The inaugural stage of the U23 version of the Watersley Women’s Challenge Nations Cup witnessed the spectacular victory of Lieke Nooijen. The young Dutch rider was the fastest around the course at the Tom Dumoulin Bikepark in Maastricht. It also saw Poland’s Dominika Włodarczyk, another pre-race favourite, finishing 2nd among the U23 participants, conceding the top spot only to the aforementioned Nooijen. Wilma Aintila of Finland finished 3rd for Finland just 5 seconds back.
Yet, the standout performance in this Dutch challenge came from U19 rider Federica Venturelli, who, despite competing in the Watersley Challenge Juniors (the U19 race rather than the U23 race) over the same course, bested even Nooijen’s time. Venturelli achieved a confident victory, completing the course in 3 minutes and 40 seconds.
The three-day event, Watersley Challenge, held in Sittard, Netherlands, and it commenced with a 2.8-kilometre prologue. Beginning with the younger cyclists, those born in 2005 and 2006, 23 national teams and squads took on the challenge. Venturelli, representing Italy, stole the show. Following her were two Brits, Carys Lloyd and Cat Ferguson. The latter finished 2nd in the World Championships junior race back in Glasgow.
The older U23 competitors set out later, with 14 national teams and clubs taking part. Nooijen, representing Parkhotel Valkenburg, set a remarkable time of 3:43. Trailing her by just three seconds was Dominika Włodarczyk. The Polish contender will undoubtedly vie for the leader’s position in the upcoming two stages, particularly in light of the European Championships that kick off on Wednesday. Both riders have taken wins at the UCI level this season already. Nooijen at the catchily named 2 Districtenpijl – Ekeren-Deurne and Wlodarczyk at Tour de Feminin and Gracia Orlova.
Watersley Women’s Challenge Stage 1 result
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Main photo credit: Bjorn van der Schoot