work yesterday looking at the course and making sure the girls were super confident as it was really quite technical. I think doing that really helped and it gave Annemiek extra confidence.”
How it happened:
Unlike previous editions of the race, dry conditions marked the opening of the 2016 Festival Elsy Jacobs weekend.
A short, sharp evening prologue kicked off proceedings on a challenging course which included a 14% climb at the start, followed by a technical decent and numerous corners scattered throughout the 2.8kilometre route.
American rider Tayler Wiles started early and set a solid time of four minutes ten seconds. Soon after, Australian teammate Lizzie Williams blasted around the course a couple of seconds faster in a time of four minutes eight seconds.
As more and more riders finished the times began to plummet, gradually getting closer to the four minute mark. It was Ellen Van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) who set the fastest time of four minutes and claimed the hot seat for the majority of the event.
The last phase of riders came through all setting very competitive times closing in on Van Dijk’s time. However it seemed that no one could quite knock her off the top spot.
Van Vleuten stopped the clock in a blistering time of three minutes 55seconds. A full five seconds ahead of Van Dijk with Marianna Vos (Rabo-Liv) the only other rider to get closer to the race winning time.
Van Vleuten will try to defend the leader’s jersey during tomorrow’s 106kilometre lumpy road stage.
Elsy Jacobs Prologue results:
1. Annemiek Van Vleuten (ORICA-AIS) 3:55
2. Marianna Vos (Rabo-Liv) +0:04
3. Ellen Van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) +0:05
4. Katrin Garfoot (ORICA-AIS) +0:06