With three World Championship wins in a row, the Boels-Dolmans Cycling team has put its stake in the ground and proclaimed that they're THE force to be reckoned with in the professional peloton. Find out how it all went down on the streets of Bergen, Norway.
It was never the plan. As the Dutch National Champion, Chantal Blaak, toed the start line at the World Championships in Bergen, winning was not front of mind. The plan from Chantal’s point of view was simple—work hard and get a good result for the Dutch team. Soloing to victory with no chasers in sight? We’d say that’s definitely a good result. But Chantal’s win came with a bonus Easter egg—when she pulled on that Rainbow Jersey, Chantal Blaak became the third consecutive Boels-Dolmans’s rider to wear the stripes. First, Lizzie Diegnan in 2015, followed by Amalie Dideriksen in 2016, and now “Blaaki.” Forget taste the rainbow—with Boels-Dolmans, it’s more like pass the rainbow.
A crash nearly ruined it all. With 66km of the 152.8km race to go, a large pileup near the front of the field dashed the hopes of many, included her Boels-Dolmans teammate and Team USA rider, Megan Guarnier. But Blaak quickly dusted herself off, remounted her Tarmac, and chased back on, determined to still be a valuable card to play for her Dutch team. As she negotiated her way through the cars and back into the race, her thoughts were far away from victory. “I was in a lot of pain at that moment,” she said. “I thought my race was over.”
If there is any lesson to be learned here, it's to not give up. Chantal started to feel better. Chantal started to feel strong. She surfed wheels, watched for cues, and worked hard for her team. With legs feeling good, 23km to go, and the peloton back together, there was only one thing to do—light it up.
She surged off the front, attacking the group to see who would come with her. Two riders signed on for the break and the trio worked hard to keep it going. On the final grind up Salmon Hill, four additional riders—including two of Blaak’s Dutch teammates—joined them at the summit. With three orange jerseys in the group of seven, a victory for the Netherlands seemed almost inevitable.
It’s much better to be alone at the finish—it makes for nicer photos—and while we know a photo op was the last thing on her mind, Chantal made a move that inadvertently ensured she’d be the only kid in the picture at the end. With 8km to go, she put her head down and accelerated, hoping to set up one of her teammates. Instead, the move blew the doors off the car and no one in the group could match her.
“I don't know what happened,” she said, in the post-race interview. “I think they didn't follow, they waited too long. […] After that, I just followed my heart and I stayed away."
That moment when you win the highest honor in cycling—the elation, the disbelief, and sheer joy—it’s a feeling only a World Champion can know. And now, with three consecutive World Champions coming from the Boels-Dolmans Cycling team, Lizzie, Amalie, and Chantal have a real rainbow connection to bond over.