2022 Ronde Van Vlaanderen Recap with Sara Poidevin
Posted by Andrew Davidson on April 6, 2022
The race was an epic one, as expected! It was a chilly day, only 7ºC and cloudy, which meant a possibility of rain or snow, as we had experienced in the recon. After a small breakaway was established early on, the pace settled slightly, although with a technical course and narrow sections of road, there were still some fights for position. The pace grew steadily and the pack stretched out over the first bergs of the day, and the lead into the Koppenburg was where the major splits of the day were decided. After the Koppenberg, there was about 2 minutes of hail before we climbed the Paterberg.
The course this year was 159km with over 1500m of climbing. We climbed 11 “bergs”, which are the short and steep climbs, some cobbled, famous in the spring classic races. This year, the Koppenberg was added to the women’s race. This is the second to last climb of the day, and is under a kilometre long with an average gradient of over 11%, and a maximum gradient of 20%. It is cobbled and also features a cobbled run-in to make it a bit more challenging.
Although there is no doubt the climbs themselves are hard, the major challenge in racing them alongside 150 others is being in a good position leading into them, and in between so as to conserve energy whenever possible. Also, usually the road narrows on the climbs, so the pack is very strung out over the top, meaning anyone not in the front third is climbing hard, then chasing into the next one.
It was the first time racing this one for the majority of our team, so it was a big learning opportunity for us. We had Clara Honsinger in the breakaway of the day - she was out for over 100km ! Letizia made the front split of 30 over the Koppenburg, but unfortunately suffered stomach cramps which took her out of the final. I was in some determined chasing groups until the finish, but there is not much chance to rectify any mistakes in timing your positioning on a course like this.
One of the best parts of the day was experiencing the excitement of the crowds! During our recon two days prior to the race, we could already see campers parked and fans setting up for the weekend. The atmosphere was pretty incredible!