During the prologue, over 2.4 kilometers, Lonneke Uneken took a fourth place which gave her the lead in the youth classification. In the second stage she unfortunately lost this jersey due to the game of the bonus seconds in the sprint of the peloton.
The third stage was a time trial over 17 kilometers in Gennep, Limburg. A moment for the classification riders to gain time on their competitors. Chantal Blaak managed to finish third behind Marlen Reusser and Ellen van Dijk in a time of 21:22. With this performance Blaak moved to third place in the general classification.
Stage four was a ride with mixed feelings for Team SD Worx. After a heavy crash at five kilometers from the finish, a group of six riders managed to stay ahead. This group included two riders from Team DSM and four riders on behalf of Team SD Worx: Chantal Blaak, Lonneke Uneken, Amy Pieters and Demi Vollering. Uneken won the sprint of this leading group and thus achieved her first World-Tour victory. Uneken is having a good season after having previously won stages in the Healthy Aeging Tour and Baloise Ladies Tour and had a strong performance at the European Track Cycling Championship.
Still, her first reaction after the finish was cautious. “I don’t really know what to say. I’m happy that I could finish it off like this, but I also know that there was such a big crash. I was shocked when I saw Elena and Christine so battered after the finish It was our plan to attack with 5 km to go, that’s why we were in front with so many of us. Suddenly there was a crash, it happened in a split second.”
Unfortunately, Elena Cecchini and Christine Majerus were also involved in the crash and had to give up. As a result, Team SD Worx had to continue the remaining two stages with only four riders.
The penultimate stage through the hills of South Limburg around Sweikhuizen was the most difficult stage. Chantal Blaak reacted well to a attack of Kasia Niewiadoma and Marinnae Vos. The trio worked well together, allowing Blaak to take over the leader’s jersey from Reusser.
“I was really looking forward to today. I love this kind of circumstances and glad it turned out in the right way. I wanted to show myself in the last 2 stages, because I feel pretty good at the moment. After the ITT, I moved up to a 3rd place in the GC. So this morning we said: Let’s joke the bonus seconds” said Blaak after the finish in Sweikhuizen.
In the last stage, Team SD Worx had to defend Blaak’s yellow leader’s jersey. On the hilly course around Arnhem, Team SD Worx increased the pace in the last six rounds. In the last tens of kilometers of the race it rained attacks from the peloton, but it came to a complete peloton at 3 kilometers before the finish. Marianne Vos won her third stage in the sprint. However, Blaak was able to defend her leader’s jersey without any problems and to win the Ladies Tour for the second time in her career after 2016.
“The last stage was very tough”, Blaak looked back after the ceremony. “It was a though lap and there were only four of us to control the race. The rain made it even more difficult. We had to go to the limit, but we succeeded in our mission. This is a cool win. This is a confirmation of my current form, on which I have been working hard over the past few weeks. Another important period is coming this autumn with the European Championships in Treviso, the World Cup in Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. This overall victory gives a lot of confidence to these matches. Although I also see this victory as a big one.”
Photo credits: Getty Sport