The fifth edition of the Lotto Belgium Tour ended today with a stage in Geraardsbergen. Annemiek van Vleuten, who rode for the Dutch national team, soloed to the victory on the Vesten. She deprived Marianne Vos (RaboLiv) of the overall victory.

The first part of the 97.27 kilometres long stage was animated by Alexandra Nessmar of the Lares Waowdeals team. She attacked in the big loop of sixty kilometres and started the first ascent of the Muur as leader of the race. At that moment Dani Christmas (Isorex) had set up a counterattack. On the Muur the favourites came to the front, like Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High 5), Marianne Vos (RaboLiv) and Annemiek van Vleuten. A few kilometres further both Christmas and Nessmar got caught by a large group with among others Emma Johansson (Wiggle High 5), Elisa Longo Borghini, Lotte Kopecky (Lotto Soudal Ladies), Sofie De Vuyst (Lotto Soudal Ladies), Lisa Brennauer (CANYON SRAM), Lucinda Brand (RaboLiv), GC leader Marianne Vos (RaboLiv) and van Vleuten. This group of 31 riders rode towards the second ascent of the Muur together. On the climb Longo Borghini and van Vleuten left their companions behind. Afterwards van Vleuten went solo on the Bosberg. She gathered a lead of more than one minute. On the Vesten Marta Bastianelli (Alé Cipollini) sprinted to the second place, 1’04” after the finish of van Vleuten. Belgian champion Kaat Hannes got third.

cr6pliwwaaegnasAnnemiek van Vleuten was already the fastest in the prologue on Tuesday in Nieuwpoort. On GC she has 1’04” advantage on Marianne Vos and 1’10” on Lucinda Brand. A complete Dutch podium. Van Vleuten already won this race once, in 2014. This is a wonderful comeback after her crash in Rio.

Annemiek van Vleuten: “This week’s performance really came as a surprise. This is beyond all expectations. After my victory in the prologue the coach and I decided that I would spare myself on the next two stages so that I would still be fresh for this last stage. It was the plan that I would attack on the Bosberg, but I had never thought we would only be ahead with two riders. It was a great feeling to ride solo towards the finish. I really enjoyed the moment. If I could have picked a day to win this week, it would have been today. I love riding on this course and there is always a great atmosphere here in Geraardsbergnen.”

“It’s wonderful that I’m already so strong. The doctor told me it was pretty soon to start competing again but he said I could if I felt good. This performance really boosts my confidence. Monday I’m leaving for Sicily together with Marianne Vos for a training camp of two and a half weeks. In the meantime I will race Giro dell’Emilia and Gran Premio Bruno Beghelli on 24 and 25 September. That will be my preparation for the World Championships. I hope to be selected for the time trial, then that will be my main goal. I won’t take part in the European Championships next week. I thought I wouldn’t be fit enough, but it turns out I am. But I’m focussing on Qatar now, also in the road race we stand a chance with our team.”

Apart from the Lotto leader’s jersey five other jerseys were at stake as well. Lotte Kopecky conquered two: the one of best Belgian rider and the one of best young rider. Kopecky got fourth overall, at 1’16” of van Vleuten. Marianne Vos won the rushes and the points classification. Alexandra Nessmar gathered the necessary points for the mountains jersey today and she also got the prize of most combative rider of the day.


Lierde hosted the start and finish of the second stage of the Lotto Belgium Tour. For the third day in a row a Dutch rider triumphed. Marianne Vos (RaboLiv) beat Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle High 5) and Lotte Kopecky (Lotto Soudal Ladies). Vos is the new overall leader, she takes over the jersey from her teammate Lucinda Brand.

Today the first points for the mountains classification could be gained. After eight kilometres of racing Anisha Vekemans (Lotto Soudal Ladies) arrived first at the top of the Gapenberg, ahead of Giorgia Bronzini and Emma Johansson (Wiggle High 5). Normally there would have been a second GPM further down the route, but that one was cancelled due to a neutralisation of the race. Tomorrow five GPM’s are scheduled: one on the Berendries and two on the Muur and Bosberg.

Anisha Vekemans: “This morning we had decided to aim for the mountains jersey. Lotte Kopecky kept me out of the wind before the sprint and then Claudia Lichtenberg pulled for me. Unfortunately for me the second GPM was cancelled, because it had been a great opportunity to get a larger advantage with tomorrow’s stage in mind. Maybe I will choose to attack early on the stage tomorrow, before the race explodes. On the other hand I could follow riders like Annemiek van Vleuten (Dutch national team) and Marianne Vos when the pace was raised on the Eikenmolen in the last lap. It might be an option to wait for the finale tomorrow after all.”

