With all eyes on France, the women’s peloton toured the circuits around Galmaarden, Belgium, for the second road stage of the Lotto Belgium Tour.
Thursday’s 137.5km course featured cobblestones, steep climbs and rudimentary turns. After winning the opening prologue but losing her head after stage 1, Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) was hungry to get back her stage 2 jersey. The Dutchwoman looked the strongest of the day but the exemplary teamwork of Canyon-SRAM thwarted all the plans it had for victory.
It looked like the race was almost over when Van Dijk, Lotte Kopecky (Belgium) and Alice Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) took off with 62 km to go. Van Dijk was leading the charge and the four with Rotem Gafinovitz (Bingoal-Chevalmeire) who was already in front, worked well together. At least until Kopecky suffers from a downside at the back and is again forced to join the peloton.
With Gafinovitz abandoned and Kopecky gone, Van Dijk and Barnes kept their heads down. But without the other two, the momentum slowed. Barnes could barely pull it off and Van Dijk was frustrated. Van Dijk attacked, but Barnes let the Dutch runner down on a descent, apparently by accident. Soon after, Van Dijk’s gears seized up and she watched Barnes walk away, stuck in his larger gear.
Since Van Dijk was no longer in the lead, Trek-Segafredo rallied in pursuit of just one Barnes. Once they reached it, the board reset.
At 23 km from the end, Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM) followed the efforts of her teammate Barnes with one of her own. Then Hannah Ludwig (Canyon-SRAM) gave herself a try and spent some time on a solo mission on the front lines.
As soon as Ludwig was brought back in the last 15 kilometers, Van Dijk attacked again, taking Amialiusik, Lorena Wiebes (DSM) and Kopecky with her. They were joined by Lourdes Oyarbide (Movistar) and, with some cooperation, took a significant distance from the peloton.
Wiebes was the first in the top group to take a step, but with just 2 seconds separating the Dutchwoman from Van Dijk in the overall standings, she struggled to stay clear.
Amialiusik, who had no overall standings ambitions at this point, could sit back and relax. She had been able to rest while Barnes and Ludwig were both on the road, and she had once again enjoyed the wake.
Wiebes returned to the group 2.5 km from the finish and it was Amialiusik who reacted. The former Belarusian champion left and the others looked at each other. The hesitation was just enough and in the end, Amialiusik won the stage by 3 seconds. Wiebes was second in the sprint and Kopecky third.
This was Amialiusik’s first victory since winning both the ITT and the road race at the Belarusian National Championships in 2018. In the years between victories, Amialiusik suffered multiple injuries and a little bad luck. On top of that, she is an accomplished worker for other Canyon-SRAM riders.
But on Thursday, she had her chance, after the rest of her team opened the door for her, and she grabbed it with both hands.
Amialiusik’s victory is another step towards a more aggressive and winning Canyon-SRAM. The team has recruited young riders, strengthened its development side and is improving every year. Another fine example is Elise Chabbey’s victory in the Tour de Suisse.
On their way to the Giro Donne in early July, the team has a 10-day chance of winning more, and judging from recent performances, the team’s management have a lot to play for. If Canyon-SRAM wants to go for the general classification, they have the 2020 runner-up, Kasia Niewiadoma. If his stage wins, they have it after, the possibilities are endless.