Eleonora Gasparrini has taken her first UCI win of the 2022 season at the MerXem Classic in Belgium. Held as a women’s version of the notorious Schaal Sels race, it saw riders take on 114 kilometres around the Merksem district of Antwerp. The race ended up in a bunch sprint with Gasparrini the fastest, ahead of Megan Jastrab and Silvia Persico.
This year’s race saw 10 laps of 11.8km each of a mainly flat course. The Theunisbrug formed a small rise but ultimately, is only a bridge. Then there were also the cobbled sections of Frans Adriaenssenstraat and Akkerbouwstreet. However, the bunch stayed mostly together for the majority of the race. The only break of note came from Elise Uijen, Annemarie Worst and Silvia Persico. Lena Reissner also joined them briefly but she was dropped quickly from the front group. Left as a trio, they got a maximum of 33 seconds before Human Powered Health put in a lot of work on the front of the bunch to close it down. They were caught just outside 1 lap to go and once they were caught it felt certain we would see a sprint.
In what was a close finish, Gasparrini was just ahead of Jastrab, who is being blooded with more opportunities now that Wiebes is leaving Team DSM. The young American was already 2nd on a Tour of Scandinavia stage and is pushing for that first pro road victory. 3rd was Gasparrini’s lead out, the ever impressive Silvia Persico. Julie de Wilde, who Jastrab beat to the World Junior title in 2019 was 4th, just a few days after her first UCI win at Konvert Kortrijk Koerse. 5th was last year’s Junior Worlds runner-up Kaia Schmid, who took the first individual top-5 result of her pro career. With Skylar Schneider in 6th, there were 3 Americans in the top 6 at the MerXem Classic.