Podium for Kelly Van den Steen on stage 3 Gracia Orlová


Kelly Van den Steen claimed the third place on stage three of the Czech stage race Gracia Orlová last Saturday. She was part of the Belgian squad, together with among other her Lotto Soudal teammate Julie Van De Velde. Van den Steen finished three times on top ten and was twelfth overall. Julie Van De Velde got second on GC, 4’24” behind Marta Bastianelli.

Gracia Orlová (2.2.) took place from Thursday 2 May until Sunday 5 May and consisted of five stages. On the second day a time trial and a short stage were scheduled. Saturday’s stage of one hundred kilometres started and finished in Lichnov. European champion Marta Bastianelli, who dominated the stage race, beat Julie Van De Velde that day by outsprinting her at the finish line. 1’14” later Kelly Van den Steen arrived as third.

Kelly Van den Steen: “When we headed to the Czech Republic we knew that Team Virtu with European champion Marta Bastianelli would be strong. But we didn’t let that keep us from racing aggressively. The race started well on Thursday. We rode towards the finish with a large group. The last kilometre was pretty steep. Julie and I entered the last kilometre in the top ten of the peloton. Team Virtu was raising the pace for Bastianelli. In the last 300 metres she outsprinted everyone. Julie succeeded in taking a podium place, by becoming third, and I got seventh. The best was yet to come for me, as I stood on the podium two days later.”

“There lay three first category climbs and one second category climb on the course that day. The first climb was already decisive. I crossed the top first, gaining KOM points. Bastianelli was also unbeatable in the KOM classification, but it was fun to sprint against her. On the descent Bastianelli, Julie Van De Velde and I had a small lead, but because it was still a long way to go we decided to wait for the group behind us. Because the tempo wasn’t raised, many more riders returned to the front. On the second climb riders got dropped again. Julie and Bastianelli rode away on the last climb of the day. I was in the chasing group together with the GC leader, so that was perfect for our team. The gap wasn’t closed anymore.  Bastianelli beat Julie at the finish, but it was a good move for her position on GC. I knew that I was the fastest and freshest of our group. And last year I got fifth at the same finish. I started the sprint in first position and nobody passed me by. That third place is a beautiful result.”

I knew that I was the fastest and freshest of our group.

​​​​​​​Kelly Van den Steen: “The final stage took place on a local circuit. The weather was bad and cold. After an intermediate sprint Bastianelli and Mieke Kröger, who had won the time trial, got away. I hadn’t seen their attack. It wasn’t a threat to Julie’s position on GC. Still, we tried to make the race hard. I attacked on the penultimate lap, but didn’t manage to ride away from the group. The peloton sprinted for the third place. Julie got fourth and I was seventh again.”

“I would have loved to be one time more on the podium, but still I can be satisfied with my race. It’s a pity that due to a less good time trial (Kelly was 45th, LTS) I didn’t stand a chance of finishing high on GC. That’s something to work on in the future. Gracia Orlová was the last race of my spring season. The past months I performed at a constant level, but with no exceptionally good results except for my sixth place in Nokere Koerse. As a team we had a good spring nonetheless.”

“Now I’m taking one week rest. Next week I’m heading to the Vosgues for four days with the Belgian federation. The Thüringen Ladies Tour (28 May – 2 June) will be my next race. I then want to get some race rhythm and prepare myself for my Giro debut (5 July – 14 July). I’m very much looking forward to that! But first there’s the Belgian Championship in Ghent (30 June), close to home. I will be very motivated for that race too.”


Photo: Photo News (archive)