Because the riders were close together on GC the bonus seconds were popular. The first intermediate sprint was scheduled after just over twenty kilometres at the Citroën garage De Geyndt in Ninove. GC leader Lucinda Brand picked up three bonus seconds, her teammate Marianne Vos two. Lotte Kopecky got one bonus second. Afterwards the race was neutralised for a while because there weren’t enough martials to secure the safety of the riders.

Once the race was back on, some riders tried to go clear of the peloton. Also Sara Penton (Lares Waowdeals) had a go. She was awarded the prize of most combative rider. A compact peloton headed towards the second passage at the finish. It was time for another Vondelmolen rush. Marianne Vos won that intermediate sprint, ahead of Lotte Kopecky and Lucinda Brand. The same riders as at the first rush, but in a different order. During the second lap of seventeen kilometres Sofie De Vuyst (Lotto Soudal Ladies) set up a solo attack, but she didn’t get much advantage. In the last lap about fifteen riders were part of a front group. GC leader Lucinda Brand was still in the bunch. This break didn’t stand long either though. Just like yesterday it became a sprint for the victory. Marianne Vos was the best this time.

‘Seems easier than it is’

Marianne Vos: “Yesterday Lucinda Brand did the sprint for our team, today it was my turn. We both could finish it off, but that seems easier than it is. At first, I thought I was too far behind, but I saw a small gap and could reach the wheel of Lucinda. She led me towards the train of CANYON SRAM and I could start sprinting from that position. The finish here in Lierde isn’t easy, the road goes uphill. I felt Giorgia Bronzini coming on the left side of the road, but I managed to stay ahead of her.”

“I already had won the intermediate sprint here at the finish, but that’s a totally different situation. At the rush the riders want to aim for the bonus seconds, when it’s a sprint for the stage win other teams are in the mix as well. But it felt good to win that intermediate sprint. With the team we controlled the race all day long, because Lucinda was GC leader and we hadmore riders at the top of the ranking. In the last lap a large front group was formed, which I was also part of. The problem was that there were too many good riers in it, so it was over quite soon.”

Can Marianne defend her leader’s jersey tomorrow? The first ten riders on GC are all within half a minute time. Of this ten three are part of the RaboLiv team: Marianne Vos, Lucinda Brand and Thalita de Jong. Brand is second at four seconds of her teammate, prologue winner Annemiek van Vleuten is third at ten seconds.

‘Anything is possible’

Marianne Vos: “Tomorrow anything is possible. The first ten riders on GC are all close together. With the team we are in a comfortable position, we have several options. We know each other well and we will feel what we need to do tomorrow during the stage. For sure we will need to be attentive and have to join crucial breakaways. Annemiek van Vleuten will be a dangerous opponent, just like Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High 5). The Lotto Soudal team is strong as well, so we can expect them too.”

Marianne Vos could step on the podium three times today, also to receive the Assumax points jersey. Lotte Kopecky had a successful day too. She is the best young rider, the best Belgian rider and she leads the rushes classification. Kopecky is fourth on GC at ten seconds of Vos.

Lotte Kopecky: “The rushes classification wasn’t a goal in itself, I wanted to gain bonus seconds. At the first rush RaboLiv set the pace, but I could still pick up one second. At the intermediate sprint here in Lierde I did one place better. At the end I sprinted to the third place. Elise Delzenne helped me to get in the right position. Tomorrow we go to Geraardsbergen. The Muur and Bosberg are two climbs that suit me. At the Boels Rental Ladies Tour last week I wasn’t feeling one hundred per cent, but this week I’m much better. I’ll see where that leads me tomorrow.”

Under a blue sky the riders covered the first stage of the Lotto Belgium Tour with start and finish in Moorslede. They first headed to Diksmuide and then turned back to Moorslede for six laps of nine kilometres. The stage ended with a sprint. Lucinda Brand (Rabo Liv) was the fastest of the pack. The Dutch rider is the new owner of the Lotto leader’s jersey, which she has taken over from her fellow countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten.

A compact peloton arrived at the Golden Rush in Diksmuide. Lotte Kopecky won this first intermediate sprint of the day. Afterwards the riders set course to the cobbles of the Steenstraat where the decisive break was formed last year. That didn’t happen today. A few kilometres further Alexis Ryan of CANYON SRAM attacked. She got a maximal advantage of about one and a half minutes. As leader in the race she was first at the second intermediate sprint, at the second passage at the finish. During the second lap Sara Penton, of Lares Waowdeals, joined her at the front. Penton was the fastest at the third and last intermediate sprint. It was Ryan, who collected the most points at the rushes during the entire stage, that could put on the Vondelmolen jersey afterwards. In the fourth lap five riders rode away from the bunch: Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High 5), Lotte Kopecky (Lotto Soudal Ladies), Valerie Demey (Topsport Vlaanderen – Etixx), Lisa Brennauer (CANYON SRAM) and Thalita de Jong (RaboLiv). Too dangerous, according to the peloton. Not long after the five had closed the gap on the two leaders the peloton caught them all.

