Photos: Bart Hazen
The Human Powered Health Cycling women’s team continued its hot streak of form this past weekend. Polish sprinter Daria Pikulik scored a second and third place respectively in the Netherlands before French champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot capped off a memorable weekend by placing third in Belgium at the Antwerp Port Epic Ladies race.
Pikulik went wheel to wheel in bunch kicks against some of the strongest riders in the peloton during the Veenendaal-Veenendaal Classic and the ZLM Omloop der Kempen.
The Pole finished off a brilliant team effort on both days, first finishing on the third step of the podium in Veenendaal behind Lotte Kopecky (Team SD Worx) and Martina Fidanza (CERATIZIT-WNT Pro Cycling), before going one better the next day in Veldhoven, where she was second to Charlotte Kool (Team DSM) even though she had suffered a crash earlier in the race.
The double podium adds to Pikulik’s second place in the Leiedal Koerse and stage wins in the Tour Down Under and the recent Bretagne Ladies Tour.
“I’m more confident now because I have two podiums,” the 26-year-old said. “Even with the crash on the second day, we ended up with a nice result so we can be proud and motivated for the next part of the season.”
Pikulik knows that there is a learning process when joining a new group of riders, but it certainly seems to be clicking.
“The team was great and we can be proud of how we work together,” she says. “I’m really thankful for how they protected me and I think everything is going in the right direction because we know each other better now.”
The weekend culminated in Belgium and the grueling, inaugural Antwerp Port Epic Ladies which proved to be aptly named with an astounding 36 sectors of fine, dusty gravel.
French champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot kept the results coming, breaking away on the parcours and forming a group of nine, before whittling it down to four and sprinting to third place, her first podium for Human Powered Health.
“I’m really happy that we could finalize this weekend with another podium,” she said afterward. “Of course, I wanted to win but this is a process and that win will come with time.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Cordon-Ragot, who was dropped at the beginning of the race and had to count on teammates Makayla MacPherson and Marit Raaijmakers to help her back to the peloton.
Having rejoined a group of 40 that included Marjolein van’t Geloof, Cordon-Ragot took the lead on many of the sectors and instructed the rest of the team to ride hard during a moment of crosswinds on the lapped circuit to help force a selection.
In a smaller group where she felt surrounded by Fenix-Deceuninck and Team DSM riders, the 33-year-old rode tactically and followed the moves until the group had been whittled down to four.
“At 250 meters to go I launched my sprint which may have been a little bit too early,” she said. “I gave my best but to win maybe I shouldn’t have been chasing at the start of the race. It was a stressful race, so in the end, it is quite good to be on the podium.”
This was Cordon-Ragot’s first full block of racing for the team since signing for Human Powered Health prior to Paris-Roubaix Femmes.
“After Roubaix, I had time to breathe and refocus. We are in the process to be a really big WorldTour team and I believe that I believe everyone is committed so now we are on a good path for higher goals in the next part of the season.”
Cordon-Ragot and Pikulik now head to Andorra, along with half of their teammates, to stay at the Lodge at Ribasol, the team’s official training resort partner, before returning for the Lotto Belgium Tour and the national championships.
Elsewhere, the rest of the squad enters the build-up for the Grand Tours by racing the mountainous Vuelta Ciclista Andalucia Ruta Del Sol and CIC-Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées stage races.
ZLM Omloop de Kempen Ladies results
1 KOOL Charlotte – Team DSM 3:10:11
2 PIKULIK Daria – Human Powered Health ”
3 VAN DER DUIN Maike – Canyon//SRAM Generation ”
4 BARBIERI Rachele – Liv Racing TeqFind ”
5 MARTINS Maria – Fenix-Deceuninck Continental ”
Veenedaal-Venendaal Classic results
1 KOPECKY Lotte – Team SD Worx 3:20:04
2 FIDANZA Marta – CERATIZIT-WNT Pro Cycling ”
3 PIKULIK Daria – Human Powered Health ”
4 BARBIERI Rachele – Liv Racing TeqFind ”
5 VAN ROOIJEN Eline – AG Insurance-NXTG U23 ”
Antwerp Port Epic Ladies results
1 TRUYEN Marthe – Fenix-Deceuninck 3:27:28
2 KOCH Franziska – Team DSM ”
3 CORDON-RAGOT Audrey – Human Powered Health ”
4 GOOSENS Marthe – AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step ”
5 MARTINS Maria – Fenix-Deceuninck ”