DUYCK TAKES TOP TEN IN LUXEMBOURG
Celebrating it’s 30th edition this year, Emakumeen Euskal Bira is a five day stage race in the Basque Country. Drops’ team line up for the tough race which arguably gives some of the best racing of the year, consisted of Ann-Sophie, Laura, Rose, Abi and Susy.
Stage one saw a 50km stage made up of three different laps around the start/finish area in Luretta. Designed to create small gaps with some short, sharp hills, reminiscent of the Flemish races, the stage didn’t disappoint with a group of 48 contesting a sprint, won by the Italian Marta Bastianelli of Ale-Cippolini. Good teamwork from Drops saw the team place Ann-Sophie Duyck, Susy Zorzi and Rose Osborne in this group with Laura Massey leading home the second group of riders at 1:04.
The second stage was a 96km loop with two long climbs in the middle portion, however, the long run to the finish of 30km after the second climb ensured these were unlikely to be decisive. In the event, dreadful weather ensured the field did splinter on the climbs and descents but the gaps at the finish were not enormous. Orica’s Amanda Spratt took the win in a two-up sprint with 50 riders finishing within 30s of her. Abi van Twisk took an excellent 9th. Ann- Sophie (wearing the points jersey), Susy and Laura all finished together at 31s.
Stage three again featured two tough climbs in the middle portion of the parcours and again saw a selective race with Orica again taking the win. This time it was Katrin Garfoot who soloed home 34s ahead of a select group of twenty one riders including Ann-Sophie Duyck in 7th and Susy Zorzi in 8th. With Drops now climbing the overall rankings the pressure was on the team to continue their great form in Stage Four which ended on the 1232m San Miguel de Aralar and gained a total of 700m in its 59km. This would be the decisive stage for the GC battle and such was the strength of the Orica team of race leader Garfoot that teammate Annemiek van Vleuten was able to jump away and take the stage win and move to second on GC.
Excellent team riding from Rose, Laura and Abi saw Ann-Sophie lose just 26s to the stage winner in 11th and Susy less than a minute in sixteenth. Laura was able to parlay her assistance into a 21st place 1:44 down on van Vleuten. The final stage was no procession with the steep slopes of the Alto de Jaizkibel providing the final test of the Tour with just 10km of downhill racing left after it’s summit in the 94km race. Drops had everything to play for going into the stage with Ann-Sophie and Susy chasing the top ten on GC and a top five spot in the team rankings up for grabs. It was Ashley Moolman, the South African riding for Cervelo-Bigla who stole away to defeat Van Vleuten and Garfoot, Orica’s duo who had hitherto dominated the GC, by 13s ensuring that her consistency through the week was rewarded and she ended up with the final leaders jersey. For Drops, the theme of the week was great team riding and this continued with Ann-Sophie finishing 5th on the stage to achieve the team’s goal of a top ten on GC, in 8th.
A great week for Susy saw her place 14th both on the stage and overall, and the team earned fifth place in the team standings.