Alexis Ryan not only received the jersey of the rushes classification at the end, but she also got the prize of most combative rider.

“I suffered for my teammates”

Alexis Ryan: “Just before I attacked, my teammate Hannah Barnes was riding in front, but she didn’t really get away. When she was about to get caught I though the moment had come for a counterattack. I felt sad that nobody joined me, but I just went ahead. In the local laps I heard that Sara Penton had jumped away from the peloton. I decided not to go full anymore so she could join me. Even though I had support now, I never believed we would make it to the end. When the counterattack of five was formed I knew it would soon be over. For our team it was good that I rode in front today, my teammates could just follow in the bunch. I suffered for them today (laughs). The prize of most combative rider of the day is a nice reward for my effort.”

In the last lap five riders rode in front for a short while: Emma Johansson (Wiggle High 5), Anisha Vekemans (Lotto Soudal Ladies), Charlotte Becker (Hitec Products), Lisa Kullmer (Germany) and Hannah Barnes (CANYON SRAM). They didn’t get sufficient space though, it became a sprint in the centre of Moorslede. Lucinda Brand won that sprint ahead of Barbara Guarischi (CANYON SRAM) and Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv). Brand is also the new GC leader. Annemiek van Vleuten (National team of the Netherlands) is second at two seconds, Marianne Vos is third at seven seconds.

Lucinda Brand - Lotto Belgium TourLucinda Brand: “This morning we had decided that I would sprint. It was important to stay at the front of the peloton on the local circuit, we were racing at a high speed. In the last lap I rode on the wheel of Barbara Guarischi. Her team pulled the peloton. Tiffany Cromwell, her teammate, was the first to enter the last corner. Then Barbara followed and then I. That was the perfect position to start the sprint.”

“During the stage we were very attentive. There was a part on the course where echelons could have been formed if the wind had come from the right direction, but that wasn’t the case. It was a good situation that Alexis Ryan rode alone in front, that was easy to control. In the finale Thalita de Jong was part of a counterattack. The composition of that break caused a reaction from other teams though.”

“I want to keep this jersey”

“Of course I want to keep this leader’s jersey. We’re all close together, so a lot can still happen. We have a strong team that’s true, but there are strong opponents as well. Tomorrow’s stage in Lierde shouldn’t be underestimated, but Friday will probably be the hardest day. I haven’t raced on the Muur since two years. I hope I can set a good performance there.”

Lucinda Brand also leads the points classification. Lotte Kopecky is still the best Belgian rider and she’s the best youngster as well now.

Lucinda Brand - Lotto Belgium Tour GC

The fifth edition of the Lotto Belgium Tour began today with a 4.3 kilometres long prologue in Nieuwpoort. The Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten rode her first race after a terrible crash in the Olympic road race and she immediately set a top performance. She won the prologue with a time of 5’24”, at an average speed of almost 49 kilometres an hour! Van Vleuten beat Thalita de Jong, another Dutch rider, by seven seconds. Lisa Brennauer got third at eight seconds.

CrrjsTuWAAACORKAnnemiek van Vleuten: “I hadn’t expected this at all. I only got back from Italy on Saturday. My mum had asked me to go on a holiday but I also trained there. The trip to Italy was also good mentally. I have left the Olympics behind me and set a new goal: the World Championships in Qatar. I trained in Italy, but I didn’t force myself because I had incurred a concussion and my back hasn’t totally healed yet, it still feels stiff. To win a prologue you don’t need to be in top shape though, it’s different when it’s a long time trial. Still, this victory came as a surprise.”

“In 2014 I won the overall classification of this race and also then I just got back from Italy. This stage win doesn’t change the expectations I had for this edition. I’ll see how it goes, day by day. The Dutch national team only counts four riders: Janneke Ensing, two young riders (Aafke Soet en Arianna Pruisscher) and me. I can’t expect the team to control the race and defend the jersey.”

“I’m very much looking forward to the stage in Geraardsbergen on Friday. In won the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2011, the last year the Muur was part of the route. I like to ride there. This four-day stage race really fits into my build-up to Qatar. I only will race in Italy afterwards. I need this Lotto Belgium Tour to get race rhythm. I hope it will be a hard race.”

Annemiek van Vleuten is of course the first overall leader. She also leads the Assumax points classification. Thalita de Jong (Rabo Liv) is the best young rider and will wear the Geka Kaas-jersey tomorrow. Lotte Kopecky was the best Belgian rider of the day and received a jersey sponsored by Sport Vlaanderen. She set the sixth time today. The rider of the Lotto Soudal Ladies team was ten seconds slower than van Vleuten.

You can find the start list of the Lotto Belgium Tour 2016 here.

You can check the start times for the prologue here.