After defending her yellow Simac Ladies Tour leader’s jersey on the hilly stage 4, Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) said that she would have to ride “the best time trial of my life” to keep the race lead on the stage 5 time trial.
Wiebes did just that, finishing fifth in the 17.8-kilometre race against the clock and losing only 21 seconds to stage winner Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo).
“I think it turned out pretty well. It helped that I knew the course, I ride on these roads a lot because Team DSM’s Keep Challenging Center is close by and these are my training routes, that was an advantage today,” said Wiebes.
“I had to be careful not to blow myself up on the climbs, because that happens to me quickly, but fortunately I could recover a bit on the descents. I tried to pace myself and also got coaching from the car, I needed a bit of motivation to put myself through the pain.”
Wiebes now takes a six-second lead over the Frenchwoman into the final stage, 150.3km around Arnhem.
“We are going to do everything we can to keep the yellow, of course. We would have gone for the stage win tomorrow anyway, so this doesn’t change much. The team is strong. Of course, we miss Pfeiffer, but Elise has a great week, she rode a super time trial today. I am looking forward to it, and I am confident that we can take the jersey home tomorrow,” Wiebes finally committed to targeting the overall victory.
Cordon-Ragot enjoyed her ITT victory but was adamant that it won’t be easy to make up the six-second deficit to the yellow jersey.
“I know it is going to be really hard to beat Lorena. She has been outstanding the last couple of months. She is climbing like a monkey as well, I mean, she can do everything. I won’t be ashamed to finish in second behind her because I know she is really strong,” Cordon-Ragot made it clear she wouldn’t consider it a defeat to finish runner-up to Wiebes.
The final stage mainly consists of two circuits: The peloton will do seven 14-kilometre laps with the climbs of the Emmapiramide and Zijpenberg (counting for the QOM classification on three of the laps) before returning to Arnhem for five laps of an eight-kilometre circuit.
There is a mountain sprint on the finishing circuit, too, but the Zijpendaalseweg is not as steep as the Emmapiramide or Zijpenberg. However, the repeated climbs can wear out sprinters like Wiebes and could make it possible for Cordon-Ragot – or the Team Jumbo-Visma trident of Karlijn Swinkels, Riejanne Markus, and Anna Henderson – to get away from Wiebes on the finishing circuit to gain the time she needs.
“We need to make the best of it. We have a small, powerful team in Trek and we are going to try everything to beat her, but I also need to be objective, it is going to be really hard,” finished Cordon-Ragot.