Brodie Chapman (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) may have been expected to drift back into the pack when she was finally caught after spending more than 30 kilometres out the front at Dwars door Vlaanderen, most of it solo, but it turns out one break just wasn’t enough for the unrelenting Australian.
The French team known for its race animating style, had Victorie Guilman in an earlier break of two but that didn’t last. It was then Chapman’s turn to take over and put FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope back on the front foot after another move went less than half way through the 120km race and the team wasn’t in it.
“We aimed to make the race aggressive,” said Chapman. “The girls were in a good position and Victorie attacked on the first climb. Afterwards we missed a breakaway but we made sure to react quickly.”
The 30-year-old, who is in her third season with FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, soon set things right. Chapman pushed forward in a group that worked its way up to the leaders and then went even further.
“On the Kanarieberg it got really selective and I came back up front with a good tempo so I continued and attacked,” said Chapman.
That attack came with 62km of racing remaining, with Chapman initially looking back to see if anyone followed, but once it became clear no one had the one-time downhill mountain-biker settled in. She got low on her Lapierre on the descents and skilfully bunnyhopped the small potholes in the road all the time stretching the gap, which didn’t take too many kilometres to move out beyond a minute.
Behind the counter-attacks continued with the attempts to bridge coming from riders including Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segaredo), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) and Liane Lippert (Team DSM). The reduced field neutralised those attacks but the gap began to shrink.
Still it wasn’t until the Ladeuze ascent at 37km to go that Chapman had company, with Georgia Baker (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Juliette Labous (Team DSM) coming across. However, as Trek-Segafredo put on the pressure and Chapman’s breakaway companions struggled to hold her pace on the cobbles, the gap shrunk and the catch was then made at 25km to go.
Though there was no sitting back for Chapman after all her hard work. Far from being swamped by the group, she instead remained attentive on the front. Then when Floortje Mackaij launched nearly straight after the catch, it was none other than Chapman that jumped. She caught the Team DSM riders wheel and then quickly settled in to work out the front again with a new companion.
“Eventually I spent the whole day in the breakaway,” said Chapman.
Grimace on the face for Chapman as the pair dug deep to hold off the attacks and the duo managed to hold firm out the front into the final 10km.
A solid attack from Longo Borghini, however, finally dragged the group back within reach and soon Chapman’s day at the front was over. The team then looked to support Marie Le Net for the sprint, with the 22-year-old finishing seventh in the bunch finish, won by Chiara Consonni (Valcar-Travel & Service).
Chapman may not have pushed the break to the line this time, ultimately finishing 28th, but it was an impressive show of strength from the rider who drew attention to her potential back in 2018 at the Women’s Herald Sun Tour in Australia, when she broke away and held off a chasing Van Vleuten to win solo.
No doubt she will soon be out the front trying again and perhaps next time there will be a different ending.