There is no doubting the pool of talent that runs deep in Dutch women’s cycling, and on Saturday a new name was added to the winner’s list, with Rosita Reijnhout (Visma Lease a Bike) in disbelief as she crossed the line beside the Geelong waterfront to claim victory at the Women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
The 19-year-old was comfortably the youngest ever winner of the Australian race, men’s or women’s, with Reijnhout – who is into her second professional year with Visma-Lease a Bike – catching her rivals, and perhaps herself, by surprise when she held off the chase to deliver a solo victory.
“I still don’t believe it. It was also a really hard race but I just went for it and if you don’t try it you don’t know,” said the teenager after going to the podium to claim her prize.
“My first professional win but also my first win ever because I have never won something. It’s a whole shock and I’m so happy.”
The 140.8km Women’s WorldTour race played out on a course that left from Geelong waterfront, headed inland into the rolling hills and then went back to Geelong via the coast before looping back into two local circuits which include the climb of Challambra as a pivotal feature.
It was a windblown edition, with headwinds slowing the pace and discouraging the attackers until the final phase, but it ended up being a situation that played perfectly into the hands of the wind-loving Reijnhout, who often trains in far more ferocious conditions given her home base on the Dutch coast.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez) had gone solo on the second and final ascent of Challambra, but Reijnhout and Dominika Włodarczyk (UAE Team ADQ) joined her for the run home. However, there was hesitation from Uttrup Ludwig and Wlodarczyk – who took into consideration that she had fast-finishing teammate Sofia Bertizzolo behind. That opened the door for the young Dutch rider.
“We rode as three and they stopped pedalling and I was thinking ‘why, because we still have a gap’ so then I went on my own, it was pacing the whole time,” said Reijnhout, who was also being encouraged along by the shouts coming through on the radio from her team.
The pursuit was on in the long run to the line, but the duo behind couldn’t close the gap soon enough. Polish neo-pro Włodarczyk chased ferociously and though she may have hoped to finish off the race with a win for her team the second place shifted her into the lead of the Women’s WorldTour.
“Tour Down Under was my first WorldTour race in my life so I was very shy and I only watched Grace Brown and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig on TV, so for me to stay with them in the bunch was pretty amazing,” said Wlodarczyk.
“Step by step, stage by stage I was more and more confident and then in the third stage I finished fifth – so maybe I am not that bad. Today it is pretty amazing that I could finish second.”