Everyone expected the Dutch to be in charge of the European Championship road race on Saturday, but not everyone expected that it would be the 23-year-old domestique Mischa Bredewold who would steal the title ahead of defending champion Lorena Wiebes and world champion Lotte Kopecky.
Before the race, Tour de France Femmes winner Demi Vollering said the team had “many cards to play”. She could have also said the sky is blue (or I guess grey, as it’s the Netherlands in late September). Two of the main cards she was talking about were herself, for any select moves or even solo, or Wiebes if it came down to literally any finish. Wiebes has been nearly impossible to beat this season, helped by the fact that she is on SD Worx, the best team currently in the business.
Bredewold, also an SD Worx rider, was set to work for those on her squad with higher chances of winning. She could be seen early in the race on the front, chasing moves and even attacking. She worked with Loes Adegeest (trade team: FDJ-Suez) to bring back some of the more dangerous moves of the day while Wiebes (and Vollering for a while) got a free ride.
Whenever someone not wearing the whiteish-orange of the Netherlands tried to get away, the Dutch were right on it, bringing back every move especially those instigated by Switzerland’s Marlen Reusser. Normally teammates of Wiebes, Bredewold and Vollering, Reusser was put in the interesting position of having to outsmart and outpower the women she knows best.
“It was shit to fight against SD Worx this time,” Reusser joked at the finish. “The Dutchies were better in numbers, Mischa goes, no one reacts. But if you react you have two Dutchies in the wheel.
“That was something we knew could happen and it happened. At one point I thought we, the other teams, should play better together, but it’s really difficult.”
Reusser was perhaps the most active rider in the race and worked to bring back a few moves of her own. The only respite she had was when her countrywoman Elise Chabbey was up the road with Italy’s Soraya Paladin and Serbia’s Jelena Eric. But that move didn’t last long, and when Reusser wasn’t on the attack, she was working. After the race she said she had hoped the rest of the peloton would gang up on the Dutch, knowing they had the numbers, options and depth other nations do not – though it would make sense if others were hesitant to make an alliance with Team Switzerland…
“If we [were to] let go of another nation, every time the Dutchies have to chase, then another nation goes then I think we can play a bit, but…,” Reusser hypothesized, rolling her eyes.
Reusser tried to have her fun though, and when the Swiss powerhouse and Vollering, normally on the same side, began attacking each other, viewers were treated to one of the highlights of the day.
After a particularly aggressive bit of racing by Reusser, the move that eventually stole the show was by 23-year-old Bredewold, who slipped away with a little under 11 km to go. The winner of GP de Plouay Classic Lorient Agglomération just more or less slithered through the remains of the peloton and set off on her own in search of glory. It wasn’t the plan, but boy was it a good move.
“It was actually not the plan to attack in the last lap, but we were in attack mode, and then I saw the moment,” Bredewold explained at the finish. “The moment I went, I thought, ‘Wait this was not the plan’, but then I made the switch, I thought I’d keep pushing as long as I can and if they have to chase from behind it’s good for Lorena and Demi.”
It was ideal timing for such a move. Everyone was looking at Vollering and Wiebes, everyone had just chased down Reusser, no one was expecting a move from another Dutch rider, let alone Bredewold, plus she had the kick to make it count. Everything came together perfectly and was compounded by the fact the group she had just been a part of did nothing to react. They simply looked at each other.
What followed was a very confusing flurry of movement; there were attacks from other (underdog) nations and some halfhearted chasing. At one point it looked like Reusser, Vollering and Emma Norsgaard of Denmark were going to try to bridge to Bredewold. But the time to the lone leader really started to plummet when Vollering herself set a blistering speed up the final ascent of the Col du VAM. This spurred an attack by Vollering’s main rival/sometimes teammate Kopecky, and Wiebes followed. Had Bredewold not started to believe she could win this thing and gone all in, it may have been back-to-back titles for Wiebes, but the young Dutchwoman had enough of a gap to hold it to the line.
The day ended just as everyone expected it would, with a Dutch victory, but perhaps one people can be really excited about. Once again the Dutch proved the best nation of the lot, but once again cracks could be seen in the plan. Bredewold was the strongest and smartest on the day, taking advantage of a lull and the now-familiar ‘group two syndrome’ and maybe, just maybe, we will see Reusser’s dreams come true in the next race and the Dutch will have to take down an entire peloton united against them.
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