The 2016 Tour of Flanders stood out for a number of reasons. Peter Sagan won his first monument with a display of both athletic and tactical brilliance, putting the lie to both the "curse of the rainbow jersey" and his own image as the new "eternal second".
Of course, there is another wearer of the famous jersey who has been making a mockery of the "curse" since the start of the season. Women's UCI Road World Champion Lizzie Armitstead followed victories in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche and Trofeo Binda by edging out Emma Johannsen for the victory in Flanders, completing an extraordinary rainbow-striped double on the day.
Conquista got the inside track on this year's race from Canyon//SRAM Racing, home to such stars of the women's peloton as . . .
- ALENA AMIALIUSIK: 2015 Belarusian National Road and Time Trial Champion and 2015 UCI TTT Champion
- LISA BRENNAUER: 2015 UCI TTT World Champion, USA, Winner overall Energiewacht Tour and Winner overall Boels Rental Ladies Tour
- ELENA CECCHINI: 2015 Italian National Road Champion
- TIFFANY CROMWELL: Winner overall 2013 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
- BARBARA GUARISCHI: 2015 UCI TTT Champion and Stage winner, Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile
- ALEXIS RYAN: 2nd Youth’s Classification Aviva Women’s Tour of Britain and 2nd Youth’s Classification International Thuringen Rundfahrt der Frauen
Many thanks to the team for the interviews. All images courtesy of Velofocus.
Barbara Guarischi: My race was about what I expected. I was there helping my team for the first 60 kilometres. I was bringing Alena into position before any important areas, I fought hard for the team, and I think did okay. On the Paddestraat I was dropped. Our group was fighting to come back but even if it did, I knew I didn’t have the legs anymore. I have missed the racing these last weeks. My shoulder is feeling alright. In the longer cobblestone sections I can tell it’s not quite as strong as it can be but it held up good, so I'm happy to be back racing.
Alexis Ryan: My role was to keep Lisa in good position coming in to all of the important climbs and cobbled sections. I needed to stay at the front, be attentive and make sure our team was represented. I think I did a really good race for the first half and then I was suffering from cramps around the Kanarieberg.
Tiffany Cromwell: It was a beautiful day for a bike race. The first part was pretty uneventful for me, I felt good and even over the Kanarieberg I was still feeling good. Then we hit the Kruisberg/Hotond, the third last climb and then basically my wheels fell off. I just didn’t have the legs.
Alena Amialiusik: In the first part of the race Barbara did an amazing job for me, always bringing me to the front group. I punctured after the Kanarieberg, around 110 kilometres into the race, on the flat section. It was just bad timing. In the end I took a spare from neutral service but I went from being in the front group over the Kanarieberg to chasing the fourth or fifth group before the Kruisberg/Hotond. After I changed the wheel, group by group, I took them back alone but by the time I got to the second group my race was over.
I am disappointed because I felt good today and I wanted to do a good result. When you feel good and you have good legs, then it’s disappointment of course, I think it’s natural to feel that. But it’s okay, it’s cycling and next week we go again. You know some people crash 100m before the finish line, some people puncture at the wrong time. It’s normal: it’s our sport and we can have things like this happen.
Elena Cecchini: For me it was a little bit of a strange race, it was very different to last year. Some people could go away but only ever solo and no groups really wanted to form and work together to go in a break in early stages. Boels were on the front in a lot of the climbs and riding it slow. When we got to the Kanarieberg we were still a big group and positioning was hard because people were swarming. After the Kanarieberg I was second group but we made it back to the first group. On the Kruisberg/Hotond I was still in the front group but I could feel I was near the limit. I tried to choose some attacks to go with to try to help Lisa but it didn’t work. After the Oude Kwaremont we were only ever chasing and even near the Paterberg we could still see them. But you know, on the Paterberg when you see them, that’s a good 30 seconds or more and it was too much gap.
Lisa Brennauer: This was not the result we have been hoping for but the great crowds made it a special day for us anyway. In general I felt quite good today and for me personally the race it was good that I came that far. It was just a pity that I was missing out on the last little bit to stay on the front group. I'm looking forward to my next race in Energiewacht Tour.