Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) sprinted to victory in Le Samyn des Dames on Wednesday, holding off Ashleigh Moolman (Hitec Products) and Sofie de Vuyst (Futurumshop.no-Zannata).
The 111.6-kilometer race in Belgium completed a 21km loop four times before hitting the finishing circuit. The parcours featured several cobbled climbs that broke the field. Johansson’s teammates stayed with her and skillfully delivered her to the finish line.
“It means a lot to the team to win races this way,” Johansson in a team press release. “There was a big difference between today and the way we raced last weekend, and it shows that when we race as a team, we can win. Just coming into today, everybody was more prepared and focused. I think that was really important for us.”
Johansson said her strategy was to have Orica form a group early in the race, from which she could hitch a ride. With somewhat fresh legs, she planned to make her winning move on the final lap.
“The finish suited me, but I wasn’t completely confident,” Johansson said. “It’s always a risk coming in with a big group.”
Several attacks and counter-attacks occurred on the finishing circuit. Eventually, everyone was brought back together and a mad dash to the line resulted.
Moolman opened her sprint inside the final kilometer and Johansson jumped on her wheel, waiting until the time was right to slingshot past her and across the finish line.
“Ashleigh started the sprint really early,” Johansson said. “She gave me quite a good leadout. I didn’t think too much. I just knew when it was the right time to go — and so I did.”
In the men’s Le Samyn, Maxime Vantomme (Roubaix Lille Metropole) out-sprinted Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha) and Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) for the win.
Bouhanni put himself on a teammate’s wheel as the front pack of 60 riders entered the finishing straight of the 195.9km race, and it seemed like he was poised to earn the top spot of the podium. But Vantomme, who was on the other side of the road, took off 200 meters before the finish line and immediately opened up a gap.
Tsatevich, the 2013 champion, and Bouhanni were unable to match the Belgium’s speed.
“I like the hard races and finish lines on false flats like here in Dour,” Vantomme told Radio Télévision Belge Francophone (RTBF). “I was ideally placed in fifth with 200m to go when I decided to do my effort and open the sprint.”
The win was just the second of Vantomme’s career; he previously won a stage at the 2008 edition of Tropicale Amissa Bongo.
“My victory at the GP Samyn is obviously the best of my career,” he told RTBF. “I am only 27 years old and have seven years of professional experience. I think I can still achieve great things in the future.”