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Double-Dutch triumph as sprinter Wild wins Classique reward

It was a day of double Dutch success at the Prudential RideLondon Classique as Kirsten Wild powered past the rest of the field to take the world’s richest one-day prize and Lucinda Brand became Queen of the Sprints in a frantic race around the streets of central London.

Wild emerged from under Admiralty Arch at the end of an hour and a half of helter skelter racing around St James’s Park, Parliament Square and Whitehall as a huge group bore down on the Finish Line.

British champion Hannah Barnes was well placed to attack but her challenge collapsed when her gears jumped 200m out, just as Wild began her move. Twice in the first three years this event has been won by Italians, but Dutch riders had been prominent throughout the dozen 5.5km circuits and Wild sealed a great day for the Netherlands as she burst clear of Nina Kessler and Leah Kirchmann to take a lucrative bike-length victory for her Hitec Products team.

Brand had won the overall sprint title with top three places at each of the intermediate stages, and it was her Dutch-based RaboLiv squad that picked up the team prize after launching attack after attack over the 66km of the tightly cornered course.

But in a race packed with young and emerging talent, it was the imposing figure of 34-year-old Wild who swept under the gantry for ultimate victory, her arms held high in the air with the distant sight of Buckingham Palace stretched out before her.

“Winning is always good but especially with this big prize,” said Wild of the 25,000 Euros cheque she pocketed for her efforts.

“It is always good to win and it was a nice fast race. Racing on these big famous streets is really cool. I had done a lot of training and I was ready for it. But you can never tell what’s going to happen in a sprint.”

Behind her, Kessler secured a Dutch one-two as she claimed second for Lensworld-Zannata, while Liv-Plantur’s Canadian sprinter Leah Kirchmann was third and Brand fourth. In all, riders from the Netherlands filled three of the top four places and four of the top seven.

As for Barnes, she quietly put herself in contention over the last lap and was poised to make her move when she suffered what she called “a bike malfunction” and could only place ninth, one place ahead of younger sister Alice.

“I had a bit of a bike malfunction as I started to sprint,” said the 23-year-old Canyon SRAM star. “I felt really good and I was in a good position, but my gears jumped a bit with 200m to go. It’s never happened to me before but there was nothing I could do.

“I’m a bit upset because it would have been a nice race to win in front of these big home crowds.”

For 11 laps Barnes had barely appeared at the front of the race as others tussled for sprint points and the minor glory of mini-breaks. Last week’s La Course winner Chloe Hosking had also been notable by her absence but the Australian fared no better in the final sprint, placing 11th.

It was RaboLiv who did much of the early work pulling the 118-strong field down the long straights of The Mall, Whitehall and Birdcage Walk and into the tight U-turns on Constitution Hill and the Strand.

Brand snapped up the first 1,000 Euros sprint prize at the end of lap three and immediately opened a gap on the peloton. Lines of red London double-deckers paused beneath Big Ben as the colourful parade swept around Trafalgar Square.

Brand was in the mix at the second sprint too, placing third behind Astana’s Sofia Bertizzolo as Canyon SRAM’s Alexis Ryan took the prize at half way. Crowds stood three or four deep around some of the most famous streets on the planet as many of the world’s best women riders pumped the pedals in pursuit of glory.

Orica-AIS’s Jessica Allen made a lone and brief bid for victory opening a 10-second gap with four circuits left but the Australian was soon swept up and it was Orica’s Sarah Roy who won a five-woman battle for the third sprint at the end of lap nine, Brand sealing the overall sprints prize in second.

“We are used to this kind of race in the Netherlands, and we love it,” said Brand later.

From now on it was all about the finish and what a finish it was. With such sharp corners leading out of Trafalgar Square to The Mall it was tough for any team to set up a lead-out train.

But Wild’s team is well-practised. Led out perfectly by Janicke Gunvaldsen, Wild timed her effort to perfection to take a confidence-boosting victory just a week before the Rio Olympic Games start.

“At first I thought I was too far back at the last corner, but then I started to pass a lot of riders and I knew I could do it,” she said.

“It was all down to really good teamwork. We have worked really well together in the past and we know what to do, so that makes my job easy.”