It has been since 2016 that Gent-Wevelgem did not end in a sprint for women. That year Chantal van de Broek-Blaak won. The Dutch former world champion was also one of the first to go on the attack. Earlier, Lotte Kopecky had already set up a breakaway before the first passage of the Kemmelberg. “Unfortunately they didn’t go full speed ahead. The other team captains were in the peloton. When the group with Marlen Reusser was able to join, the rest were not far behind and the attempt came to nothing,” said Kopecky.
Team SD Worx kept trying and eventually found themselves with all six riders in the first peloton. Lonneken Uneken, Elena Cecchini, Christine Majerus, again Chantal Van De Broek-Blaak and Marlen Reusser took turns to attack, but were hardly given any space. Sports Director Lars Boom: “We could try to make the race as selective and hard as possible or we could just ride to the finish and sprint. We chose the first. The hill zone is 30 kilometres from the finish. That makes it difficult to create a group with strong riders that want to ride full speed towards the finish line. In the sprint, Elisa Balsamo is simply the fastest at the moment.”
Marlen Reusser pulled the sprint ahead of Lotte Kopecky. The Swiss champion thought she had started too early, but Kopecky thought otherwise. “I don’t blame Marlen. I actually wanted to come from Balsamo’s wheel, but I couldn’t find her. So I was a bit too far back. Suddenly I saw my teammates. They brought me back to the front and set up a lead-out. I started the sprint myself, which was not according to our original plan. I came into the wind a little too early because of that. In the end, I just missed that little bit of speed to really have a shot at the win.”
Sports Director Lars Boom: “At the moment, Elisa Balsamo is simply the fastest in the women’s peloton in the tougher races. This race shows me that the group is ready for the Tour of Flanders and the subsequent classics. The Ronde is a very tough race. The course is more selective and with Demi Vollering we have an extra card to play. We will be able to play off the strength of our team even better to make the Ronde as tough as possible.”