British champion Helen Wyman (Kona) lifted the illustrious cobble-trophy for victory at the Koppenbergcross for the second time in her career on Thursday afternoon and with the win becomes the first leader in the bpost Bank Trofee series.
It was a British duel in Melden, near Oudenaarde, as the 31-year-old winner held off compatriot Nikki Harris (Young Telenet-Fidea) in the sprint. The duo were closely matched throughout the 40 minutes of slip-sliding through the course on the famous Flemish hill.
“Two years ago it was my first big win. It’s never going to feel like the first time again although it remains a very special race with lots of people,” Wyman said.
Falling just short of her first win at the Koppenberg was a hard nut to crack for Harris. Last year Harris finished third at a long distance from winner Sanne van Paassen, who didn’t take the start on Thursday. “I really wanted to win. I’ll have to try again next year as I really want that cobble in my living room,” Harris said.
The two British riders took control of the race almost straight from the start. At first veteran Hanka Kupfernagel (RusVelo) mixed in with a blistering start but she quickly faded back to second row. By the end of the first lap Wyman and Harris led affairs with a ten-second gap over Sophie de Boer (Young Telenet-Fidea), Kupfernagel, Sanne Cant (Veldritacademie Enertherm-BCKP) and Gabriella Day (Rapha-Focus).
During the following three laps the duo were each other’s match on the steep Koppenberg climb. Wyman had the upper hand on the descent while Harris always managed to return on the flatter sections. In the chase group Cant left her rivals behind, keeping the two British riders in sight. Nevertheless, when hitting the bell lap Cant was 18 seconds down to the leaders and she settled for third place.
In front Wyman had a small gap over Harris at the top of the climb. “I had maybe ten metres but then on the descent she made a mistake. I didn’t look back and rode as fast as I could to the finish,” Wyman said.
Harris regretted the missed opportunity. “I felt comfortable on the technical sections but I crashed in the middle section of the descent. She had two bike lengths and though I managed to return I had nothing left for the sprint,” Harris said.
Cant was third at 34 seconds from the two British riders, 10 seconds ahead of De Boer. Kupfernagel was fifth at nearly two minutes and the third British rider at the Koppenberg was Gabby Day in sixth place at 2:07 from her compatriots.
The next round in the bpost Bank Trofee series will be held in Essen in the GP Rouwmoer on December 22.
1 Helen Wyman (GBr) Kona Factory Team
2 Nikki Harris (GBr) Young Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team
3 Sanne Cant (Bel) Veldritacademie Enertherm – BKCP
4 Sophie de Boer (Ned) Young Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team
5 Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) RusVelo