The Arno Wallaard Memorial race, named after a leading young Dutch rider who died suddenly after a training ride in 2006, was last contested in 2019 when Alexandar Richardson took the win for the Canyon dhb Bloor Homes team.
The event takes place in the reclaimed flatlands of the Alblasserwaard which is bordered by rivers and traversed with a lattice of dykes and canals and renowned for the windmills of Kinjerdijk. The 188km UCI 1.2 classified race, which was also the second round of the Holland Cup, consisted of a large lap of 156km followed by five finishing circuits of 6.5km around Meerkerk with many narrow and twisty roads. The parcours was pretty much pan-flat with the highest obstacles being bridges over canals and major roads.
1. Springtime in South Holland
The field consisted of 15 UCI Continental teams including WiV SunGod, and 8 Dutch club teams. WiV SunGod were represented by the following riders in order of the picture below: Ben Perry, Jim Brown, a returning Matt Bostock, Damien Clayton, Reece Wood, Rory Townsend and Rob Scott.
2. Team Presentation: Perry, Brown, Bostock, Clayton, Wood, Townsend & Scott
Notable competitors included Maikel Ziljaard (VolkerWessels), winner of the recent Dorpenomloop Rucphen (the first round of the Holland Cup) and the Olympia’s Tour and fellow Dutchman Elmar Reinders (Riwal) who had already won 3 races this year including a stage of the Olympia’s Tour.
The opening phase of the race was very chaotic due to the wind on the Lekdijk and the narrow roads. Clayton was an early casualty suffering a heavy crash after only 2km. It was nervous progress in the peloton with many other crashes and some riders even falling into a canal!
3. Damien Clayton was an early faller
The peloton broke into two main groups with all WiV SunGod riders bar Clayton in the first group, and this situation lasted until the 80km point when the second group was held up by a massive crash near Hoornaar.
4. Bostock, Townsend, Scott and Wood power onwards
The race was neutralized at this point because there were not enough ambulances on the course for it to continue safely due to the many fallers. As a result, the riders had to wait for fifteen minutes while order was restored.
After the race resumed with the same 50 second gap between the groups, a 13-rider breakaway made their escape shortly after the restart. This included Rory Townsend and Reece Wood along with Zijlaard and Reinders and with the 13 riding very well together, they opened up a gap of 1 minute leaving the Dutch UCI teams Allinq and ABLOC to lead the chasing peloton.
5. Wood and Townsend stick to the edge of the dyke
6. Reece Wood leads the breakaway
Having reached the 5 shorter laps with about 30km remaining, 8 more riders including Jim Brown came across after a long chase to swell the leading group to 21. After a further lap, Zijlaard, Reinders and Danish rider Tobias Kongstad (Restaurant Suri – Carl Ras) struck out and formed a decisive move which rapidly established a lead which reached almost a minute before a counter group of 4 riders including Townsend started to chip away at their lead.
7. Jim Brown at the front of the leading group
The leading trio still had a 23 second lead with just 1 lap remaining with Townsend driving along the group of 4 chasers the rest of whom limited the work they undertook as they all had team-mates up ahead. Townsend was almost within touching distance as the riders reached the home straight but he realised he was not quite going to catch the leaders and came in 6th.
8. Townsend rode strongly on his way to 6th place
Reinders took the sprint from Zijlaard and Kongstad followed by 3 of the 4 chasers. Meanwhile the following peloton had largely regrouped with Bostock coming through to take 11th place with Brown just behind in 12th. Wood, Perry and Scott finished in the same group in 41st, 63rd and 64th places respectively. After his early crash, Clayton remounted his reserve bike and rode gamely to finish in 76th place out of 87 finishers.
Another good performance from WiV SunGod with 3 riders in the top 12 and Townsend unlucky not to finish on the podium. The result also puts the team in 2nd place in the Holland Cup competition with 2 more races to come.
After his 6th place finish, Townsend summarised the race on Instagram as follows:
Not the result we went for. After a poor start, we took it on in the crosswinds to bring the race back together, and form a new group at the front.
In the end I was caught between a rock and a danish 🇩🇰😅 with a 3 man group staying out front to contest the win, I was in a counter move with 3 riders all of which had teammates in the front. It very nearly came back together at the end, so I launched my sprint early to try catch the leaders out, but didn’t make it contact and parked 🛑
Love how we took it on as a team in the crossy 💨 and great to have @mattbostock97 back on his feet – first race back and dependable as ever 💪🏼
Huge number of crashes during the race. Hoping all that went down make a speedy recovery 🙏🏻
Report: Paul & Marina Stedman