Sunday 24 March 2013

EPZ Omloop van Borsele 2013

20.04.2013 Official site
Netherlands, One-day Road Race, 120km
UCI 1.2

Large-scale map - click to enlarge
The Omloop van Borsele is the final event in one of those wonderful cycling festivals that take place in the Netherlands and Belgium - there is also a three-stage race for Junior women (time trial stage on Friday, stages 2 and 3 on Saturday and Sunday), a time trial for Elite women on Friday, time trials for Junior men and Promises on Saturday and a Junior men's race on Sunday.

Zeeland, in the far south of the Netherlands, consists largely of islands, many of them reclaimed from the sea; many points lie below sea level and the region is extremely flat. The parcours is also famous for the narrowness of the roads with at approximately half of the route being only wide enough for a single car which, combined with the winds that roar in from the North Sea, tends to keep the pack together and prevent the use of clever tactics - it's no surprise, then, that the Omloop has been dominated by sprinters with Kirsten Wild (racing with Argos-Shimano this year; 114) holding the record of four victories, won consecutively between 2008 and 2011.

The Race

With 2012 winner Ellen van Dijk away due to illness, Wild was a popular favourite this year - a string of sprint victories so far this season has proved that she has lost none of her skill. However, a crash shortly after the race got underway  in 's-Heerenhoek caused her to lose significant time; Orica-AIS rider Sungeun Gu also fell and had to leave the race (her team mates Annette Edmondsen and Gracie Elvin went down in the same spot later on; fortunately none received serious injury). The route, passing through typically flat Dutch countryside that leaves the riders at the mercy of the powerful winds that blow in off the North Sea at this time of year, is 24.311km from start to finish; riders needed to complete five laps to finish.

Kuipersdijk is wide, flat and smooth and encouraged a fast start as the riders headed south out of town, but there were plenty of technical sections to keep the riders paying attention: at Westeindsedijk, only 3km from the start, the road narrowed on a very tight turn and many of the riders found themselves suddenly at the back of the peloton as it poured itself into the limited space. A little further on on the Bandijk road, a nasty pavé-like rumblestrip running either side of the asphalt slowed down those riders who got forced onto it as they rounded the corner. A right followed immediately after, taking the race onto the Hooglandesdijk (with more rough verges) heading south-east again for 1.6km and a left onto Weldijk, soon passing through the tiny village Koekoek ("Cuckoo"), by which time a combination of parcours and the expected strong wind had split the pack into several smaller groups.

Kruiningenpolderweg is almost perfectly straight, another fast section where pressure could be put on rivals; it saw its fair share of tactical moves as the riders used it to test one another's strength. A few kilometres beyond Nisse, near a small lake called Schouwersweel on the left, the riders turned right and continued west on Nieuwekamerseweg, a narrower road that becomes Oudekamersedijk until reaching a fork where they kept right to follow Oude Zandijk north for 1.8km until arriving at a tight left onto Boomdijk, marking a point 20.121km from the start. Boomdijk is very narrow; with only 4km from here to the finish on the last lap, it left little room for chasers to get out of the peloton to bring back escapees - with her experienced eye, Vera Koedooder of the Sengers team knew it was the place to launch an attack and did so in the third lap with some 50km to go. With her went Loes Gunnewijk (Orica-AIS), Nina Kessler (Boels-Dolmans), Okzana Kozonchuk (RusVelo), Lucinda Brand (Rabobank) and Chloe Hosking, who seems to be determined to please team sponsors by getting her Hitec Products-UCK jersey into as many breaks and onto as many podiums as possible this year. The six stayed together as the race headed first west, then bent north for a short while and negotiented a pair of right-hand bends to get onto Oudelandseweg.

When Koedooder launched a second attack, only
Loes Gunnewijk was able to respond
0.6km further on, the riders arrived at a junction with the Heinkenszandseweg, the widest and most important road the race has seen for some time. Turning left led west and the road ran straight for 2.4km with plenty of width for the peloton to get into pursuit mode, stepping up the pace in the knowledge that they'd expend less energy than the six leaders. In the end, though, it was Koedooder that smashed the lead group apart: with 20km to go, she attacked so hard that only Gunnewijk was able to follow. The race was, against all expectations, going to end with a one-on-one sprint on the last 750m along the straight road to the finish line. Without Wild, who frequently seems utterly unbeatable in a finish such as this one, around to dominate proceedings this situation suited Koedooder perfectly - she powered up to full speed and simply kept going to her fourth win of the season so far, leaving Gunnewijk simply unable to find the little extra she'd have needed to get past. Lucinda Brand, who had led the chase group, took third place at +27" and Chloe Hosking was fourth at +53".

Kirsten Wild, the Argos-Shimano sprinter who crashed early on in the race, would eventually finish in 20th place 10'23" after Koedooder. Subsequent investigation revealed that she'd broken her shoulder - and anybody who has suffered a similar injury, as I have, will be thinking "Chapeau!" in wonderment that she could even get back on her bike, never mind finish the race. She'll now be forced to miss the upcoming Tour of Chongming Island, a race that would have suited her very well; get well soon Kirsten.

2013 victor Vera Koedooder
Top Ten
1 Vera KOEDOODER (Sengers) 3h05'56"
3 Lucinda BRAND (Rabobank) +27"
4 Chloe HOSKING (Hitec Products-UCK) +53"
5 Nina KESSLER (Boels-Dolmans) +1'05"
6 Oksana KOZONCHUK (RusVelo) +2'16"
7 Amanda SPRATT, Amanda (Orica-AIS) +2'32"
8 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Rabobank) +2'48"
9 Adrie VISSER(Boels-Dolmans) ST
10 Ilona HOEKSMA (Parkhotel Valkenberg) ST
Full result here

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