Festival Elsy Jacobs, is the home race for our Luxembourg star Elise Maes and also with Team WNT Pro Cycling’s sponsor Ceratizit Group being based just a short ride from where Elise lives, there was a strong sporting connection between a talented rider and this world leading developer and manufacturer of sophisticated hard materials for wear resistant and cutting tool applications.
The three-day stage race started with a 2.8km prologue and, with the weather gods not being kind, the rain poured on the hilly and technical circuit. Katie Archibald was Team WNT Pro Cycling’s top finisher in 4th place, only a cruel 3 seconds off the win, but it put her into general classification contention for the remaining two stages. The standings after the prologue for the rest of the team were: 23rd Natalie Grinczer @17secs; 49th Elise Maes; 89th Bex Rimmington; 93rd Hayley Simmonds and 101st Becca Carter.
The first road stage was over 97.7km and included one large opening lap with a five-lap finishing circuit. With three WNT Queen of the mountains throughout the race, one on the large loop and two on the finishing circuits it was set to be a fractured race, with the other three laps on the finishing circuit including the WNT QOM climb but points are not awarded.
Team WNT Pro Cycling had all six riders in at the head of the peloton, until Katie Archibald had a mechanical and found herself in no-man’s land trying to get back to the front group. Finding herself in a group where riders weren’t cohesive to bring the time gap down Katie was left 5.15 minutes down on the winner, losing all chances on the general classification. However, Hayley Simmonds, Natalie Grinczer and Elise Maes finished @9 seconds down on the stage winner, Christine Majerus of Boels Dolmans. This moved Grinczer up to 19th on general classification with a 33 second deficit.
The final stage was the longest at 111.1km from Garnich to Garnich, with 3 WNT QoM’s on offer throughout the race, and the fight for the yellow jersey was on and the pace was high! Hayley Simmonds, Natalie Grinczer, Katie Archibald and Elise Maes made the select group of 40 riders after Cervelo-Bigla’s constant attacks. However, with very little flat ground to race on recovery was limited and, with a flat section to the finish line, it was looking like it could be the perfect finish for Archibald. In the closing kilometres Simmonds and Grinczer kept Katie out of trouble, leaving her to sprint for the finish in 8th place, with Simmonds in 16th and Grinczer in 19th.
Impressively, Grinczer moved up two places on the general classification, our top finisher in 17th place, looking promising going into her next stage race, Emakumeen Bira in the Basque country for general classification hopes.
With strong team work throughout the weekend, Team WNT Pro Cycling took an impressive 5th overall in the team classification ahead of some well-established outfits.
Natalie Grinczer: 17th @37 sec
Hayley Simmonds: 24th @58 sec
Elise Maes: 30th @2.50
Katie Archibald: 33rd @5.29
Bex Rimmington: 74th @15.35
Teams classification overall:
1 Cervélo-Bigla Pro Cycling 16:25:45
2 Boels - Dolmans Cycling Team 0:14
3 BTC City Ljubljana 0:43
4 Parkhotel Valkenburg - Destil Cycling Team 1:01
5 Team WNT Pro Cycling 1:10