Lizzie Armitstead wins first race as world champion

Brit wins women's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in first race of 2016 season

Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) won her first race in the rainbow jersey of world champion, after soloing to victory at the women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Britain’s Armitstead was part of a two-rider break before forging clear on her own with some 10km still to race – admitting it was from further out than she planned.

But the move paid off with nobody able to reel her in, ensuring she starts the season as she ended the last one – on the top step of the podium.

Lizzie Armitstead won in her first race since becoming world champion last year (pic: Sirotti)

There had been no shortage of attacks as the climbs and cobbles arrived, with Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) among those to up the ante, and defending champion Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) trying to press home an advantage.

Boels-Dolmans had strength in numbers though, with British ‘cross champion Nikki Harris also among Armitstead’s team-mates in the vastly reduced bunch.

Armitstead lifted the pace herself with 20 kilometres remaining, but found herself clear of the front group in the process and just continued to stretch out the advantage.

Only Orica-AIS’ Gracie Elvin followed Armitstead’s move, but to the Brit’s frustration was happy to just sit on the wheel.

With a disjointed chase behind, and team-mate Chantal Blaak keeping an eye on proceedings in the bunch, the duo’s advantage had reached 45 seconds before Armitstead dropped the hammer again with ten kilometres remaining to go solo.

And after finishing third in the last two editions of the race, Armitstead ensured she would be the first Brit to win the race since the women’s event was first introduced in 2006 as she stayed comfortably clear of the bunch.

Team-mate Blaak took second, on a remarkable day for the team with fellow Boels-Dolmans rider Evelyn Stevens smashing the women’s UCI Hour Record in Colorado too.

For Armitstead, meanwhile, after questions over the ‘curse of the rainbow jersey’ – male counterpart Peter Sagan is still searching for his first win as world champion after coming second in the men’s Omloop – the Yorkshirewoman ensured a perfect start to a big Olympic year.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (women’s elite) – result

1) Lizzie Armitstead (GBR) – Boels-Dolmans – 3.23.05hrs
2) Chantal Blaak (NED) – Boels-Dolmans +29”
3) Tiffany Cromwell (AUS) – Canyon-SRAM – ST
4) Leah Kirchmann (CAN) – Liv-Plantur
5) Shelley Olds (USA) – Cylance Pro Cycling
6) Lucinda Brand (NED) – Rabo Liv Women
7) Chloe Hosking (AUS) – Wiggle-High5
8) Susanna Zorzi (ITA) – Lotto-Soudal Ladies
9) Carmen Small (USA) – Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling
10) Emma Johansson (SWE) – Wiggle-High5


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