At the end of a very hard day of racing, the peloton at the Tour de Romandie was reduced enough that it wasn’t a traditional bunch sprint for the win, but there were still some very fast women represented. Jumbo-Visma had been working all day for Fem van Empel, their young Dutch cyclocross rider fresh off a stage win at the Tour de l’Avenir, but it was German national champion Liane Lippert (Movistar) who ended up winning the final stage.
No teams, besides SD Worx, had the numbers for a full lead-out at the end of stage 3. Though Van Empel did have a teammate in the group, she didn’t have anyone in front of her in the closing meters, while Lippert’s Colombian teammate Paula Patiño was in position to prevent any more Canyon-SRAM attacks before the line.
Once Patiño peeled off the front, Van Empel saw her chance and went, but it was too soon, 300 or so meters to the line.
Van Empel wasn’t wrong, per se; if you’re on the front on a twisting road like the riders faced in Nyon, you can pick your line and you don’t have to navigate around anyone as the peloton moves through the turns like Lippert had to do.
It’s worth mentioning Van Empel’s teammate in the group was the 19-year-old Rosita Reijnhout, and there’s no telling how much work the Dutchwoman did before the sprint to make sure the group came to the line as one. So, despite being in the bunch behind Van Empel she couldn’t have done much in the sprint, except perhaps positioning but again, 19. This is a rider gaining not making use of a wealth of experience.
One could say that Van Empel went long, not early. She chose to do so, and it wasn’t a bad call. What Lippert did right was surf the wheels until she had a clear line and then opened her sprint.
At one point Lippert’s line was obstructed by Marlen Reusser, who would end up finishing fourth. Lippert had to stop pedalling to move around the Swiss national champion so she was on the left side instead of the right. Had she gone to the right her road ahead wouldn’t have been as clear, on the left she had a straight shot to the line.
Make no mistake, Van Empel’s first big win is coming, but on Sunday she was outsmarted and out-powered by one of the best in the peloton. Lippert was patient, she waited and corrected when she needed to, and in the end, it was a balance of speed and smarts that won the day. Her confidence after the stage radiated through the television, a sign of many more victories to come.
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