Lizzie Armitstead wins Women's Tour of Flanders

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Lizzie Armitstead wins Women’s Tour of Flanders

World champion checks off season's first major goal with narrow sprint victory

World champion Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) outsprinted Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5) to win the women’s Tour of Flanders for the first time.

Having enjoyed a fine start to the season in the rainbow jersey, Armitstead had earmarked the Tour of Flanders as one of her major objectives for the season and beat the Swede by the smallest of margins.

Johansson had instigated the race-winning move, attacking over the top of Oude Kwaremont and towards the Paterberg, and Armitstead was the only rider able to hold her wheel.

It was Armitstead who did the lion’s share of the pulling, but both riders ensured they maintained their small advantage over the chasing pack, and the Yorkshirewoman had just enough left in the tank to take victory.

A fast start to the race ensured attacks were short-lived, but cyclocross world champion Thalita de Jong (Rabo-Liv) did earn a gap on the cobbles and stayed out on her own until the Kaperij.

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Boels-Dolmans did the chasing, with Armitstead protected by team-mate Christine Majerus before another team-mate, Megan Guarnier, upped the ante on the Kruisberg.

Just 20 riders remained in the front group as they approached Oude Kwaremont, and Ellen van Dijk seized the advantage to continue Boels-Dolmans furious pace-setting and whittle the front group down.

Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) attacked, and Armitstead, Johansson and Rabo-Liv’s Pauline Ferrand-Prevot followed to form a four-strong leading group.

That wasn’t to last long though, before Johansson’s dig on the Kwaremont – marked by Armitstead – saw the two forge clear.

The Brit pulled hard until the Paterberg, but Johansson could not be shaken off on the race’s final climb, as they held an 18-second advantage overall.

Johansson sensed the opportunity to stay clear – and with Boels-Dolmans well-represented in the chasing group, the need to as well – and the two continued to pull together until they hit the flamme rouge.

Still ten seconds clear of the chasing group, there was time for the two to play the tactical game with Armitstead on the front but happy to wait for the Swede to open up the sprint.

And when the Wiggle-High5 rider kicked, Armitstead matched the move as the two sprinted side-by-side – separated at the finish line only by the world champion’s bike throw.

It means Boels-Dolmans, for whom Chantal Blaak finished third, two seconds later, remain unbeaten in the UCI Women’s WorldTour series in 2016 – Armitstead having won three races, and Blaak two.

Women’s Tour of Flanders 2016: result

1) Lizzie Armitstead (GBR) – Boels-Dolmans – 3.43.27hrs
2) Emma Johansson (SWE) – Wiggle-High5 – ST
3) Chantal Blaak (NED) – Boels-Dolmans +2”
4) Megan Guarnier (USA) – Boels-Dolmans – ST
5) Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA) – Wiggle-High5
6) Ellen van Dijk (NED) – Boels-Dolmans
7) Annemiek van Vleuten (NED) – Orica-AIS
8) Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (FRA) – Rabo-Liv
9) Claudia Lichtenberg (GER) – Lotto-Soudal Ladies
10) Katarzyna Niewiadoma (POL) – Rabo-Liv +8”

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